FanDuel - WFBC

February 18, 2011

High School Wrestler Refuses to Face Female: A high school wrestler in Iowa forfeited a state tournament match Thursday because he refuses to compete against a female opponent. Joel Northrup would not wrestle Cassy Herkelman and released a statement: "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," he said in a written statement.

posted by cjets to other at 07:26 AM - 52 comments

"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 in a statement to reporters.


Joel is home-schooled but wrestles for the Linn-Mar High School in Marion.

Look, everybody, it's my shocked face!


Shorter Joel: I have been well taught that women are to be seen as inferior and should behave subservient, and this is why we should have sexist rules about men and women that remind the ladies of their proper "place".

posted by hincandenza at 08:36 PM on February 17

"It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa."

Whoah! Way to play the victim card, kid!

posted by NoMich at 09:08 PM on February 17

Shorter Joel

I think he was scared that she was gonna kick his ignorant home-schooled ass but good.

posted by cjets at 09:15 PM on February 17

Re: Joel

maybe he was afraid that she knew this move....while I might think differently about a girl trying that move on me now, I could see how a young high school kid might find it a bit unnerving.

posted by dviking at 11:01 PM on February 17

Update on the Butt Drag case: The kid was expelled, but the criminal charges were dropped without him having to admit wrongdoing.

posted by Aardhart at 11:13 PM on February 17

Never thought I'd see this. Cassy, the female wrestler in question, was actually one of my students at the middle school I taught part-time at last year. First, congrats to her on winning, even if it was a bit of a circumstance. Second, she could kick most people around the park for a while, so I'm not shocked that this Joel kid was scared of her. But third, grow up and get over it.

posted by boredom_08 at 11:18 PM on February 17

Really, I think Joel would've been able to check both her oil and tranny fluid if he decided it was appropriate.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:29 PM on February 17

I wish someone would ask Joel where in the Bible it prohibits males wrestling with females. That book is amazingly thorough.

posted by rcade at 07:32 AM on February 18

I wish someone would ask Joel where in the Bible it prohibits males wrestling with females.

Even in WWE it is prohibited for the men to wrestle the women and if it's in the WWE, it has to be real. So there!

posted by BornIcon at 07:46 AM on February 18

I hope he gets matched up against a female again in the losers bracket.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:06 AM on February 18

Even in WWE it is prohibited for the men to wrestle the women and if it's in the WWE, it has to be real. So there!

You know that ain't true!

posted by grum@work at 10:24 AM on February 18

I am for freedom and equality. She has every right to chose to compete against the boys and the boys should have every right to choose not to compete against the girls. Unless of course they allow the boys to participate against the girls in sports that are only offered for girls and force the girls to accept that.

The boy elected to forfeit and from what I understand gave up a chance at the state championship. Obviously he or his family feel strongly which is completely within their rights.

Maybe we should just eliminate the sex distinction from all sports. No mens tennis or womens tennis just tennis or just golf or just swimming etc. It seems we have a situation where women are going to be allowed to compete in any category they want and men are not. Where is the equality in that?

This kid is in a loose loose situation, he can either beat a girl which is no real victory, or he can be beat by a girl which is a much more serious loss, or something which nobody ever talks about and actually seriously injur her, which will open a whole new can of worms. I once saw a woman who was a martial arts expert demand to compete in full contact MMA against men, no men wanted to be involved. Of course her supporters claimed they were all afraid to loose to a woman. Eventually she found a guy who was willing to compete and not hold back. One punch to the face and lights out. While she was doing the convulsive tuna, everybody realized it was just a bad idea in the first place.

posted by Atheist at 11:07 AM on February 18

And which sports exactly are they that men aren't allowed to play? I haven't seen those stories.

I'm not really sure what Joel's (or his parents') objections are to wrestling a girl are, but if he feels so strongly that he wants to forfeit, then good for him. There would be a problem if he was demanding that she not be allowed to participate or that he should have a different opponent. As it transpired, he took an ethical stand at risk to himself, and she will get the opportunity to prove herself in the next round, and I would say that is equitable to both sides.

posted by bender at 11:24 AM on February 18

I don't think is anything equitable about it. He is just reinforcing the stereotype that girls have no business engaging in this type of activity. He is just willing to play the martyr for it. I think he and his family suck, and so does their view of Christianity.

posted by bperk at 12:25 PM on February 18

You know that ain't true!

I was just joking but in reality it's actually true now. In mixed gender tag matches, when a woman is tagged in, the opposing woman wrestler must also be tagged in.

posted by BornIcon at 12:29 PM on February 18

Going out to wrestle a girl puts a male wrestler in a tough position, and it really has nothing to do with the female either being a good wrester or not. Where I live, a young kid, as a freshman, wrestled a girl who was a senior, in the 105 pd. weight class. This girl was very good, but a girl who is a senior at that weight is probably close to her full-grown weight. In cases like the one I'm describing, she was also physically strong and her body had matured, much more than her freshman counterpart. This boy did wrestle her, lost to her twice, and had to endure so much ridicule from peers for "losing to a girl" that he decided to quit the sport after that season.

Should this kid have been able to handle the harassment? Probably. But I worked with his mother, and she said other kids were relentless in their dealing with her son to the point he just wanted to give it up. That's the unfortunate reality when dealing with kids. They are cruel. They don't look (or care to look) at things in the "mature" manner you hope adults would. Boys facing this type of peer ridicule are in a no-win situation, usually by peers who don't know, or could care less if the girl he is wrestling is talented or not. It remains the idea he got their ass kicked by a girl.

Put yourself in the position of a 13 year old in that position, and you probably will understand it can be a complicated situation.

I understand the young man in this story claimed religious reasons for why he did what he did, but I really don't think people should be so fast to pass judgment on his, or his family's values or beliefs.

posted by dyams at 01:12 PM on February 18

From the article, the only statement from Joel is, "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." As some faiths have rules against dancing or other such interactions between, it is conceivable that they feel wrestling falls into the same category, and this quote could be interpreted as such. Whether you or I agree with that belief is beside the point.

However, upon (just now) watching the video, Joel also said (prior to that statement), "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." This is completely different. On this point, I agree that he is just reinforcing the stereotype that girls have no business wrestling, and he should be called out on it.

posted by bender at 01:26 PM on February 18

But I worked with his mother, and she said other kids were relentless in their dealing with her son to the point he just wanted to give it up. That's the unfortunate reality when dealing with kids. They are cruel. They don't look (or care to look) at things in the "mature" manner you hope adults would.

But don't you think the same could be said about a white high school wrestler who lost to an African American high school wrestler wrestler forty or fifty years ago? (Particularly in certain southern states).

And if an athlete chose not to wrestle an African American because the other kids would tease him relentlessly, don't you think that he would have come under much more criticism?

Whatever the reason the kid did this, to me it's not that much different from choosing not to wrestle an Asian kid or an African American or a Latino kid.

I realize that gender gives this an added dimension, but that's why there are weight classes. And given the importance of wrestling in Iowa, I find it very unlikely that they would allow a female wrestler to be put in a situation where she is likely to be injured (more so than any other wrestler, male or female).

posted by cjets at 01:34 PM on February 18

UPDATE: Cassy wrestled twice today and lost both times. Pinned in the second--no shame in that, if you are even passingly familiar with the competition level she faces in this tournament.

I'm a fan of Iowa high school wrestling, and I don't know what to think about this.
+ Getting to state in wrestling anywhere, and in Iowa especially, is an achievement that would be terribly difficult to walk away from. The boy's commitment to his off-the-mat values must be incredibly strong.

+ His values seem to say, "My faith tells me it's wrong to engage women in contests of physical domination." I can see that. He thinks its wrong to make a woman submit to your will through sheer strength--which is exactly what wrestling is about. Maybe the symbolism of it bothers him. Again, I can see that.

+ Cassy's achievement now comes with an asterisk, unfortunately. I bet eventually that Iowa, which has generally been a good place to be a high school female athlete, will wind up with a girls' wrestling tournament.

+ She showed up to wrestle, regardless of gender. Good for her.

posted by Uncle Toby at 01:53 PM on February 18

I don't think the choice of a wrestler not to compete against a girl reinforces any belief that girls should not wrestle. It may reinforce a belief that girls should not wrestle against boys. I see now MMA has some great female fighters, but they do not compete against men for very good reason.

I can understand in some sports why there is separate sex categories. Boxing, wrestling, football, MMA, Lacrosse, Hockey etc. Sure on occasion, there may be some women that can compete. If a man suffers a broken neck in one of these sports competing against men we will all attribute it to an accident and the nature of the sport. If a woman broke her neck while competing against men, I believe there will be an outrage that it was allowed to happen in the first place.

Also even in not combative, non contact sports like Golf, Tennis, Swimming, Running, Field Events, you name it, men are typically denied the opportunity to play against women and vice verse in organized competition. For very good reason. At some point society must recognize there are differences and for the purpose of sport there can never be a total equality. Why is it so politically incorrect to recognize this. Her right to compete ends where his right to not compete against women begins. I think this worked out fine for all. She is being allowed to compete and he has chosen not to. Although he is the one paying by forfeiting a chance to move on in the tournament..

posted by Atheist at 01:57 PM on February 18

Atheist:

I am for freedom and equality. She has every right to chose to compete against the boys and the boys should have every right to choose not to compete against the girls.

They do have that right, which they can exercise by not participating in the sport. If they participate in the sport, they may not pick and choose their opponents.

Later:

She is being allowed to compete and he has chosen not to. Although he is the one paying by forfeiting a chance to move on in the tournament..

Not sure if this is the case in the state tournament, but in a regular meet, would he not also be hurting his team? If so, that reinforces the idea that if he isn't willing to compete against the full range of opponents, he should stay off the team.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:45 PM on February 18

FYI, Bender, in NJ boys cannot play field hockey since a 1983 court decision against a New Zealand exchange student. For others who question why boys can't play some girls' sports, that's why there are boys' and girls' tennis, track, basketball, soccer, ice hockey and baseball/softball teams.

LBB, absolutely correct. The only way this kid would not affect his team in a dual meet is if a match had been settled before his bout, and six-point forfeit, came.

So he is home-schooled: sheltered from realty, brain-washed by parents. Guess it's OK to smack a woman around once she becomes your wife. After all, the Bible states she is to be submissive to you.

posted by jjzucal at 03:21 PM on February 18

LBB - All your points are certainly valid but I would question one thing. If when he joined the team it was made clear it was a coed sport. No problem, but my guess is that it is an anomaly that a girl is competing. So if the team is a coed team or it is clear the sport is open to women as well as men, your point sways my opinion and I say the kid should not be wrestling at all if this is how he feels.

On the other hand if he is on a mens wrestling team, and another team shows up with a girl on their team or a bear for that matter, I can really fault him for declining to participate. The thing I find honorable is that he or his family (as far as I know) did not try to keep the girl from competing, or have her banned from the tournament, they just chose to forfeit. They did not try to impose their beliefs or opinion on others, they just chose to exercise their own right to withdraw from the match.

jjzucal - being an atheist I have no love for bible thumping, brain washed followers of the Bible and appreciate your humor, but I am no brain washed religious bible follower, and was a good wrestler, boxer and MMA guy in my youth and do not fault the kid for his decision. I am all for total equality where it is possible. I have no problem with women in any field of their choosing. I feel comfortable training with women, light sparring with women whatever, but probably would decline actually trying to compete for real against them in this type of sport, as in an actual match, my goal would be to punish my opponent to the point that they regretted stepping on the mat in the first place. I just don't feel comfortable bringing that attitude and ability against a female of my own weight. Please understand, I have recently watched some very adept female MMA fighters like Gina Carrano, or Cris Cyborg who I believe can kick the crap out of most men including me (now that I am 56 years old, but in a competition against equally skilled males of the same weight and relative age, I can assure you they will get destroyed. What could possibly be the point?

posted by Atheist at 04:17 PM on February 18

I personally have no problem with the boys decision. Having been 'brainwashed" myself by my parents growing up, I could never bring myself to participate in a combat type sport with a woman. Ever. It's kind of like a little program that I have had embedded in my brain that says "No physically aggressive act shall be commited against a female. Ever."

And to deny that the boy, whether we believe we all live in a socially advanced society or not, is in a lose-lose situation is delusion. I have kids in this very age group and I am confident that if he were to beat "a girl", his peers would not look at his victory with any real meaning. If he were to lose then the situation that Dyams brings up would most likely be the case. I 'aint saying any of this is right. I'm just saying that we need to take off our rose-colored glasses and see the situation realistically.

Now the issue of gender specific sports is a whole 'nother thing to contend with. There is no universal rule to apply. Some schools let girls compete in boys football. Some do not. I can't think of a single instance that boys are allowed on the girls volleyball team even if there is no boys equivalent. We have this double standard about how boys are to treat and consider the opposite sex as equals and then do nothing to reinforce this ideal when it comes to practical application. And then people rain down their opinions on what a schmuck this kid is who is doing his level best to decipher the signals that society and his parents and his beliefs and values are giving him. Look, this kid isn't out vandalizing property or doing drugs or abusing pets (well, at least as far as we know). He is taking a tough stance on what he believes in his heart to be right. Cut him a little slack. His decision hurt him more than anyone else.

posted by THX-1138 at 04:18 PM on February 18

"So he is home-schooled: sheltered from realty, brain-washed by parents. Guess it's OK to smack a woman around once she becomes your wife. After all, the Bible states she is to be submissive to you."

I see no reason to assume anything about his relation to reality, whether his values are his own or merely his parents', or his feelings about Biblical literalism.

A kid decides to take the penalty when he chooses against doing something contrary to his values, and takes buckets of shit from practically everyone for his trouble. (And is defended by Atheist, of all people!) He hurt no one by making his choice. As far as I'm concerned, lots of people would do well to follow his example: when all your training and everyone on your team tells you to do something that feels wrong, don't do it. It's not unreasonable to say that things like My Lai happen when people lack that ability to go against the grain.

And for the record, I'm for the girls wrestling in the tournament.

posted by Uncle Toby at 04:21 PM on February 18

So he is home-schooled: sheltered from realty, brain-washed by parents. Guess it's OK to smack a woman around once she becomes your wife. After all, the Bible states she is to be submissive to you.

Doesn't being home schooled yet sheltered from realty make for a contradiction in terms? Shouldn't it be sheltered in or on realty?

Look, this kid isn't out vandalizing property or doing drugs or abusing pets (well, at least as far as we know).

I wouldn't be so quick to jump to that conclusion. Using some of the powers of logical thought exercised in this very thread that permit others to see into this kid's head and make conclusions about his motivations and beliefs, it is abundantly clear that logic dictates that:

a) He is home schooled. Therefore, by definition, he is a Bible thumper and Biblical literalist. The Israelites vandalized the shit out of Jericho. Therefore, he is a vandalizer.

b) He is home schooled. Therefore, by definition, he is a Bible thumper and Biblical literalist. John the Baptist ate locusts and honey, a known hallucinogenic combination. Therefore, he is a drug user.

c) He is home schooled. Therefore, by definition, he is a Bible thumper and Biblical literalist. The Bible states that God gave man dominion over the animals (to do whatever the hell they wanted with the "inferior creatures," no doubt). Therefore, he is an animal abuser.

posted by holden at 04:46 PM on February 18

And to deny that the boy, whether we believe we all live in a socially advanced society or not, is in a lose-lose situation is delusion. I have kids in this very age group and I am confident that if he were to beat "a girl", his peers would not look at his victory with any real meaning. If he were to lose then the situation that Dyams brings up would most likely be the case. I 'aint saying any of this is right. I'm just saying that we need to take off our rose-colored glasses and see the situation realistically.

But, why should we see it from his perspective instead of the girl's perspective? Imagine how much shit she had to take for trying to participate in this sport. And, every neanderthal like this kid makes it that much harder and forces her to defend her participation all the more. I can promise you that this move by this kid makes it not one bit easier for girls who want to wrestle or the boys who wrestle girls.

posted by bperk at 05:49 PM on February 18

But, why should we see it from his perspective instead of the girl's perspective?

Well, for one, he's the subject of this debate and the one getting slammed here.

And, every neanderthal like this kid.......

That isn't exactly going to win you any arguments. Kind of a sweeping and judgemental statement to make about a person in a debate about how people are supposed to treat members of the opposite sex, don't you think?

....makes it that much harder and forces her to defend her participation all the more. I can promise you that this move by this kid makes it not one bit easier for girls who want to wrestle or the boys who wrestle girls.

I haven't seen anything about how she has to defend her participation in the sport. As a matter of fact the "neanderthal" in question actually lauds her efforts. As has been mentioned before, if the boy had been informed that he would be wrestling girls and he decided at the state tournament that he "all of a sudden" didn't want to, then bad on him. If, however, he wasn't informed of this possibility how can you fault him for making a decision that he felt he had to? If I'm not mistaken, it's a pretty much free country. He is under no obligation to wrestle girls.

To play devil's advocate for a moment, how could the girls in question and their parents not realize that something such as this might just happen? Are they really that obtuse?

posted by THX-1138 at 06:55 PM on February 18

Count me as a member of the camp that, whether I agree with the bases for them or not, this kid articulated his principles and stood by them. It would be a different story if he or his family had lobbied the state to prevent the young woman from participating, but he did not. He withdrew. I don't think the argument that he should have refrained from participating in the sport at all has any merit whatsoever. It's not like this comes up every week; if it did, we wouldn't be talking about it now.

posted by tahoemoj at 07:34 PM on February 18

In all this discussion, I'm curious the topic of martial arts never came up where fighting/sparing with the opposite sex is not uncommon (not just here; I've seen the same thing elsewhere). I participated for years in jr high and high school, and we often sparred and fought against females at our belt levels. Same thing at the adult level. The idea of not going all out just because they're a female never occurred to me. Then again, my instructor was a tough as nails woman. She looked like somebody a mugger would want to steal from, but she'd rip off his balls without a second's hesitation and force him to eat it. So any guy who refused to fight a female probably would have been kicked out of the dojung by the instructor herself.

posted by jmd82 at 12:13 AM on February 19

This kid is in a loose loose situation, he can either beat a girl which is no real victory ...

Her record this year was 20-13. How can you regard it as a meaningless to beat a wrestler with 20 wins, simply because of her gender? That comment is ridiculously sexist.

As a matter of fact the "neanderthal" in question actually lauds her efforts.

Empty words. His actions make it harder for her to participate in the sport because others might be encouraged to follow his lead. Fortunately, other male wrestlers didn't have the same hangup that he does.

I think he handled his stupid objection as fairly as he could. But that doesn't make it any less stupid.

If I'm not mistaken, it's a pretty much free country. He is under no obligation to wrestle girls.

He's also under no obligation to wrestle blacks or Jews. Would anyone support that decision?

To play devil's advocate for a moment, how could the girls in question and their parents not realize that something such as this might just happen? Are they really that obtuse?

They're obtuse because they didn't prepare for her to face an opponent who would rather throw away his chance at a state championship than treat a female competitor like an equal?

Criminy. She did nothing wrong here. The rules allow her to compete. She faced 33 opponents during the season. It's unfortunate that she met the opponent she did, but that's his problem. Not hers.

posted by rcade at 07:23 AM on February 19

How can you regard it as a meaningless to beat a wrestler with 20 wins, simply because of her gender?

Pretty simple -- you're talking about the reaction of high-school boys to a loss to a girl, not our reaction. You and I can see her victory as the triumph it would be, but can a 14-year-old kid put it into perspective?

My wife and I discussed this last night, and I tried to put myself in Northup's place. I wouldn't have a religious reason for not wrestling, but I kept thinking about how uncomfortable I would be having to grab a girl's breasts and crotch as part of the match. Could you separate yourself from that embarrassment just because you're in an athletic event? Could you have done it in front of a large crowd when you were 14?

I don't think I could have. It wouldn't make me forfeit a match, but it sure would have altered the way I wrestled. Is that my problem? I don't know -- can you fault a boy for not wanting to grab a girl's genitals, or for not being able to compartmentalize it?

I'm still struggling with this. I don't want to limit Herkelman's opportunity to compete. I also don't want to vilify Northup for making a decision I would have at least considered, although for different reasons.

Finally, some of you need to educate yourself about homeschooling.

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:58 AM on February 19

Finally, some of you need to educate yourself about homeschooling Absolutely! Many parents homeschool their kids for reasons totally removed from religion. Military, distance to decent schools, learning disabilities, etc.

He's also under no obligation to wrestle blacks or Jews. Would anyone support that decision? Good point for a side discussion, as this probably happened 50 years ago.

I think one point that really hasn't been discussed is the initial "mental impact" advantage a girl might have in this situation. I could see where a young boy might be very reluctant to go all out at a girl the first time he wrestled one. Back in the day when I frequented bars, I saw (or was personally involved in) numerous situations where some woman was being aggressive and getting some guy's face. Seldom did the guy react as quickly with his fists as he would have if a guy had done the same thing. Is a bar fight the same as high school wrestling? Probably not, but in many ways a fight is a fight, and any mental advantage is huge. The girl was 20-13...don't have the desire to search the web for her match by match history, but I wonder how she does in rematches. That is, fights a boy once and beats him, but loses the rematch. High school wrestling features a lot of multiple team matches, so I would think she's fought many boys more than once

posted by dviking at 11:54 AM on February 19

wfrazer,

Trying to be empathetic & to think in developmental categories makes for an uphill climb in these type of discussions. I appreciate what you're trying to do, but unfortunately it is easier to just accuse one of justifying/endorsing someone's behavior than to really see the complex cultural forces that many here are expecting a 14 year old to navigate flawlessly.

Related example: I am taking a class that deals with subdisciplines within feminism (taught by a woman who associates with that movement) right now, & few disciplines if any are as fragmented as much of feminism is, particularly regarding what exactly is "good" for women, b/c practically every woman defines that term in unique ways. While as a man I can't claim to arbitrate that discussion, it has been interesting to me & has made me supremely suspicious of those who just want to write people like this kid off as stupid or a jerk.

If the smartest women in the world can't agree on how boys/men should treat girls/women, it is beyond unfair to beat up on a kid who probably hasn't even heard the word "feminism" before. Everyone relax. I'm not against critique, but let's put terms like "neanderthal" to bed.

posted by brainofdtrain at 03:07 PM on February 19

Pretty simple -- you're talking about the reaction of high-school boys to a loss to a girl, not our reaction. You and I can see her victory as the triumph it would be, but can a 14-year-old kid put it into perspective?

I don't know. It looks like as many as 20 other boys were able to wrestle her, lose, and then get on with their lives.

posted by grum@work at 08:59 PM on February 19

It looks like as many as 20 other boys were able to wrestle her, lose, and then get on with their lives.

I think you'd have to talk to each of them to verify that.

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:50 PM on February 19

I think you'd have to talk to each of them to verify that.

There are currently 39 girls involved in high school wrestling. Herkelman placed fifth at the Mississippi Valley Conference meet in January. The feat has attracted a big spotlight, but it will definitely be a momentous occasion when she takes the mat Thursday.

I'm guessing that with that many female high school wrestlers competing in Iowa, it wouldn't be considered that unusual to lose to one at your own weight class.

posted by grum@work at 01:01 AM on February 20

I think you'd have to talk to each of them to verify that.

I see no reason to assume they were emotionally wrecked by the experience. This kid cost himself a chance at a state title to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Since he's a sophomore, he has two more years in which he can get over the idea that wrestling a girl in his weight class is inappropriate. I hope he does.

posted by rcade at 07:49 AM on February 20

I can't help thinking: If the boy was Muslim and forfeited to the girl because of his religious beliefs, would there be the same criticisms leveled against him? Just wondering.

posted by graymatters at 01:30 PM on February 20

graymatters:

I can't help thinking: If the boy was Muslim and forfeited to the girl because of his religious beliefs, would there be the same criticisms leveled against him? Just wondering.

If you really are "just wondering", you must have some reason why you think your hypothetical case would be treated differently. What is that?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:43 PM on February 20

Not to interject into someone's side bar, but I think that's an interesting angle.
With how some Muslim interpret Sharia (Shariah) law, and how they use those laws to justify treating women as second class citizens, I wonder how it would be handled. Does he forfeit, or do everything he can to "punish" her?

Probably an inappropriate discussion for this site, feel free to delete if it is.

posted by dviking at 10:08 PM on February 20

Empty words. His actions make it harder for her to participate in the sport because others might be encouraged to follow his lead. Fortunately, other male wrestlers didn't have the same hangup that he does. *pertaining to my comments that Joel lauded the efforts of the girl he was supposed to wrestle.*

Empty? How so? You get inside his mind somehow? You presume that he didn't mean what he said? You must feel fairly confident in the fact that young teenage boys follow the lead of someone who speaks with no real intent behind his words. Besides, she DID wrestle again at the tournament. I don't think her chances were hurt that much even in the immediate "backlash" or whatever you wish to call it.

He's also under no obligation to wrestle blacks or Jews. Would anyone support that decision?

Why is this even part of the discussion? Since this isn't the case we don't need to go there in this instance. In a court of law you would get an objection for irrelevence.

They're obtuse because they didn't prepare for her to face an opponent who would rather throw away his chance at a state championship than treat a female competitor like an equal?

No, you've missed the point. If they didn't prepare her for the possibility that a boy may not wish to wrestle a girl then that is what would make them obtuse. In other words blindly ignorant to a very distinct and real possibility.

To further clarify, and after some time to allow myself to think, I don't feel that the boy owes her anything. She wrestled again in the tournament and lost. I am not going to judge whether his choice was right or wrong, only that he had the right to make that choice.

posted by THX-1138 at 05:39 PM on February 23

Empty? How so?

Saying that he has "a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments" is an empty gesture when paired with the action he took. He respects them so much he'd rather forfeit than wrestle one of them. So what is the value of his respect?

If they didn't prepare her for the possibility that a boy may not wish to wrestle a girl then that is what would make them obtuse.

I see no reason to believe that her parents didn't prepare her for that possibility. She handled the forfeit well. Her parents have not said a single negative thing about the male wrestler or his actions.

I don't feel that the boy owes her anything.

I think a competitor in a sport lets down the other athletes by dropping out for a stupid reason. But I never questioned his right to do it.

posted by rcade at 07:22 PM on February 23

I am not going to judge whether his choice was right or wrong, only that he had the right to make that choice.

That's a cop-out. Who cares that he had a right to do it? Obviously, you can't physically make someone wrestle or throw them in jail for their refusal. That's hardly the point. The point of a post like this in a sports forum is to debate the merit of that decision. Should competitors in a contact sport refuse to wrestle other competitors? What impact would wrestlers getting to choose who they will or will not wrestle have on the ability of other wrestlers to compete? Is it difficult for boys to wrestle girls? What impact does that have on the sport?

posted by bperk at 10:39 PM on February 23

So what is the value of his respect?

Well, since trying to actually measure an intangible such as "the value of respect" would be folly, may I turn it around? I would suggest that by at least attempting to give the female wrestlers their due he was trying to take the oneness and pressure off of them and assume some of it himself. After all, he is a private citizen and could have just as easily forfeited the match and gone home and said nothing. Basically tell the rest of the world to piss off and mind their own business.

I see no reason to believe that her parents didn't prepare her for that possibility.

If you go back and look at the original statement I made that you first objected to you will note that I said I was playing devil's advocate. I was hoping to imply that I actually had no reason to believe that the parents left the girl unprepared. Rather I was giving another angle to the argument. Or just stirring the pot, if you prefer. I will withdraw the statement and request it be stricken from the record, your honor.

I think a competitor in a sport lets down the other athletes by dropping out for a stupid reason.

And here is where we agree to disagree. I don't think his reason was stupid. I think he had a good reason to not want to wrestle her. I myself would not engage a woman in a direct contest of a combat sport such as boxing, karate, or wrestling. Even though some here apparently would condemn me as some sort of caveman, I don't care. I was taught to open doors for women, give up my seat on a bus, pull out the chair at tables and other such unfashionably quaint ideals. And I find it difficult in the extreme to separate my sense of chivalry if you will from any sense of competition I might have. In the professional world I work in I have no problem burying a woman in the course of business if she lay between me and my objective (in all fairness, of course). But I don't make my wife split the wood for the fire or shovel the walk, either. I am better at it because I am stronger. And I would never dream of her having to do the more strenuous tasks. So maybe I can see this from Joel's perspective.

That's a cop-out. Who cares that he had a right to do it?

I've gotta tell you, I have a difficult time taking a reasonable objection seriously when the phrase "who cares"sits squarely at it's center. From my perspective, this whole argument is about whether or not he had the right to do what he did. If the 'point of a post like this in a sports forum is to debate the merit of his decision', then I guess I have given my view pretty clearly on how I feel about the merit of his decision. Why don't you choose to debate me on those issues?

posted by THX-1138 at 01:58 PM on February 24

I myself would not engage a woman in a direct contest of a combat sport such as boxing, karate, or wrestling.

That's your prerogative, but would you join a sport in which both genders competed together and then refuse to compete against one gender? That sends a message: You don't belong. This is not your sport. It's ours.

I was taught to open doors for women, give up my seat on a bus, pull out the chair at tables and other such unfashionably quaint ideals.

Were you also taught to exclude women from activities that allow them? Grouping this act with chivalry is a non-starter to me. I don't find his action to be unfashionably quaint. I find it exclusionary and patronizing.

From my perspective, this whole argument is about whether or not he had the right to do what he did.

No one has disputed his right to forfeit. You keep pushing this into an argument no one but you is having.

posted by rcade at 02:28 PM on February 24

Going to the end, for starters:

You keep pushing this into an argument no one but you is having.

I didn't want an argument. I was debating my point of view on this subject. Isn't that what this site is for? Or should I just concede all points to make everybody happy? I see this subject still on the home page and since I hadn't been back to the site since the end of last week I chose to revisit it and perhaps counter some of the objections you had with my point of view. Maybe you and I define arguing differently. Besides, I notice that you keep responding. You could ignore me. But maybe you enjoy the debate as well.

No one has disputed his right to forfeit.

I respectfully disagree. If you look at the first bunch of posts before I posted you may see that a lot of what was being said were attacks on this young man's character and upbringing. I disagreed with this and wanted to share my point of view.

I don't find his action to be unfashionably quaint. I find it exclusionary and patronizing.

It may be patronizing. I can't actually truly speak to his motivations. But exclusionary? How so? Unless you are saying that he is excluding himself, because he did nothing to keep her from wrestling. He just didn't wrestle her himself.

Were you also taught to exclude women from activities that allow them? Grouping this act with chivalry is a non-starter to me.

To answer your question: no. Again, who is trying to exclude her? I didn't see any direct evidence of this. You are inferring that. I wasn't trying to group any two activities together, I was trying to give some perspective on my point of view that you obviously don't share and perhaps choose to dismiss but yet is still a very real part of people's upbringing. And it is actually possible to respect women and treat them equally AND still be considerate of the actual real differences between the sexes. As an experiment on equality, see how far you get in the typical American high school when you have a male try to participate in girls volleyball, or some other typically "girls only" sport. Or maybe you could try to get folks to use unisex bathrooms. I'm certain that these comments will get an interesting response.

That's your prerogative, but would you join a sport in which both genders competed together and then refuse to compete against one gender?

If I was participating in a combat sport and was not told that there was a chance that I would have to compete against girls and then find out that I would indeed be facing a girl in a match, I probably might make the same choice Joel did. I am still curious if he had prior knowledge of his chances of competing against a girl. If he did and forfeited because of it then he is the one being obtuse along with his parents.

posted by THX-1138 at 05:09 PM on February 24

Isn't that what this site is for? Or should I just concede all points to make everybody happy?

You're not getting what I'm saying here. It has nothing to do with getting you to concede or end the debate.

The argument "no one but you is having" is whether Joel Northrup has the right to forfeit the match. The argument we are having is whether that was the proper thing for Joel to do.

Debate's great. But if you think this is about rights, you're framing the debate in a way that doesn't represent the discussion at all.

But exclusionary? How so?

Joel is helping to legitimize the idea that it's OK to compete in his sport and forfeit when you're assigned to wrestle a female. Let's say that next year, 5 or 10 male wrestlers in the state tournament follow his example. That's not out of the realm of possibility.

Where does that leave Cassy, Megan and any other females who qualified for the tournament? They may be credited with forfeited wins, but they've been excluded from something special: The chance to fairly compete for a state championship.

As an experiment on equality, see how far you get in the typical American high school when you have a male try to participate in girls volleyball, or some other typically "girls only" sport.

Men who joined a female sport would have a competitive advantage. If you allowed men to play, the men would take over and women would be excluded.

A female who qualified for a men's sport would not be a competitive advantage. She had to overcome a competitive disadvantage just to get there.

Why is this distinction so hard for people to understand? The same principle is at work in the Champions Tour for senior golfers over 50. If a senior plays in the Master's, does that mean a 30-year-old golfer should be allowed to play in the Champions because fair is fair? Of course not.

There are two kinds of leagues in sports: restricted ones, which are limited to a certain group in order to maintain a competitive balance, and unrestricted ones, which allow the best players period. The athletes in the unrestricted leagues get the most glory, attention and money.

Back in 2003, Vijay Singh said that if he was paired with Annika Sorenstam in a PGA event, he would withdraw. "I hope she misses the cut," he said. "Why? Because she doesn't belong out here."

Some people at the time suggested that if Sorenstam was allowed in the PGA, Singh should be allowed in an LPGA event under principles of equality.

Singh didn't understand the sport he was in. It wasn't the Men's PGA. It was simply the PGA. If he and other golfers wanted to start an exclusionary league strictly for men, they'd be free to pursue that. It would be foolish, however. They derive great benefit from not being a restricted league. People watch the PGA in much greater numbers than the LPGA because the golfers are the best in the world. Gender- or age- or amateurism-restricted leagues don't have the same cachet.

posted by rcade at 08:11 PM on February 24

I myself would not engage a woman in a direct contest of a combat sport such as boxing, karate, or wrestling.

That's your choice, but it is not the view generally shared by those who train in the martial arts. It is much more customary than not in martial arts schools for men and women to train together. Where I train, it's quite unusual (and purely a matter of chance when it does happen) for a class to be either all-male or all-female, and if you asked to train there and then announced that you would not train with women, you would probably be told to leave.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:37 PM on February 24

OK, let's see. I don't think that this is an exchange about Joel's rights. Really, my beef was with the condemnation of him as a person for a decision he made with what I believe to be utter sincerity and no intent of malice toward anyone. I think much of the criticism directed toward him was unfounded. I also felt that those who didn't accept what he said at face value might not understand the thinking of a 13 year old boy that really is doing what he feels is right. I am not going to claim to be any kind of an expert on the subject but I have raised three young men so far who have all passed through this confusing transitional age. Plus, I was one myself. I think that people expected too much cultural enlightenment, or perhaps advanced social thinking from a young man who was in all likeliehood playing hide-and-go-seek perhaps a year or two earlier. And I don't mean that as any sort of condescention. In reality, it really is the way things should be. It doesn't mean that he is going to grow up to beat his future wife because of his backward, Christian home-schooled upbringing, as some have suggested.

The kid decides that wrestling a girl is something he just can't do. Do we really think that at his age he is supposed to think about the ramifications to girls in school athletics? Perhaps he ultimately may have made the wrong decision, but really, how can we tell right now? It seems that with all the negative publicity that has been directed toward Joel and his decision that maybe this ends up being a catalyst for the sort of changes that everyone wants. And no, I'm not being wishy washy. I think that in the end this might actually help the cause of female athletics.

And lbb, I do get what you are talking about. Like you said, it's pretty widely known that traditional martial arts classes are attended together by males and females and both are expected to engage each other. But I don't know if it's so common in the case of high school wrestling. What I still would really like to know is if Joel had been told or informed in some way when he started out that he would be wrestling girls and still decided to participate, and subsequently, quit in the state tournament. If so, then his bad. But if not, then maybe he was caught in a real tough situation for a kid to be making his first, real grown-up decision.

posted by THX-1138 at 11:27 PM on February 24

What I still would really like to know is if Joel had been told or informed in some way when he started out that he would be wrestling girls and still decided to participate, and subsequently, quit in the state tournament. If so, then his bad. But if not, then maybe he was caught in a real tough situation for a kid to be making his first, real grown-up decision.

I have no specific knowledge, but given that there obviously would not have been a lot of girls competing, I think it very likely that he would at least have heard about them, and thus been aware of the possibility that he would have to compete with one. Around here, teams going into tournament competition are very aware of who their competitors are, especially in sports where the competition takes the form of a one-on-one matchup. He only decided to withdraw from competition after the first round matchups were announced. So, no, I don't think he did the right thing, but I suspect there were a lot of adults in the picture who also didn't do the right thing (along the lines of, "Oh, don't worry, you probably won't ever get matched with them" and so on).

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:07 AM on February 25

I think that people expected too much cultural enlightenment, or perhaps advanced social thinking from a young man who was in all likeliehood playing hide-and-go-seek perhaps a year or two earlier.

That's what parenting is about -- guiding your child's decisions, so that your child makes the right decision now, and equipping them with the skills to make the right decision in the future. At 13 years old, many children are differentiating their views from their parents views. In this case, it appears both parent and child agree on this. That's why I directed my ire at both him and his parents.

posted by bperk at 01:08 PM on February 25

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