A brochure for the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis (BGCC) advertising programs for our area’s school age youth has recently raised concerns amongst community members regarding the sexist nature of the programs’ descriptions. In an e-mail, one parent criticized the brochure, which outlined the Boys 2 Men program as focusing on building “character, leadership and positive behavior”, while SMART Girls would receive “guidance towards healthy attitudes and lifestyles, eating right, staying fit, and more.”
The parent’s concerns boiled down to this: Don’t young men also need to learn to eat right, stay fit, and be healthy? Don’t young women also need to learn to lead with strong character? By suggesting that SMART Girls’ most important lessons, or at least the ones worth mentioning, are all about looking and feeling good, and that leadership and character building are better left to boys, sexist stereotypes are reinforced and our youth are sold short.
Fortunately, the BGCC’s programs do not echo these specifications. Both SMART Girls and Boys 2 Men share the same topics and activities. Everyone learns leadership, eating right, and all things in between. “[The BGCC] is meant to help young men and women,” says Chief Operating Officer of the Boys and Girls Club Clay Higgins. “We’re not trying to be exclusionary at all.”
According to Higgins, the main reason the programs are separated according to sex is to “create a safe environment for those hard conversations to happen.” Higgins describes a typical discussion between the two programs, where the girls discuss a topic among themselves while the boys do the same. Then, both programs combine to explore the subject together. Boys and girls are kept separate at first to encourage safety and comfort, as an audience of the opposite sex might make topics around growth and development difficult for some youth to discuss.
Higgins disclosed that the BGCC has already created a new document with updated descriptions for the two programs that better reflects the programs’ similarities. The new brochures will be distributed as soon as they’re printed.
“It’s good to get that feedback … to have someone bring these to our attention,” says Higgins.
“We’re always learning.” The BGCC welcomes parent involvement, comments, and concerns, and prides itself on being part of the Corvallis community, where communication and feedback support positive growth.
By Kyle Bunnell