These girls want to be Boy Scouts—but for now, they’re calling themselves Unicorns by Svati Kirsten Narula

Ella Jacobs, Daphne Mortenson, Taylor Alcozer, and Skyler Westover—all 10 years old—and Skyler’s 13-year-old sister Allie call themselves the “Unicorns.” They’re hoping to soon call themselves Boy Scouts.

On Nov. 13, the five girls from California stood before a panel of Boy Scout leaders in Santa Rosa to plead their case (paywall). The local leaders weren’t unmoved, exactly, but they said this was a matter for the national level of the organization to deal with. The Santa Rosa area chapter doesn’t have the authority to admit the girls, according to officials quoted by the New York Times.

The Boy Scouts allows girls to participate in certain affiliated programs, but its main curriculum, which the Times says “has built a reputation as the most rigorous youth development program in the nation,” has never been open to girls and doesn’t have to be, thanks to an exemption from Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender-based discrimination.

A few of the Unicorns have tried Girl Scouts, but evidently weren’t satisfied by their experiences. The five girls started wanting to be Boy Scouts after completing one of the Boy Scouts’ affiliated programs last year. They bought uniforms that mimicked the boys’ ones, and bested dozens of Boy Scout groups at a competition, where they earned second place overall after out-performing other teams in skills like backpacking and slingshot.

But in their enthusiasm, the Unicorns—led by Ella’s mother Danelle Jacobs—prompted at least one Boy Scout parent to file an official complaint. Parents and troop leaders told the Times that letting girls join the Boy Scouts would be bad for the boys, because, among other things—“Would I want a girl sleeping in my son’s tent? No”—the girls are bound to steal all the leadership positions. Girls already put boys to shame in school, even in math and science; the Boy Scouts are a last refuge from competition with the other sex.

On Oct. 1, the Boy Scout council banned the Unicorns from participating in any more affiliated programs or activities. The girls were invited to a meeting on Nov. 13 to hear more about that decision. At the meeting, they deposited formal applications to become Boy Scouts, who forwarded the applications to national headquarters. “It felt like they were saying no to us, but they didn’t want to say it with all the cameras,” Daphne Mortenson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Both the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts of America have weathered heated political battles, and the Boy Scouts in particular is trying to “modernize.” “I’d like to see them standing up like they did for the gay scouts and the gay leaders,” Allie Westover said. The Boy Scouts lifted its blanket ban on gays this year.

And it’s been about 30 years since girls were first allowed to join the Scout Association of the UK, where scouting was practically invented. The Scout Association of the UK is now completely co-ed.

The Unicorns, who aren’t the first girls to try joining the Boy Scouts, are also making their case in a time of unisex bathrooms and a military-wide mandate to integrate women in combat squads. An emailed statement from the Boy Scouts said: “We understand that the values and the lessons of Scouting are attractive to the entire family. However, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are year-round programs for boys and young men in the first grade through age 18.”

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