Wrestling With An Idea
Occasionally I open the news and think, “Have. We. Lost. Our. Minds?”
This week, I read that the best way to show repect to a girl is to gouge her in the eye, slam her to the ground, and lay on top of her. That’s what ESPN columnist Rick Reilly thinks.
Joel Northrup is a teenaged wrestler who said he didn’t think so. He was willing to risk a state title to prove it. While he defaulted the match, I think Joel is the winner.
Joel is a homeschooler wrestling with a public high school team in Iowa. In the first round of the state championship last week, Joel was scheduled against Cassy Herkelman, a girl competing in the same weight class. Like many states, Iowa’s high school wrestling is co-ed, and there was another female wrestler competing in the same tournament. Rather than get down and violent with a girl, Joel decided to default the match.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner,” he said. “It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”
Dr. Albert Mohler at Southern Baptist Seminary had an excellent commentary on the situation, including links to several source stories . (link: http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/02/22/boys-wrestling-girls-a-clash-of-worlds-and-worldviews/) This is my two cents.
Our sons need to be ready to compete against girls, and later women, both in academic and career circles. I don’t think competition is the problem here. There is no reason to balk at good, serious competition in the classroom or the office or the factory floor, in any field where both men and women are present.
I don’t see a problem with boys and girls completing at tennis, golf, softball, or most other sports. When I was in college, I lived in an apartment dormitory which also housed the women’s softball team. They were nice girls, but when they were throwing balls around on the front lawn, it was like cannon fire out there. No way was I playing catch with those ladies. They call it GRRL POWER in some circles. I’m not worried about their ability to compete if they want to.
I might even differ with Joel on the “combat” issue. Is fencing a problem? Or shooting sports? I’m better with a long gun, but I think my wife is a better pistol marksman.
The issue is not competition generally nor sports, in most cases, nor even the combative nature of it. The problem is inherent to the nature of wrestling.
I don’t think the problem is purely sexual, either. Oh, that’s part of it, for certain. Wrestling is the only sport I know where sexual assault has been alleged during competition. I’m not making this up – a high school wrestler actually filed a criminal complaint that he’d been sexually assaulted by an opponent using a hold which I won’t describe except to say I understand the victim’s problem.
Wrestling involves a lot of very close contact, and lots of very intimate grappling. As a practical matter, I don’t think even a hormonal teenager has much chance to think sexually during an intense three-minute match where he has to avoid getting thrown and pinned himself. But I’m probably underestimating the young male mind, and it’s not good in principle, anyway.
The ones I’m worried about are the girls. Not Cassy, really. She and her father apparently made a decision they are happy with. Let them deal with it. I’m worried about the other girls, the ones who aren’t wrestling.
The problem is that wrestling is a sport that requires total, overwhelming dominance of an opponent. That’s how you win. And I don’t ever want my son to ever grow accustomed to the idea that grappling with a woman, forcing her to the ground, and physically overwhelming her in spite of her resistance somehow makes him a winner.
That’s why the fact that this is a controversy – the fact that anyone even thought for a minute that allowing this situation was a step forward for women – just astounds me. If you came up on a young man pinning a struggling girl to the ground in a park, you’d call police. If the same thing was happening in front of a thousand spectators with a referee, you call it sport.
Some of us have definitely lost our minds. Joel Northrup, thank you, still has his.