“Gay troops can fight for the country and be maimed or killed, but they can’t be scouts?”—Aaron Belkin
In a recent contribution to the New York Times‘s Room for Debate, Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, weighs in on the recent controversy regarding the Boy Scouts’ decision to affirm it policy of excluding gays.
In light of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in the military, Belkin finds the Boy Scouts’ policy “shocking”. The Scouts’ exclusionary tradition toward gays is sustained, Belkin argues, by the fantasy of militarized masculinity. In part, the creation of the Scouts was motivated by fears that the United States was becoming too feminine. It was believed that the Scouts would help prepare boys for military service. Aaron Belkin suggests that military values continue to shape the organization:
The Boy Scouts of America has always taken pride in its promotion of military values like hierarchy, conformity and bravery to prepare boys for manhood, and its Web site exalts that, “Boy Scouts prove themselves in an environment that challenges their courage and tests their nerve.” Understood from this perspective, the intimate, longstanding partnership between the military and scouting is not just about recruiting, but reflects a more profound effort to inculcate boys with martial priorities.
Aaron Belkin concludes the essay by looking at the fallacy of the Boy Scouts’ belief that by being gay one cannot be masculine:
It goes without saying that most Americans understand that one can be gay and masculine, and that the Boy Scouts of America’s barely hidden belief that gay inclusion would contaminate the process of masculine preparation is downright silly if not worse. But the tragedy of the gay exclusion policy is not just the conflation of homosexuality with the unmasculine. What’s equally disturbing is its endorsement of militarized masculinity as an important or even necessary goal for boys. Let’s worry less about preparing boys to conform to some ideal gender norm than about developing their capacity for thoughtfulness, awareness and creativity.
For more on Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001: Aaron Belkin’s essay “This Is Not Who We Are”: Contradictory Expectations in the US Military | Interview with Aaron Belkin in Battleland | Excerpt from the Introduction |