This week the Boy Scouts finally bent completely to left-wing activists, announcing girls who identify as “transgender boys” will be accepted among their troops. The announcement comes after months of pressure after a biological girl attempted to join her local Boy Scout troop in my home state of New Jersey.
In response to the decision, Fox News’ Todd Starnes wrote what many conservative parents were already thinking: “The time has come for every church and every parent in America to sever ties with the Boy Scouts. ‘This is Exhibit A of the insatiable demands of those pushing this sexual anarchy,’ Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told me. The policy change takes effect immediately and has parents asking some very pointed questions: will transgender children will be able to share tents and bathrooms in the Great Outdoors with heterosexual boys?”
It’s too early to say how the decision will affect the Boy Scouts’ future, although the situation brought to mind another piece of Americana, the circus, and how its decision to surrender to outspoken left-wing activists proved to be its undoing.
A Fatal Choice: Listening to Non-Constituents
Earlier this year, after operating for more than 146 years, the Ringling Brothers Circus announced its final tour and impending closure. This American institution and backdrop of countless childhood memories will no longer be a family attraction. Who do we have to thank? Animal activists and groups like PETA. When the closure was announced last month, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Executives with the parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said Monday that a decision to remove elephants from the show in response to pressure from animal rights groups instantly affected ticket sales, leading to the decision to close the 146-year-old company.
‘Since last May, when the elephants were taken off the show, the downward trend was much more severe than had been anticipated,’ Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive of Feld Entertainment, said at a news conference at the company’s headquarters. ‘Over the past eight or nine years there’s been a decline, but when the elephants left the show we did not anticipate the impact that would have.’
The circus made what is becoming a classic blunder in our perpetually outraged society: it buckled under pressure to the hysterical Left and let its opinions affect how they operate. This affected their bottom line because they forgot to prioritize the desires of their customer base. When businesses find themselves the target of boycotts and pressure from the Left, they should consider not just how much the noise may actually affect their profits, but also how much bending to it may.
In the case of the circus, consider the average PETA activist: an unmarried, 20- or 30-something far-left activist, who likely considers having children to be detrimental to the earth, and thus, eschews breeding. Then consider the average circus-goer: A family with several young children, eager to have their imaginations sparked and experience an afternoon of whimsical entertainment—because if tickets cost that much, it better be an afternoon to remember.
Do either of these groups overlap? Perhaps, but not by much. Thus, should it matter to the circus what these PETA activists think of their business? No, not really. A PETA sympathizer boycott of the circus does next to nothing to the circus’s profit margin, so boycotters should have been allowed to continue being outraged.
Boy Scout Families Don’t Trend Left
When the Boy Scouts decided to allow anatomically female scouts into its troops and teach its members that, despite biology, these young girls are in fact boys, they may have sealed their fate alongside Ringling Brothers. While left-wing culture warriors would like Americans to believe that transgenderism is “settled science,” many Americans, especially those outside of liberal urban meccas who are most likely participate in scouts, are not of the same mind. Allowing transgender scouts into troops may make outspoken parents on the coasts happy, but it is likely to anger those in suburban and rural areas.
In a poll last year on the transgender bathrooms issue in North Carolina, Reuters reports:
Democrats, by 57 percent to 29 percent, and people in large metropolitan areas are more likely to allow transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity. Republicans side with the birth certificate criteria by 64 percent to 23 percent.
New England and the Northeast were the regions most accepting of transgender people choosing restrooms by identity while the Southwest, Southeast and South were most inclined to side with the birth certificate standard.
People who frequently attend church are more than twice as likely to agree with the North Carolina law, although Roman Catholics are evenly split.
Support for transgender rights on the bathroom issues was strongest among those aged 18 to 29.
It should have occurred to those in charge of the Boy Scouts that these regions and age groups that most favor the societal impulse to change the definition of gender are not the same parents whose kids comprise the majority of their scouts. Making urban twenty-somethings happy does nothing to pad the scouts’ bottom line, but angering older Americans outside of New England and the Northeast could do a lot to hurt it.
It’s fairly uncertain if the positive press for this announcement granted by liberal members of the coastal media will translate into more Boy Scout involvement, or significantly less. If the Ringling Brothers example teaches us anything, it very well could be the latter.