I’d like to think that I was a feminist from the moment I was born, but I was searching through some things this morning looking for something totally unrelated to this post, when I stumbled upon my old Brownie badges. Now these came as a surprise to me for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I don’t remember being in the Brownies for long enough to actually earn any badges!

My memories of the Brownies are of desperately wanting to join because all my friends were in it; of trying to persuade my mum that a) I really would stick it out so her claims that it was a waste of time and money because I wouldn’t last five minutes were completely unfounded, and that b) I didn’t care if I had to wear my sister’s old uniform, even if you could see the marks where her badges had been and where mum had carefully unpicked the stitching on them and taken them off.

I also remember being dead excited because my brother was in the Cubs and he got to go camping and do all sorts of other interesting things, and I thought being in the Brownies meant I’d get to do the same.

And finally of course I remember the crushing disappointment when I realised it meant nothing of the sort.

Instead, back in the 70s, being a Brownie meant the same old same old: it meant learning your place in the world as a girl. So rather than camping and learning to build fires and leaping around on assault courses like the boys did in the Cubs, we learnt to cook, to wait on other people, and to clean.

Obviously it took me a bit longer than I’d originally thought before the penny dropped and I finally understood that the Brownies really wasn’t going to get any better than that. But once the reality of what I’d signed up to did sink in, I left.

In the meantime, these are the badges I earned:

Brownie Badges

My cook’s badge

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My hostess badge

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And my sweeping the floor/housekeeping (otherwise known as my Cinderella) badge

But what shocked me this morning even more than this evidence of my very early capitulation to the patriarchy, was the fact that at some point after I’d seen the light and rejected the Brownies’ attempts to indoctrinate me with their sexist gender stereotyping, I’d sat down and meticulously sewn all these badges onto a piece of brown fabric, so I could keep them for posterity.

As you can see, there’s a reason I never earned my sewing badge:

Brownie Badges3

Still, in the same rummage through my box of long-forgotten things I came across this badge, which I was wearing only a few short years later:

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So it’s not all bad.

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