Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Are they made with real Girl Scouts?

Posted by metaphorical on 7 March 2007

The president of the Girl Scout Council wrote a letter to the NY Times the other day objecting to an article published last month, “In a Fat Nation, Are Thin Mints on Thin Ice?”

The Girl Scout argument is not that their cookies aren’t bad for you, but that they’re doing bad to do good:

A campaign to discourage people from buying Girl Scout cookies would cripple our ability to serve the girls who need us most.

Without revenue from the cookie sale, we could not provide Girl Scouting to our more than 21,000 girls ages 5 to 17 every year in New York City.

Only at the end of its letter does the Council feebly dispute the idea that cookies are bad.

Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has eliminated trans fats from Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scout Council of Greater New York applauds this achievement and believes that all snacks — even our favorite Girl Scout cookies, available only once a year — should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

I don’t see how they can have it both ways. If New Yorkers double their consumption of Girl Scout cookies, the organization will be able to serve twice as many girls, or the same girls twice as well. That level of consumption might be unhealthy, but the fact is, the current level of consumption might already be. Who knows? A not-unhealthy level of consumption this year might turn out to perfectly align with the 2007 capital and operating expenses of the organization, but it would be nothing more than a remarkably improbable happenstance.

That telltale phrase, “eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet,” comes straight from the fast-food industry; we know that there are millions of people who eat fast food immoderately. If everyone ate fast food moderately, only as much as as would be part of a healthy diet, McDonald’s, et al., would have to close thousands of stores, revenue would plunge, and stockholders would jump out of their windows. The phrase is a classic example of Orwellian doublethink.

If consumption of girl scout cookies follows a classic bell curve shape, then something like a third of all purchasers are eating more than is good for them. If it follows the 80-20 rule, the canonical example of which comes from the immoderate consumption of beer (studies show that 20% of all beer drinkers consume 80% of all beer sold), then there are millions of cookie consumers consuming way too many cookies.

Of course people are responsible for their own over-consumption, but in the aggregate, immoderation is predictable, even inevitable. What kind of a lesson are we teaching the Girl Scouts when the organization fails to take responsibility for the consequences of its own actions?

Rather than rely on a magical coincidence of mission and nutrition, why don’t the Girl Scouts find something inherently healthful to sell, or get out of the food business entirely?

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24 Responses to “Are they made with real Girl Scouts?”

  1. (1) I’m not sure it’s quite “Orwellian double-think”. It’s just bad faith: they say something that is true but that they know doesn’t apply to most of the people in question. They’re not holding contradictory ideas simultaneously; they’re just being misleading – making a technically correct statement that shifts the focus away from what people actually do with the product they sell (and which they encourage them to do) toward some idealized state, in which people do something else entirely, that the company really hopes – and expects – will never be the case. (In addition to bad faith or misdirection, it’s also hypocrisy, to the extent that they claim to support “moderation” while hoping, and counting on, consumers’ eating habits not being moderate.)

    (2) Why do the Girl Scouts, particularly, need to care about this? I’ve never understood why cookies were associated with Girl Scouts in the first place, other than that cookies evoke a kind of feminine stereotype – and make scads of cash – but if they’re going to sell cookies, why do they need to be healthy cookies? What about selling non-healthy cookies contradicts anything about the Girl Scouts as an organization? Are they a healthy-eating group? Not that I’m aware of. Is trans-fat elimination an explicit Girl Scout goal? I doubt it.

    I imagine they likely have some sort of vague mission statement about “values”, “leadership”, and “healthy living”, and one might argue that eating, or selling, unhealthy cookies implicitly contradicts some part of that ethos – but that seems a bit of a stretch. Unless they already police themselves as to trans-fat consumption and eating habits, and unless unhealthy food is banned from . . . um, whatever it is they get up to in their “Scouting”, I don’t know why they have to enforce a standard for the public higher than the one that they find compatible with their own organizational values already. (I once found a huge moth baked into a piece of bread I was served at Boy Scout camp – after I had bitten it. The cafeteria supervisor was completely unfazed by my complaint. I hope the Girl Scouts’ standards are higher than that, but I doubt they’re so much higher that the Scouts themselves are forbidden to eat Girl Scout cookies. If not, why should they be forbidden to sell them?)

    I’m not defending selling bad food. I am defending a sense that nobody is particularly required not to on the basis of health standards that neither they nor most other people espouse (and which normally fall within the preserve of private behavior). Maybe it degrades the Girl Scouts’ wholesome image to sell fatty foods, but I would think it does so (a) in a rather minor way, (b) only by indirect implication, and (c) no more so than for anybody else who’s comfortable with run-of-the-mill crappy American eating habits. If you’re not out hunting the Keebler Elves with carrot stick in hand, why get on the Girl Scouts?

    (I suppose this is partly prompted by my old Boy Scout desire to see the Girl Scouts go bad. It’s too late for my good, and rather tame in any respect, but if selling fatty cookies is their first step on the road to perdition, well, good for them!)

  2. Elizabeth said

    I feel compelled to say something both as a former Girl Scout who sold cookies and as a current GS cookie consumer. But I fear it will stray from metaphorical’s main point that GS should abandon the cookie in favor of something else.

    First off, the cookies are only sold once a year, unlike the fast food establishments open 24/7. Think of it as built-in moderation. And they tried healthier cookies once. They tasted like sawdust. I’d rather have one thin mint than a whole box of the other crap.

    The cookie sale likely orginiated in the bake sale idea. Once considered a tried and true way for schools and other groups to raise money, the bake sale has lost favor in these times when everyone’s wheat and nut allergy makes a muffin fodder for a law suit. Campfire Girls (remember them? My sister was one.) sold candy. Boy Scouts sold Christmas trees (at least in Louisiana). What would you have Girl Scouts do to raise money for troop projects? Given the once a year timing to raise the big bucks, would a car wash do the trick? Or a book sale? Doubtful.

    When I sold Thin Mints in the mid 1970s, they cost $1.10 a box. That was split between the cookie maker, national council, state council, local council, and my troop. We got 10 cents a box if I remember correctly. I am positive we received more than the other groups up the food chain, which seems fair. They had other troops to help support them.

    We used it to pay for camping trips, jamboree, and a host of other things. We had a couple of car washes, too, one year to raise money for a longer trip. But without the cookies, we’d have never taken a single camping trip, made anything for shelters or nursing homes, or been able to prepare for any of the special medals and badges.

    Now that I’m done ranting, (and thanks for reading this far), I’m left with this question: how is a once a year cookie sale the main culprit for overconsumption?

    • Robin Beelen said

      I agree. Is there anything that is okay for 100% of the people? I do not buy them because I cannot eat process food or sugar. However, once a year won’t hurt most people. I don’t even eat this one time a year however I can choose to donate some money instead. We all have choices.

  3. ClaireDePlume said

    the modern bell curve is warped like a dough nut. much like all of us who are fattened for the kill by the insidious invasion of sugar coated girl scouts on the outside, e-ville vixens on the inside. there ought to be a law…to have all girl scouts parboiled (not fried in oil) for our own good.

    and while we are at it – lest we not be half-baked in ridding the world of evil eating – let’s fry (in government approved non-hydrogenated oil) those irritating children found at malls or our own front doors peddling chocolate covered almonds – silent candy killers under the guise of fund-raising for local schools and athletic teams.

    no more cooking up crimes using pretty pigtailed pixies and puppy dog eyes. we should save our spare change for more worthy causes. like buying daffodils from the cancer society… an organization that prays daily there will be no cure so that they can all remain gainfully employed.

  4. Gimme a fucking break, Meta. Yer attacking the Girl Scouts for selling cookies? Tell me, Captain Sanctimonious, how does it feel up there in that ivory tower dreaming of Utopia?

  5. I love it up here. Are the Girl Scouts somehow exempt from the requirement that people and organizations be responsible for their actions?

    On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t have bothered to single them out, except their executive director went out of his way to suggest they were somehow exempt. If he insists on having the debate, let’s have it.

  6. Cookies, bad. Soy good. So sayeth Lord Meta, the new food censor. They’re cookies. If some fat ass can’t put the box down after having one or two, that’s his problem not the Girl Scouts. Stop trying to blame the food for the fact that Americans have no self control. See this is why I fear the Democrats. They’ll save me from myself. “We’re sorry, Swanny, but that scotch is just no good for you. Have some green tea instead.”

    With that I’m off to eat a big fat bloody steak and gorge myself on Oreos.

    • Robin Beelen said

      First of all, I am a Democrat and I do not think this is a political issue. I think you would help your cause if you weren’t so demeaning. Democrats do want comanies that are ruining our food(creating GMOs out of wheat,soy, corn) to stop only because they are destroying our food source. My dietician(I have no idea what party she is in) told me that she doesn’t believe there is any natural gluten anymore which is why 18 million people cannot eat it. SO please be glad there are people of any party demanding that GMOs not be created out of greed.

      I do not think buying or not buy Girl Scout Cookies is the same thing. It is a choice for all to buy or not once a year.

      And I think you are very misinformed if you believe that most people believe the GMOs, and sugar-laced foods as well as chemicals added to food are the only source of obesity. They contribute in many ways but there are still other choices out there. If you are able to eat in an unhealthy way and still have a good quality of life okay for you. But many cannot. However, there is a difference between you making those choices and companies destroying healthy natural food like wheat, soy and corn. If you do not believe that, please do research. THey do not even hide it.

  7. Isn’t it the other way ’round, Papa? The reason Democrats step in with legislation is precisely because the “corporations” (not a term that applies well to the Girl Scouts) won’t take any responsibility for their actions.

    The Cato Institute crowd would say that diabetes is an externality, and the solution is to make the Girl Scouts pay for their little share of it. I’m fine with that.

  8. ClaireDePlume said

    “…the solution is to make the Girl Scouts pay for their little share of it. I’m fine with that.”

    people should take ownership for their actions – no question. in all fairness, this should apply to ~everyone~. is there time in the day to administer justice to all, for all, and by all?

    as i see it, the real point here is not to use the point to skewer little girls caught in the act of flogging sugar-coated cookies. it is to raise awareness for all and hopefully to do so in a manner which stirs us to positive action.

    we all would be best served if the cookies were less of a hot potato and more of an olive branch reaching toward reconciliations and solutions.

    there are better methods, not batter baking ones, for fund-raising.

    metaphorically speaking, we may discover that there is more dough in tho$e cookie$ than is known of in our philosophies.

  9. A reader of this blog who wishes to remain anonymous sends this in:

    One more item in reference to your nefarious cookie caper (excerpted from today’s e-zine by ‘Baltimore Health Sciences Institute’):

    Obesity Epidemic Solved! 

    That’s right. You heard it here first. The obesity epidemic has finally been solved. And you may not believe your eyes when I tell you the source of this solution: Krispy Kreme. 

    Just last month, Krispy Kreme rocked the nutrition world with the introduction of their new whole wheat glazed doughnut, which comes in at an embarrassingly low 180 calories. That’s a whopping 20-calorie reduction from their traditional glazed doughnut! 

    And yes, I’ve turned on the HOT SARCASM NOW light. 

    For those of you keeping score, additional stats for the Krispy Kreme traditional glazed doughnut include: 

    100 calories from fat
    22 grams of carbohydrates
    10 grams of sugars
    4 grams of trans fats
    {snip}

  10. Blue Athena said

    I think my problem with this whole thing is the focus on food, rather than exercise. If the effort put into this likely losing battle against the likes of girl scout cookies were, instead, directed towards creating walkable neighborhoods and realistic life-integrated exercise, then we could all still enjoy a few girl scout cookies.

  11. ClaireDePlume said

    Agreed Athena, exercise is a vital part of health.

    Food is even more vital to our health.

    I ask; how can we expect a body fed with sugar, hydrogenated fats, genetically altered wheat/gluten and other assorted toxins to exercise? And these are the usual ingredients in cookies alone.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    All of the toxins from processed foods which we knowingly put into our mouths place unnecessary stresses on our entire bodies, compromise our immune systems, overtax the pancreas, fill the digestive tract with gluten (which is much like glue in our intestinal tracts), overwork our thyroids, adrenal and lymphatic systems, cause increased cravings for more of the same, prematurely age our bodies… the list goes on. The end result is an ailing, aging body too tired and too stressed to exercise.

    No, not all of this results from one girl guide cookie. It’s more likely that those who snack instead of feeding their bodies will snack MORE while not being as likely to exercise. In a society placated by fast foods, quick fixes and instant gratifications, such sweet indulgences are just one more nail in our collective coffin. And in our food deprived lethargies, we are raising our children to be bottom feeders.

    Surely the girl guides are resourceful enough to create a more suitable fund raising venue.

  12. Blue Athena said

    Or given the impact of obesity on fertility it may be just an interesting evolutionary step. We will see in a few hundred years, I suspect, because the food isn’t going anywhere very fast.

  13. ClaireDePlume said

    A few hundred years? If food is not going anywhere fast, then where is humanity “going”? What race will be present then I wonder?

    “Poor nutrition slowing child development
    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UPI) — Poor nutrition and a lack of intellectual stimulation has slowed development in 200 million children worldwide, says a U.S. study.

    Study leader Theodore Wachs, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., said the analysis did not look at genetic causes of slow development, only preventable risks. Poor nutrition can causes iodine and iron deficiencies, for instance.

    The study, the second in a three-part series published in The Lancet, aims to identify the scope, causes and current prevention efforts regarding the loss of developmental potential among children in countries from Brazil to Vietnam.

    Growth stunting was found to affect as many as 40 percent to 50 percent of children under age 5 in some developing countries.

    “Stunted or undernourished children often show more apathy, lower levels of play and more insecure attachment issues than their healthy peers,” Wachs said in a statement. “We found conduct problems coupled with poor attention and social relationships.”

    Copyright 2007 by United Press International

  14. Rachel said

    Thin mints are the food of the gods. Alas, I know NO Girl Scouts, so I’m not in much danger of bringing them home. Which is a good thing, since I’d now feel like I have to eat them in secret. Which would be kind of creepy.

    In the big picture, I just don’t think that a once a year fundraiser selling (damn good, if decidedly unhealthy) cookies is at the foundation of the obesity problem in the nation…

    I’m going over to papa’s for dessert.

  15. Girl Scout Leader said

    You do not have to buy cookies for yourself to support girl scouts (for those of you concerned with obesity, poor health, and other valid concerns). By purchasing “cookies for the troops” you support sending the non-chocolate cookies to our men and women in the military, who I assure you operate under more daily risk than extra pounds. When you do this, you don’t have the temptation to gorge on Thin Mints and Samoas and the profit from the sale still gets divided up to pay for council and troop-level activities like trips, scholarships, leadership programs and community projects associated with Silver and Gold awards (Gold is the GSA equivalent to an Eagle in Boy Scouting).

    Unlike Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts are severely limited in the type of fund-raising they are allowed to participate in, with special attention to ensuring no Girl Scout raises funds for any organization that may run counter to the Girl Scouts’ values. Therefore, cookies are really their primary way of raising ANY money, and United Way has significantly limited their contributions so that councils and scout districts now look to their members and leaders for more and more of the financial support.

    Additionally, if you want to support Girl Scouting but not their insidious contribution to the National obesity rate, consider making a tax-deductible contribution directly to the troop you want to support. They get ALL of that money, instead of .50 a box.

  16. Emily said

    I have just read all of these posts and think this is really sad. I am 13 years old, and am a girl scout and I think it is really sad that you think I am evil just because I sell cookies. I am sorry that you get angry because little girls, young little daises only about 5 years old to 13 years old sell cookies. I don’t understand why you have such a problem with the enjoyment cute little girls get out of going around and acting older because they get to sell cookies like they have seen bigger girls that they look up to doing when they were younger. No one is forcing you buy the cookies and it’s not like if girl scouts stopped selling cookies there won’t be other things contributing to obesity. So, thank you basically, for calling me and my fellow girl scout sisters young and old evil. If selling cookies to raise money for good causes makes us evil, then I couldn’t care less if I am evil.

  17. digglahhh said

    Emily,

    I don’t believe anybody called you or the Girl Scouts evil. Nobody has really expressed negative thoughts about individual Girl Scouts, like yourself. Well, maybe one or two, but those comments were sarcastic.

    I don’t think that the argument stating “there will be other things contributing to obesity” is a good one. Being one of many parts of a problem doesn’t exempt you from personal responsibility, it just makes that responsibility shared by multiple parties. Drug dealers have used the same argument for years, saying that they are not individually responsible for drug abuse, and that the drug addict will get their “fix” from somewhere anyway.

    Nobody objects to the cause that the cookies raise funds to support, we’ve simply raised questions about the method by which those funds are raised.

    Thank you for replying. I don’t think you should feel offended or think that anybody is attacking you, personally, for being involved in selling Girl Scout cookies. The comments that may have offended you were not meant to be taken that way.

    Stick around, read some of the other stuff here. It would be a great thing if more people your age used their computers to supplement their scholastic education and exposed themselves to viewpoints rarely expressed in schools.

  18. OH MY GOD. Here I though this was parody. Except for a couple of you, I can’t believe you actually wrote that crap. Get a fricking life.

    a) it’s a cookie.
    b) on the scale of 1 to 100000000, this contributes a touch more than ZERO to the national waist-line
    c) don’t you people have better things to do that pick on girl scouts??? Like picking your nose.
    d) if you really wanted to help solve the problem, attack a real cause of it like McDonalds or Krispy Kreme

  19. digglahhh said

    “A little more than zero” (presumably, < 1) is outside the scale of 1 – 100000000.

    I mean, if you’re going to be insufferably obnoxious and dodge the point like Bush at draft time, then I’m up to the task as well!

    I believe posts like yours, accusing Meta (and others) of blowing things out of proportion, are incredibly pure examples of irony.

    The point of the OP is to shine a light on the inherent contradiction of:

    a)eat our cookies in moderation because they aren’t good for you

    and

    b) the more cookies you eat, the more young girls we can help, and the greater our resources to help them are.

    It’s not to call the Girl Scouts evil or to crucify people for eating cookies – eat all the fucking cookies you want, just don’t hog the Space Brownies!

  20. ClaireDePlume said

    I’ve mostly said my piece on this piece, but I see there is one more cookie in the jar.

    Kudos to those who buy one or two boxes of Girl Scout cookies and only eat ONE cookie. Period. Well done.

    However.

    My sentiments about poor nutrition, and concerns for more effective fund raising methods for Girl Scouts/Guides, are echoed here:

    “Girl Scout cookies, my research has shown, are laced with an addictive chemical. I know it’s a shock, but I assure you it is true. Every variety of Girl Scout cookies come absoloutely filled with the substance known on the street as “sugar”. Many controlled laboratory studies have shown the addictive and health degrading qualities of this substance. In some instances, it has even been compared to heroin in it’s addictive power. This substance has been linked to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and tooth decay, along with a host of other, milder symptoms. Isn’t it time we stopped pretending this substance is harmless?

    Furthermore, America has clearly been shown to have an “obesity” problem. The World Health Organization, among others, have criticized our government for not taking action on this issue. Have you ever looked at the nutritional information on a box of Girl Scout cookies? I happen to have, right here, a box of Caramel Delites (purely for observational purposes, let me assure you). It has on the side, right out in plain view, the information that each serving of two cookies contains 140 calories and seven grams of fat. That’s right. Two. Cookies. Now I ask you: who, among us, has ever eaten just two Caramel Delites?! It cannot be done…”

    Source: http://celestina.newsvine.com/_news/2006/03/18/138449-call-for-the-ban-of-girl-scout-cookies

    And speaking of sugar, let’s review the effects of consuming ONE Coke (when it comes to sugar et al, there’s not much difference if it’s ONE cookie or ONE Coke):

    “Here’s what happens in your body when you assault it with a Coke:

    Within the first 10 minutes, 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. This is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake, and the only reason you don’t vomit as a result of the overwhelming sweetness is because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor.

    Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.

    Within 40 minutes, caffeine absorption is complete; your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream.

    Around 45 minutes, your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain – a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way.

    After 60 minutes, you’ll start to have a sugar crash.”

    Source: Nutrition Research Center October 24, 2007

    Cheers to all whose secret indulgences are limited to just ONE.

  21. Posiah said

    Actually, if you belong to an organization that promotes healthy eating and then you sell something to the contrary, you are sending mixed messages. It’s just that capitalism and consumerism win out.

  22. i have a very busy lifestyle too, and i would always frequently eat on Fastfoods **’

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