A high school boy forfeited a tournament match to a girl yesterday, claiming “As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner.” This came in the form of a written statement from Joel Northrup in Marion, Iowa.
So much ground to cover here I don’t know where to start…
First of all, he has a right to his beliefs whether any of us agree or disagree with him. If his beliefs cause him to forfeit the tournament, so what? It’s his choice. Let him do it and leave him alone. He has to live with that choice. We don’t.
Most people probably think it’s a noble thing for him to refuse to “fight” a girl. I have to say I disagree. When you are in a sport, your opponent is your opponent. Their size, sex, religion, skin color, sexual orientation, favorite food, home town, parents, economic background or any other factor should not matter. Period. This is organized school sports with rules and standards, not some free-for-all street fight.
Joel’s claim is that the sport can be violent. Um yeah..it’s “wrestling”. Duh. Do you think the girls that sign up to wrestle show up dressed for a tea party? They know how this works. And guess what? They train and prepare for it just like the boys do. What I don’t understand is why it’s ok for boys to fight boys, but not for boys and girls to engage in combat that they are both voluntarily signing up for? I’m all for teaching boys to respect girls – and yeah, we don’t get enough respect and proper treatment as it is – but we’re talking about sports here.
And if you’re going to go for the “girls are the weaker sex” argument, let me remind you that wrestling is divided into classes based on body-size. No one has some unfair advantage due to body type. And in this particular case, the girl whom Joel was scheduled to wrestle has a very impressive record. She could beat him. So “fair fight”? Heck yeah! I want a front row seat!
Now lets put Joel’s belief system aside and look at it in light of any of the other factors mentioned above…
It’s wrestling. And because we don’t have girls wrestling teams at the high school (or any) level, girls are allowed to join boys teams. Girls know this and boys know this. They know going into this sport these days that they may at some point be wrestling someone of the opposite gender. And once again I must point out that an opponent is just that – an opponent. We don’t refer to our opponents as that “girl” or that “Muslim” or that “fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own-brand-of-discrimination”. When you sign up for sports, you accept that you will play against people from all types of backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, sizes and skill levels…
Ah yes – skill level. This “girl” – Cassy Herkelman of Cedar Falls – is no slouch. It’s not like she’s wandering into the wrestling ring for the first time. She’s an experienced athlete and she has the potential to win. I’ve never seen a team refuse to play a game when their opponent is thought to be weaker and inexperienced.
So – does it have to do with her “girl parts”?
Wrestling is a physical sport. It’s hands-on. If you’re going to wrestle, you my find yourself in some rather awkward positions. If you can’t handle that, then stop wrestling. That’s part of the sport. It’s no different than a wrestler refusing to take on an opponent of the same gender because of the opponent’s sexual orientation. If you think wrestling (or any sport) is sexual, you may need therapy.
And how would this look if someone refused to wrestle their opponent because of his or her skin color or religious belief or nationality? It’s silly, no matter which way you look at it. Get in there and play the game. If you can’t do that because you have certain beliefs, that’s on you. Bow out and move on.
And now I’m going to go out on a limb here…By allowing boys to back out of competition with girls, what we are doing is reinforcing that girls are not as strong or somehow weaker and not as athletic as boys. I’m not saying that everyone is on equal footing all the time. But when it comes to sports, the females who are competing are very, very capable of taking on the challenges with their male counterparts.
They work just as hard.
Let them play!