Girls – Please don’t join the Boy Scouts of America

I was surprised and confused by the Boy Scouts of America’s recent announcement that they were now not only allowing transgender kids into their programs, but also actively encouraging girls to join up. Surprised because, well, I’m super biased and still look at the BSA as a conservative religious group that does icky things I usually disagree with. And confused because, well, why? I mean, what’s wrong with the Girl Scouts?

As time went on, I continued to be confused and to question myself. My gut reaction to the announcement was a negative one, it left a bad taste in my mouth. And yet, on the face of it, the BSA seemed to be doing something open and inclusive that I should feel good about. So why did I feel so bad? Was it just my internal bias? Was I being overly judgmental? Was I putting myself on the side against inclusivity?

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Me with good friends at Girl Scout camp. We called ourselves the Terrible Trio or something equally clever.

It took a fair amount of thought to realize the obvious: No. It was not just my bias. It is not just that the BSA has an ugly history regarding gender and inclusivity. It is okay to feel bad about this idea, because it is a bad idea. It is not inclusive. With this new policy, the BSA are directly excluding the Girl Scouts of the USA. They are excluding all of the women who have worked to make a safe space for young girls. They are excluding the mission that GSUSA fights for. They are excluding the learning that takes place because of it, and the progress that organization has fought for.

This issue is not about the gender of your kid, or which summer camp you send them to, or if its better to have mixed scouts or not. This issue is about the differences in each organization, and how they are perceived by the general public. This issue is about the sexism inherent to our society. Inviting girls to join the BSA is not a step forward in solving the problems of sexism.

I’ve already said that I am openly biased. I think that the GSUSA is a better organization than the BSA. They are a secular organization, not a religious one. They have always been more open and inclusive in their policies, but the rest of the world has not always responded positively.

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Me at space camp, an opportunity I got through the Girl Scouts.

As early as 2012, the GSUSA has accepted transgender kids. It made news again in 2015, and a spokesperson pointed out that it had never been specifically against policy, but that they wanted to make their position on inclusivity more official. At that time, organizations around the country responded negatively. The American Family Association created a petition gathering over 38,000 signatures of those against the announcement. Some groups responded with quotes like “don’t put our young girls at risk” and “the girl scouts have lost their moral compass.” Many people and groups also responded positively, and applauded the GSUSA for their inclusivity. But still, every single news organization that reported on the topic quoted the negative reactions as well, and even provided links to the anti-pages and petitions.

I wont point out all of the horrible policies the BSA have had in writing over the years. They made the decision to change those policies, and that is an undiluted win. However, I find myself put off by the language they use when announcing that they will now “let” girls in.

More importantly, I am openly disgusted by the way the rest of the world is choosing to talk about it. The same companies that started petitions before have been quiet when this announcement comes from the BSA. I could wish for a world where the leaders of those companies have learned and grown and become more accepting of the world – But I’m too cynical to actually believe that’s what’s going on here.

In fact, most of the negative press regarding the announcement has been directed back at the GSUSA themselves, because they dared to send a negative letter to the Boy Scouts. The same news sites who provided links to the petition against the GSUSA now describe this letter as “accusatory” and “petty” without ever actually quoting it directly. I finally found a copy of it. This is a classic example of women’s opinions being disregarded and belittled. A woman who speaks out is “aggressive,” and the only site that bothered to publish and quote the letter directly isn’t even regarded as a professional “news” site.

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The climbing wall at my Girl Scout camp.

So yes, news organizations across the country are sexist in their responses today – this really shouldn’t surprise me anymore. But even if I ignore the ways in which the announcement was handled, the actual change of “letting girls join the Boy Scouts of America” frightens me for the future.

That “accusatory” and “petty” letter the GSUSA sent? I found it very interesting that it seemed like their biggest complaint was that they tried to work with the BSA but were repeatedly turned down and ignored. “…Despite offering to engage in a constructive, collaborative sharing process, [the GSUSA] were disappointed in the lack of transparency…” I am not against co-ed scouting. I believe that if done right, a true gender-neutral scouting program could work. If the BSA and the GSUSA ever chose to join forces and provide opportunities for all children, I would support that whole heartedly. However, the BSA evidentially made their feelings on that idea clear. They are not interested in working with their female partners. This decision by the BSA is not gender-neutral and should not be applauded.

There is a special area on many college applications asking if you’ve received an Eagle Scout Award. If a teen boy gets the award, they get a call from their governor. Adult politicians running for office use it in their campaigns. The word count on the wikipedia Eagle Scout Award page is 4724. The word count on the Gold Award page? 987 (this blog post is already longer.) A New York Times article closes with this quote from a BSA troupe leader: “Everybody knows an Eagle Scout,” he said. But the Girl Scouts’ top award “is just not held as high or as valuable in people’s minds, and I’m not sure why.” Are you not sure? Because I sure as hell know why.

If you’re a young girl who’s looking at your future and listening to what people around you talk about – which sounds better the boy scouts or the girl scouts? As 16-year-old Cassidy says “Eagle Scout gets them somewhere on their resume,” she said. “It will be amazing to say you got Eagle and people know what you’re talking about and know the work you put into it.” Can you blame her? Sure, let the kids make the choice. And yet… How many women are there actually within the BSA helping to develop these programs for girls? What message does it send to a girl that you have to be labeled as a Boy Scout to get the award that everyone talks about?

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“Llama Trek”

Many articles on the topic talk about the girls who want to join the boy scouts. One BSA leader was quoted saying “Now, girls are going to be able to have the Scouting experience. …This is progress and overdue.” Let me tell you, I was a girl scout for all of my childhood and I had a great scouting experience. I got to play in the woods and get dirty every summer. I proved last night that I can build a better campfire than my boyfriend. I went camping with llamas, and as 13 year old girls we carried all our own gear. We made fun of the boy scouts who had an extra trailer connected to their van, because they packed too much. But you know what, yes, we also did arts and crafts. We learned about science and nature. We cooked our own meals, and they were delicious. We learned that “girly” things are just as difficult and worthwhile and rewarding to do as anything else. We were given examples of women in science and technology to follow. We proved that we could be brave and strong and adventurous. And you know what, we also proved that we could be crude, and dirty, and silly, and put worms in each others’ hair and be just as gross as the boys.

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His name was “Tangelo” and we helped each other for a week in the mountains. When he spit at me, I spit back.

I didn’t achieve my Gold Award, by the way; less than 6% of girl scouts do. I started a pretty awesome project – I was going to work to record and preserve some heirloom species of roses that grew in a nearby cemetery. Did you know that humans have changed roses so dramatically that most of the original species don’t exist anymore? Like the bulldog, we have shaped roses to match some strange exaggerated image in our minds. We have changed them so much, as they are today they can’t even survive without our help. If you asked me at the time, I’m sure I would have said I quit the project because I didn’t have time, I wanted to hang out with my friends, I had a lot of interests and a lot going on at that time in my life. I wonder now if I was just tired of explaining to people what a Gold Award even was – maybe I just got tired of saying “its like a boy scout Eagle award!” Wild roses are nearly extinct, and I wanted to help save them. Spend one day building a trail bridge my ass.

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Me, age 13?

The Girl Scouts gave me an amazing childhood, and shaped my future. They showed me I didn’t have to be a boy to do anything I wanted. So I plead with you, if you’re a girl in search of adventure, please don’t join the Boy Scouts. If you’re a parent, please don’t encourage your kid to label themselves as someone else out of a misguided idea. If you’re an adult who wants believes in a better world, please don’t applaud the Boy Scouts of America for their falsely progressive idea. There is already an amazing scouting organization out there led by women who know exactly how hard it is to become a strong female leader. The GSUSA have spent over 100 years helping women fight for an equal place at the top, and giving girls the tools they need to be strong and brave and determined in a world that denigrates their every interest. If the BSA really wanted to be progressive and gender-neutral, they’d recognize that.

In Which We Buy A House

I mentioned this summer was busy, right? Well, literally days before I zoomed off into the mountains for my magical fortnight of weaving, we bought a house!

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Its a glorious beautiful amazing house, and one of the most fun things about this summer is being able to spend so much time making it even more beautiful and personal. I’ve, well, gone a little bit crazy with paint colors and wallpaper options. Spoonflower has been selling wallpaper for close to 4 years now, but I’ve never been in a house I could really use it on until now.

I started with the master bathroom. It has a glorious “garden tub” (words I’d never heard together before until I started looking at houses) and I thought the wall in that nook would be perfect for a feature wall. I’d already picked out the paint color as a pale greyish lavender, and I wanted something just a little bit exciting to really draw the eye.  I tried out a couple of samples first, I thought I was going to go with something botanical and I really loved some of these paper cut designs:

But in the end I fell madly in love with this totally crazy rainbow magical water color bubble extravaganza. There was something inside me that loved the thought that no matter what color I turned my bubble bath, it’d still match the walls, hahaha.

After the success of that room, I decided the next wall I wanted to wallpaper was the guest bathroom. Amusingly, this room happened in reverse order. I pretty quickly decided on this sort of under water sea urchin design. I just love the textures and the colors in it. Choosing a wall color to go with it was quite difficult though.

I tried out samples of six different shades before eventually deciding to throw up my hands and start mixing and matching with some leftover cans from other rooms in the house. The fact that it actually worked and I got a lovely shade of teal quite surprises me. The shower curtain is also spoonflower fabric (pirate ships and red linen texture), though I actually made it a couple of years ago. The fact that it matches both the wallpaper and wall color perfect is actually pure coincidence.

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For a brief period I almost ended up choosing this design as the guest bathroom wallpaper, just to get a giggle out of any visitors who might see it. But the beauty of the sea print was just too good to give up. Besides, it sort of matches the yellow and would make an excellent shower curtain, for when I’m feeling more giggly butts instead of pirates ;-).

Butt Guys & Wildlife by pendletonward at Spoonflower

The third place I ended up wallpapering was my new weaving/sewing studio. I’ll save that for another post though, because trust me, you’ll want to see all the photos. It is, for obvious reasons, my favorite room in the house.

The Penland Experience

Its been quiet on the blog because life has been pretty full this summer. One of the most exciting things that happened is that I got the opportunity to FINALLY attend a workshop at Penland.

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If you’ve never heard of it, The Penland School of Crafts is a is a national center for craft education located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a loooooong history, and was founded in the 1920s as a way to teach local women skills which would provide a source of income that they could earn from their home. It may have started with pottery and weaving, but the school now has the resources to focus in all areas of craft, from metal working (large forges and small jewelry), to blowing glass, all aspects of fiber arts, clay, wood working, drawing and painting, book making, letter press, photography, and goodness knows what else.

What I found most special about Penland was that it wasn’t just a workshop or class, it was a full experience. The campus is tucked away in the mountains. The school directly owns some insane acreage of land, but due to the nature of artists, the influence has expanded to the entire surrounding community. The school itself offers everything from short summer workshops (1-2 weeks) for hobbyists and people who just want to learn a new skill, to intensive programs for long term students determined to be career artists, to funded residencies for artists who are solidly into a career and need resources and a community, to permanent members of the community who are renowned in their field. You never know who you’re sitting down next to in the dining hall.

The campus is beautiful of course. It is covered in hiking trails, and random works of art. Every session they open up the resident studios for walk throughs so you can see and be inspired by others. Also, most workshops have an open-door policy and you can wander through other people’s classes and ask them questions about what they’re making.

At the end of each session Penland hosts a student work auction, and the proceeds to to support next year’s work study students. (Yes, Penland is expensive. Worth it, but expensive. But they also have a super neat scholarship and work study program to help offset that cost, so don’t let the money stop you. There are options!) Anyone can donate items to the auction, and anyone can bid on and buy items. It is a really fun way to end the experience, and see what works people are most proud of, and if you feel so inclined, pick up some works of art to take home yourself! I bid on an got a lovely wood-fired bowl for myself, and this super cool box of mini-books, one by each of the students in the book making class.

 

I also donated a scarf which I made during my own class. You’ll recognize my usual reflective strips ;-). I had fun showing off that material and its effects to my class mates.

As a class, we collaborated with the letter press students and together donated a set of greeting cards, featuring a woven sample by each of us.

Our teacher, Amy Putansu, was truly fantastic. She also scheduled a field trip for us to drive over to Asheville and check out some gallery shows that might be particularly interesting to us. One was about the concept of weaving taken outside of normal materials. The other was a show devoted to the history of art and craft local to the area, and featured some of our teacher’s own work. I found it really inspiring to see kinds of art that I identify with more.

But wait, I haven’t told you what my class was about or showed you any other photos of what I was doing! It was a really busy and intense two and a half weeks, and there’s just too much for one blog post to tell. Keep an eye out for part 2 of my Penland story, coming soon!

Zarzamora Silk Scarf

It was 97 deg F outside today as I took the photos of this scarf. I finished weaving it last week. It felt silly to make a scarf in the middle of a southern summer, but I wanted something simple and fun to work on. It is a 2/2 twill with the yarn at 24epi.

I have never worked with Malabrigo yarn before, but after this I definitely am again. This is their Mora line, spun of 100% mulberry silk. Expensive, yes, but absolutely worth it. The color is so vivid and beautiful and somehow dynamic. Silvers and greens and blues and browns wend their way through the wisteria like purple. Yes, I’m feeling color sentimental-y, but the dye name is “Zarazamora” which apparently means “blackberry” in Spanish and I love it.

The softness and the drape of the scarf is hard to capture in these photos, but it was waaaay too hot to drag out the body form. I’m sure I’ll find a way to take more later. Just know that it is a scarf you want to touch.

 

I also had a lot of fun documenting some of the steps of weaving this scarf on instagram. While the video snippet quality isn’t the best, its something I enjoyed and am going to try to keep doing. Follow it with #watchmeweave if you want! 

A re-introduction to Claire McCardell

I recently came across this article on a wonderful fashion designer of the 1950s, Claire McCardell. I was already enjoying the story of her life when I suddenly recognized one of her dresses. (You should definitely go check out this Seamwork Article, its a work of art in its own: https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2017/06/deconstructing-claire-mccardell )

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I came across this photo a few years ago and fell in love with the dress. I could find out the photographer easily enough, and the model, and even the artist’s studio she’s posing in. But I never managed to find out who designed the dress.

I made my own version, and wrote about it here a few months ago, you can see more photos of it here: https://dressinsouciantly.com/2016/07/10/monets-water-lilies/

But now I am so glad to know more of the fascinating history of the woman who designed it. She seems like she was a truly amazing woman. Thank you Claire McCardell.

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The Handmade Project – Video Poll

Have you hear about The Handmade Project yet? No? Oh, well, its only a crafting competition reality TV show hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman….

You can read about it here, and here. And even apply for it here. I’ll wait.

 

Excited yet? Okay, so yes, of course I’m going to apply. The one snag I ran into while filling out the application was the introduction video. Gah, of course. For all the other things I like learning and making, video editing has just never clicked with me. Thank goodness I have some really awesome friends.

Now I have three videos, and I can’t decide which one I should submit. I need your help. Please watch these three videos in any random order, and then vote on this poll:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1p0r6m6Rvy3FgEOXBai8DcoZfBvb7PXkI6AI8S_l-Ynk

 

Thank Youuuuu!

Blue Flowered Birthday Dress

I think I’ve mentioned how every year I like to sew myself a birthday dress. This year was no exception.

I used Sprout Patterns once more, and this time chose a dress I’ve had my eye on since the very beginning. This pattern is the Anna Dress by By Hand London. It is super simple to put together, but still feels elegant without being intimidating.

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that I made mistakes all over the place, but because its got simple lines and a relaxed flow you can’t even tell. Most obvious, I wasn’t paying attention and bought the wrong size zipper. Which I didn’t even notice until midnight the day before I wanted to wear it, no craft stores open now! (As a sideline, I’ve always wanted to start a business that makes craft supply vending machines for moments like this.)

What do you do when you only have 9″ of zipper to close up 22″ of back seam? You modify the dress to have an open key hole back! I simply inserted the zipper in the 9 inches of the narrowest part of the waist, cut out a curve in the rest of the back seam, and put a button at the top! Its even a self-fabric covered button, because I had a few left over from a previous project.

Its not a perfectly fitted alteration, but it works for the casual look I wanted anyways. And besides, thats not even the worst of it. Halfway through I mixed up the skirt panel pieces, and discovered way too late that I had attached them in the wrong order, with the front three halfway around the back. Can you tell? Not a bit! I’m pretty sure the front seams were supposed to line up with the pleat lines in the bodice, but oh wait, I kind of screwed those up too.

And yet, with all that, I love this dress. Its obviously hugely forgiving of mistakes, you can put it together half asleep and still look incredible.

Summer-Winter scarf as Spring approaches

This scarf came from another commissions conversation, but has been something I’ve wanted to try ever since my success with the summer winter block pattern scarves.

Summer-winter drafts are weavings where either the warp yarn or the weft yarn becomes dominant, and so one color can take over. In the block drafts I’ve done before, this isn’t super obvious because the blocks alternate colors anyways. But I really wanted to see what a scarf would look like in a summer-winter pattern without blocks, where one side of the scarf would be a noticeably different color than the other.

This scarf was warped with burgundy tencel, and I used cobalt tencel for the weft. I absolutely love the color effect where one side is burgundy with hints of blue, and the other is blue with hints of burgundy.

The effect of the two colors turned out so well I’m going to have to try this again. And of course I included some of the reflective threads as well.

 

 

Christmas in the 80’s

Our work party this year was themed “The 80’s.” And snarky costumer that I am, I said to myself “I don’t really want to dress like the 80’s. I was alive for them, they weren’t all THAT long ago. I’d rather do something crazy like…. the EIGHTEEN EIGHTIES.” Luckily, I have a boyfriend who was totally willing to go along with it.

I was so pleased with myself that one of those photos became our New Years card. The party was truly wonderful, and the team who put it together did a great job. They even had little instant polaroid cameras everyone could play with. These now have proud places on my desk.

I promise you some excellent real quality photos of the actual costumes whenever I get a chance. But to tide you over, here’s some sloppy shots of my hair, which I was actually pretty proud of doing all on my own.