Thin mints, Caramel Delights, and respect

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

A question heard hundreds of times a day across the 40 Acres. For many people, this question is a welcome offering of a delicious treat. For others it’s a temptation to break their New Year’s diet. Far too many people, though, take the opportunity to knowingly or unknowingly talk down to the girls working the booth. With two official cookie booths on campus, Longhorns need to consciously make sure even well-intended comments are respectful to the visiting Girl Scouts. 

“Sure, cutie.”  “I will, only because you’re so adorable.” “Oh would you look at that outfit, how could I say no?” 

I could not possibly count how many times these phrases were said to me to answer my initial question during my 10 years working cookie booths. I realize that these comments are intended to be nice, compliments even. But when comments are not just said occasionally but are said booth after booth, year after year, they stick with you. It sends a clear message to the girl that her appearance is her selling-point, not her products or business skills. 

Another comment I heard frequently was, “Which one of these cookies has the least calories?”

Far too often these and other serious questions are directed towards the booth’s adult chaperones, instead of the girls who are running the booth. This invalidates the girl who, especially if she has already been reduced to “cute,” is at the booth to work on her business skills. The adults are supposed to be at the booths just as a safety measure. The girls are supposed to be the focus as they work on building confidence and interacting with the public. Ignoring the girl discredits her. These girls are strong, capable and smart. Not giving the girl the opportunity to speak for herself takes away her autonomy. When anyone is repeatedly ignored, it has an impact on that person’s self-worth.

It’s easy to make thoughtless comments at a Girl Scout cookie booth and not think anything of it. However, when interacting with anyone you should treat them with intentional respect. Just because the Girl Scouts are young girls does not mean how they are treated is any less important. We should not allow these girls to be conditioned to see their appearance as a marketing tool or accept having their voices ignored, these are the first steps towards these girls accepting other degradations of their self-worth. 

In making a small adjustment to how we treat the Girl Scouts on campus we can show them the best version of the Longhorn family. A community that respects all their members, regardless of age and gender.

Freeman is an International Relations and Global Studies junior from Cedar Park.