The Way We Were – Brownies vs. ‘Tweens’
Posted by hannahcolman on July 7, 2008
I read an article in my local community newspaper last week that detailed the shortage of people volunteering as Girl Guide leaders. Having been a Brownie in my formative years, collecting such elusive badges as ‘Cook’, ‘Hostess’, ‘Gardener’, ‘Camper’ and ‘Knitter’, I was reminded of the innocence and joy that came with being a Brownie Guide (a member of the Girl Guide Association between the ages of seven and eleven years).
Last weekend The Age‘s Good Weekend magazine featured an edited extract from What’s Happening To Our Girls, by Australian writer and lecturer Maggie Hamilton. Hamilton’s research on teens and ‘tweens’ examines the pressures of young girls living in a society obsessed with image, fame and fortune. They are isolated and anxious, and are spending less time with their parents and more time with their peers. This, claims Hamilton (and I am inclined to agree with her), robs them of the ability to make sense of the world.
Reading this article left me feeling cold. Stand by for an extract. But first – I went to the bookshelf and stumbled across a wonderful book from the Ladybird ‘Hobbies’ series, Brownie Guides, written by Nancy Scott and published in 1978.
The first page reads:
The Girl Guides Association has members in over ninety countries. Anyone can belong: it doesn’t matter if a girl is handicapped, what colour her skin is, or where she lives – provided she is willing to make the Threefold Promise, she can be a Brownie Guide.
Delightful! No discrimination here. NB: The Brownie Promise is a simple one – involving doing your duty to God and the Queen, helping others, doing a good turn each day, etc.
A Brownie is a very busy and happy girl because there are so many new and interesting things to do when she becomes a Brownie. She makes many new friends, and with these friends finds out how to use her time in the most enjoyable and helpful way.
Yes, Brownies are very busy people, and because they are so busy, they are happy. There are so many interesting things to do in life, and a Brownie is all the time discovering new and exciting things to do. They enjoy making things, especially when the things they make are to be presents for others, such as book-markers, tea cosies, greeting cards, models, or toys for younger children.
Tea cosies! Toys for younger children! Now, let’s compare with an excerpt from Hamilton’s book, and see what the seven to eleven year olds of 2008 are up to.
When I asked tweens what girls their age were anxious about, appearance and acceptance were top of the list.
“They worry about looks. Worry about how their hair looks, their face looks, their eyebrows, and how thin or fat they are,” Vanessa, 9, explained. Vanessa also admitted she worries about “weight and guys ‘n’ stuff. Weight, cos kids tease you, and people look at you with a mean look, and you’re jealous of some girls cos they look better.”
Nine year olds are worrying about their eyebrows? I’m just thankful that at that age I was most worried about cooking a meal from scratch for my family so that I could earn my cookery badge and display it proudly on my brown pinafore.