Swift Teens Speak Now
Girl Scouts go rogue.


Kathryn Jean Lopez

‘Chances are, if you’re naming your blog after a Taylor Swift album, your judgment’s already suspect.”

That’s how two teen girls were dismissed by a Salon magazine piece on the Girl Scouts’ liberal-feminist tendencies. And, as it happens, the gratuitous line itself actually speaks to the heart of the problem.

Fully aware that there is an army of glossy magazines pining for the day Taylor goes wild on camera — stomping on all pretense of and desire for preserving innocence — I mean that what many of her songs embody is something Salon doesn’t understand: a rooted goodness, and higher expectations than instant gratification, both for herself and for those she loves.

The girls Salon dismissed, sisters Sydney and Tess Volanski — a soon-to-be high-school sophomore and freshman, respectively — left the Girl Scouts after eight years because the organization’s current values — signaled by its ties to Planned Parenthood — clash with their own. And, yes, they set up a website about the Girl Scouts that is a little hat tip to their favorite singer: Its name, “Speak Now,” is the title of one of Swift’s songs.

The beginning of the rude awakening for Sydney and Tess was a graphic pamphlet produced by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Healthy, Happy and Hot, which was reportedly distributed at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts meeting last year. The pamphlet talks about satisfying urges — and if necessary procuring a “safe abortion” — while living with HIV. But the concerns go beyond that — to the worldview of the present-day Girl Scouts. This may not apply to the mom running your local troop, but it assuredly does to some of those making the key decisions about the organization’s publications, programs, alliances, and even polling.

Rather than be anti–Girl Scouts, however, the Volanskis want the Girl Scouts to be better, to be who they say they are — and who many people still think they are.

“We were part of a great troop,” Sydney says. “We had our Bronze Award and were in the process of planning for our Silver Award. It was a great experience, only marred when we found out that GSUSA is not what it says it is. We were saddened by the fact that we were associated with a group that had moral viewpoints in direct opposition to ours.”

Sydney tells me: “Many Girl Scouts are good, wholesome girls. The problem lies within the national organization’s leadership and its lack of adherence to its promise of neutrality.” She adds that girls often need and “should get help, but Planned Parenthood and abortion — what GSUSA is directing them to — are not help. Abortion has serious risks for women, including breast cancer, infertility, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. Does this sound like help?”

“If we had a say,” Sydney continues, “we would make it so they were truly neutral about a girl’s health and sexuality, abortion and birth control, and political affiliations, as they promise to be. We would put the focus where it should be, on character-building and leadership activities.”

When I ask the girls if they are just doing the bidding of their pro-life mom, Sydney replies: “We have passion for the pro-life cause on our own. We are old enough that we can form our own opinions. Teenagers are not all as apathetic as society seems to think; we can care enough about something to take action. This is something that we cared about, so we took action and made this website because we wanted to.”

Sydney and Tess are finding their voices at a time when many young women are doing the same. Tess points to Lila Rose, the 22-year-old who has already made a name for herself doing independent pro-life undercover work. “I am inspired by the many amazing women who fight for life in our culture today,” Tess tells me. “One who stands out is Lila Rose. Her commitment and courage are very motivating. Sydney and I had the wonderful experience of meeting Lila Rose recently and hearing her story. We found in person that Lila is not only bold and courageous, but also very kind and compassionate.”