Racer’s Choice

All the planets aligned and one of our dearest feminist fantasies has come true. My activity day girls got to participate in the pinewood derby.
All the pieces fell into place:

  1. I’m still the activity day leader,
  2. One of my dear friends is the current cub scout leader, and
  3. … well I was going to write a whole list of all the things that happened to make this possible but really that was about it.

Wait, I did think of one more thing. No one in a position of authority swooped in to shut the whole thing down.

I have never in my life been to one of these things, so I felt rather ill-equipped in guiding my girls through the process of designing, making, and racing their cars. Luckily their parents stepped in to help where I could not and, at the very least, no one left in tears.

At one point one of my girls raced against her brother. She happened to win that particular heat, much to her delight. Though ultimately her brother received a trophy for placing in the top three for his den.
It was also rather exciting to see that the overall winner for the evening was one of the girls (though I understand there are doubts about the extent of her her involvement in the creation of said car (something I understand to be a common problem in derby racing, and to be honest there were doubts about all the top cars)).

During the award ceremony all the kids were presented with a certificate* bearing an assortment of titles like “best paint job,” “most imaginative,” or “racer’s choice.” I made sure to get pictures of my girls with their certificates, and the delight in their faces can be seen plainly even, in one case, through the affected disinterest of a bored eleven year old. And if the certificates made them that happy, it was nothing to the sheer unadulterated joy of getting an honest-to-goodness trophy.

Watching my girls mingling with the scouts like it was the most normal thing in the world made me feel all mushy inside and happy for my girls. Though I won’t say that it didn’t sting to see the large fancy track with its corresponding computer program and timer, the pizza, and the trophies; all things that I could never hope to afford for my girls through just the Activity Day program. Even the consolation/participation prize of a certificate* with a blue ribbon stapled to it is more than my girls get after completing their Faith in God booklet in four years.

While the evening wasn’t an unmitigated success (one parent took it upon themselves to complain about the girls winning what was supposed to be the boy’s activity), it was definitely worth it when my friend reported that the bored eleven year old’s dad thanked her saying:
“Hey, thanks for letting my daughter participate. I haven’t had such a good time with my kids in a long time as we did building these cars.”

*I find it interesting that, of all the people in running/attending the race that night, I’m the one who ended up filling out and signing the certificates. (That’s me! “Starfoxy, Race Commissioner”) Even if you readers aren’t aware of my certificate angst, my husband will readily attest to the fact that grousing about certificates is kind of my thing.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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27 Responses

  1. race commish says:

    As the one handing out the trophies, I will remember for a long time the unbelieving look of joy in that girl’s eyes when I presented her with the trophy.

  2. Sherry says:

    I applaud your commitment to your girls and to equality for women, even little women! Everyone who participated, especially the boys and girls, will long remember that night and as they grow up it will translate into more activities of side-by-side equality. You have shown us the future……

  3. jks says:

    You mentioning certificates reminded me of one year when my son was in the Pinewood Derby and one of the moms was filling out certificates for each car. She was completely stumped at what my son’s car could win. Nothing came to her. She will incredibly relieved that his car was 2nd place and she could put that on the certificate. That night and for years afterward I have thought about it and visualized the car and I couldn’t come up anything to put on a certificate either.
    My daughter once did a Pinewood Derby with the entire ward. It would have been more fun if her dad hadn’t been out of town for it. Moms like me aren’t into it, especially on top of everything else I was burdened with at the time.

  4. Oops about the previous comment.

    I love that the Pinewood Derby was open to both boys and girls! I’m glad that your Activity girls have a leader like you to create this opportunity for them and that most of the people were supportive.

    I’ve often wished that the YW programs would take advantage of merit badge classes. Our YW end up watching movies half the time for Mutual, while the boys have classes taught by knowledgeable people in interesting subjects. I would love our YW to be taught Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness, Fingerprinting, Citizenship in the Community, etc. If I were a YW again, I would find those classes much more interesting than what my daughter has to tolerate at her YW meetings.

  5. Chris says:

    I agree, Shoebox Princess. Young women in the Church are truly marginalized by the activities which they are denied. The Church needs create activities for both young women and young men that teach everything you mentioned and more, and monies for youth activities should be equally divided between the young men and young women and not go to the Boy Scout organization, where national leaders are paid exorbitant salaries.

    • JAMAICA HANSEN says:

      I agree. And so I just keep spending (I’m thrifty and don’t over do it) and if they want to release me over it then so be it, but I can guarantee that my girls WILL remember what we did and hopefully learn something from it. I love the boys too, but I HATE the BSA

  6. Caroline says:

    Starfoxy, I love what you and the race commish did. You are doing great work over there — let’s hope it spreads to other stakes.

    The following did make me sad to read, but I’m glad you are articulating the stark inequity:
    “Though I won’t say that it didn’t sting to see the large fancy track with it’s corresponding computer program and timer, the pizza, and the trophies; all things that I could never hope to afford for my girls through just the Activity Day program.”

  7. I’m the cubmaster for a few wards in my stake. It is my first year, and we had sibling races afterwards, which the kids loved. I didn’t have my act in time to invite the activity day girls, and I didn’t feel like I had enough experience with the pack to do it. I’m planning on it next year, though.

  8. Lala says:

    I’m the A.D. leader for our ward and I just found out that our stake is having a pinewood derby next week. I told the head cubscout guy, who was at our A.D. this week that I wished I had known…I would have got the girls involved. He just raised his eyebrows at me (probably because his daughter, who was in earshot yelled how much fun she thought that would be) but didn’t say a word. But you could tell…that sort of thing probably wasn’t going to fly. We only have the derby every couple of years, but I don’t think anyone has ever even thought that the girls should be allowed-or invited.

  9. Kirsten says:

    Way to go, Starfoxy! I love this! My daughter did Girl Scouts where they had a Derby every year. This year, our ward opened up the Derby to the entire ward. I wish that they had created a special category for the AD girls, but at least ths way hey did get to race cars…

  10. Stephanie says:

    I am so happy fo you. This was our agenda as Activity Day leaders. We were shot down. It was so disheartening to see the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby announced this week. I guess we will make another puzzle that we copy in the library.

  11. EmJen says:

    We also just did an Activity Days Pinewood Derby although we did it as part of the the yearly Daddy-Daughter party. It was an incredible success and I totally saw the same joy in the faces of the girls and the dads (some of the dads really got into it, making sure we obeyed the same cub scout rules and weighed in and even videographed each race). And I saw so any FB photos of the dads and girls working on the cars together. Awesome.

    The only thing I would have changed would have had some unofficial racing time since the girls wanted to keep playing/racing their cars, before and after the actual races.

  12. Emily U says:

    This is awesome. That’s all.

  13. JrL says:

    “Though I won’t say that it didn’t sting to see the large fancy track with its corresponding computer program and timer, the pizza, and the trophies; all things that I could never hope to afford for my girls through just the Activity Day program.” No ward has been able to afford to buy (or probably even build) such a thing since the “budget plan” went into effect years ago. So it’s not really a function of ward budget inequality. The pack may have borrowed or rented the track–so it would be up to the owner whether to lend or rent it to an Achievement Days group.

    • Starfoxy says:

      I might be able to borrow a track, but (as the Race Commish said) the cost of that one activity was $200. I get about half that for my whole year’s worth of activities, so renting a track like that would totally out of the question. Even the pizza for the kids and their families would just about wipe out my entire budget.

  14. Ziff says:

    Nice going, Starfoxy!

  15. race commish says:

    The track was on-loan. The total cost of the race for the cub scout pack was over $200 (we bought kits for the cubscouts, pizza, and ribbons). An anonymous ward member paid for all of the A.D. kits and their trophies so that no one could slam us on funding.

    There was some resistance after-the-fact, but we had total support from the stake primary presidency and the stake presidency. A member of the S.P. came up to me during the race to say that of the 30+ pinewood derbies he had attended in his life, this was the best organized and executed. He specifically mentioned that the A.D. girls inclusion as a change he liked.

    I think next year we will run the A.D. girls as their own race separate from the cub scouts. That will help sooth the injured egos of parents (no scouts were upset that girls were included, but some parents were out of sorts). This year was a serious surprise attack on the primary inequality. I expect a much more organized and forceful resistance next year. Backing off a notch will help them feel like they won, but preserve the long-term victory for women’s girls’ rights.

    Interestingly, all of the grumbling came from moms. Not a single man approached me to say that including girls was a bad thing.

  16. KLC says:

    I read this a few days ago and have been thinking about it since. At first I really didn’t want to comment but I’ve decided to say what’s on my mind. I hope what I do say is seen as an observation and a sincere effort to communicate a somewhat contrary opinion and not an attack.

    As an adult male I’ve been on the receiving end of “let us have our female space” many times in my life. One that still stands out vividly in my mind was a few years ago when a scout campout and a stake YW rappelling activity coincidentally happened to take place in the same location on the same weekend. One afternoon we had a few hours unplanned and we drove up the mountain just to say hi. To say that we received a chilly reception would be an understatement, it was arctic. The stares and cold shoulders we felt from our arrival sent us packing down the mountain within a few minutes. It was made clear to us that we were invading their space and that as men and boys we were not welcome.

    Likewise I’ve read many times over the years on LDS blogs about the discomfort many women feel with the church policy of having a priesthood holder at girls camp, a discomfort I happen to share, I don’t see the utility or the need. But usually that discomfort is expressed in the same way as I said above, “we don’t need male presence here, we need our own space, just leave us be!”

    Having said that I wonder why making the cub scout pinewood derby co-ed is seen as something worthy of applause. I do think having a pinewood derby for girls is a great idea, I’m all for giving our girls and daughters expanded opportunities and more varied activities, but I question the wisdom of invading the boys’ space to create those opportunities. Boys need activities just with other boys as much as girls and women do and it concerns me that encroaching on those activities is seen not only as a go0d thing but a righteous thing to do.

    • Starfoxy says:

      KLC- I really appreciate your comment and I think that you bring up some very valid points.
      I count this particular invasion of previously male only space as a victory only because of the huge disparities between the two programs.
      The fact of the matter is, I can’t have a pinewood derby for my girls. I have the neither the budget, the support, or the necessary volunteers. As things are right now, the only way for them to enjoy activities like this one, is for them to tag along with the boys.
      I, personally, do not have any long term goals that involve complete dissolution of male only spaces or activities. Ideally I would have a similar budget, and structure and we could simply have our own pinewood derby. In the meantime, this is the best I can do, and I think it is entirely fair to ask the boys to share a little bit while we get the real problems sorted out.

    • Race Commish says:

      After doing this, I would agree that going forward it would be better to have a cub scout PWD and an activities days PWD, but mixing them together created unnecessary hostility from the parents, most of whom were more upset that their boys didn’t win than about any gender equality issues.

      The equality we are trying to achieve in this space does not require a co-ed race, just an opportunity for all to participate, but we would have never known that without making the first attempt. Plus, two races would be much more palatable to those in our stake who are starting to suspect that we have feminist designs on the cub scout program.

  17. EmilyCC says:

    I was recently called as Cubmaster in my stake; we also chose to include the Activity Day girls. It felt really, really good to give the girls an opportunity that I had never been given.

    Thanks for writing this up, Starfoxy! I hope this trend will continue. Pinewood Derby is a lot of work and money. Why shouldn’t we maximize our efficiency by expanding it to the girls?

  18. MB says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    As a den leader years ago one of the things that I found most successful was our pack and den”s decision to not hold a pinewood derby. We made the cars (a kindly older gentleman in the ward helped some of the boys and fathers in his woodworking shop) and set up the old track on one of our usual den meeting afternoons and just played with them. The boys had a great time racing their cars down the track. No awards. No competition. No fathers with vested interest in their woodworking skills. No boys dealing with deep discouragement due to their slower cars. Just good fun with something they had worked to make. It was the coolest, non-stressful, mutually enjoyable pinewood derby car experience ever.

    So, though I’m happy that you included girls, I’m still not convinced that pinewood derbies, with all their hoopla, competition, expense and awards, are the ultimate goal when it comes to those little wooden blocks and plastic wheels. It’s the work involved in making something that works and the pleasure of enjoying the fruits of that labor in cooperative efforts with others, not competitive. I wish every den leader could have seen what we saw that afternoon and every cub scout have had that experience. I hope, that as we include girls in the tradition, that we don’t come to believe that we’ve arrived. Embracing the whole practice with all the trappings can make you miss out on the core.

  19. Sarah says:

    Awesome!! I think the idea of having some activities that mingle AD and Scouts together is a really great idea on many levels! Derby is a big event – I never got to do anything that big in AD. I can never remember doing joint activities when I was that age – it would’ve been a good experience though. I can see the side of a previous commenter about ‘invading girls space’ and vice versa, but if it is something that is pre-agreed it would be great!! My dad was a leader when I was young, so he helped me make my own little derby car and I got to play on the track. Doesn’t have to be derby though! Can be anything.

  1. May 31, 2013

    […] served these girls for several years and posted some of her lesson plans here and wrote about a combined Pinewood Derby event in her stake and the feelings it brought up for […]

  2. June 11, 2014

    […] but seemed offended that she dared ask.  And if said change is brought about by women, (as in this post by Starfoxy) I think folks feel more freedom to complain because a bossy feminist with an agenda did […]

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    […]  Pinewood Derby […]

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