When I was just a young schoolgirl, seven years of age,I signed up for the Brownies. In fact, I was not only a Brownie - I was a Sixer of the Leprechauns (which Brownie aficionados will know is akin to being the gansa macher on the shul board). My responsibility as a Brownie Sixer was to lead my pack in all the set duties to claim the much-coveted badges that were earned and then sewn onto the unforgiving yellow and brown uniform, and displayed with pride.
The more badges worn, the more seriously that Brownie had taken her oath of "good conduct and good deeds".
Brownie badges could be earned by Helping an Old Person Across The Road (I say "old", they were probably 40), Doing Odd Jobs for a Stranger (hey, it was the late 70s - we didn't have stranger danger then), Lighting a Fire (ditto no Health and Safety in those days either- just the Tufty Club), and Washing Your Own Uniform.
At the age of 10, the next move was the Girl Guides. But by that time I had realised two things. Firstly, if being a Brownie was not cool then becoming a Girl Guide was even uncooler and secondly, being forced to go to Hebrew classes every Tuesday and Thursday night didn't marry at all well with the Guiding way of life.
The Guides, started by General Baden Powell, was about hunting and fishing and camping along with the best of the boys.
If being a Brownie wasn’t cool, being a Girl Guide was even uncooler
I always imagined that upon graduation, the Girl Guide would be able to hunt, shoot, skin and cook her own rabbit, having already built her own fire on which to cook it. Then eat it in a tent she had managed to erect from an old sheet and two fishing poles.
At Hebrew classes (amongst other things), I learnt to become a woman whose worth was Far Above Rubies which I understood to mean having neat nails and nice clothes whilst aspiring to wear rubies, to say the Shema every night and not to eat rabbit. Being a Girl Guide meant never getting married to
a professional accountant, more
a professional kayaker.
However, the Girl Guides have suddenly become uber cool and incredibly relevant. Did you know that this summer they spearheaded a Guiding 'manifesto' setting out the top ten political issues facing today's young women?
The top two were deemed the early sexualisation of young girls and the ridiculous airbrushing of models and pop singers giving young women unrealistic images to aspire to.
They want all airbrushed photos to be labelled, thus reducing the mental health disorders, panic attacks and eating disorders that the Guides see as endemic amongst their peers.
They've been backed by MP's and are hoping to get it through as legislation. Good on the Guides.
I imagine that Hebrew classes have become more relevant, too - giving girls the opportunity to have a solo bat mitzvah rather than being shoved on the bimah with ten other girls as in my day.
And I imagine that Jewish girls can be homemakers and mothers and also be the equal of their male counterparts in everything they set out to do as long as they are supported by their partners.
And they could do worse than take a leaf from the Girl Guides and stand up against the lies of over sexualisation and airbrushing (except when it comes to my photo, of course).