The Iowa state wrestling tournament usually takes place without much fanfare, as its teenage contestants wrestle for the chance to be crowned best in state. The competition's obscurity was lost this past week, its humble existence thrust into the intruding glare of the national spotlight. What could be so intriguing about a high school wrestling tournament, you ask? Well, here's a little background.
Sixteen- year old Joel Northrup boasted a 35-4 record, and was ranked fifth in the state when he was told who his next opponent would be. In order to advance his dreams of winning the Iowa state title Joel would have to beat Cassy Herkelman, a fourteen year old girl.
Cassy, a Cedar Falls freshman, was not new to fighting against boys. She had already amassed an impressive twenty victories in her young wrestling career, all against boys.
Their anticipated match was scheduled to take place this past Thursday, but Joel had other plans. Stating that "wrestling is a combat sport (that) can get violent at times", Northrup came to the conclusion that "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." Sounds like a well-mannered kid, the type of guy you'd want to date your daughter, right? Well not everyone finds this gallant gesture praiseworthy. Enter Rick Reilly, the critically acclaimed, award winning columnist for ESPN. In his latest article Reilly delves into the sixteen-year olds decision not to engage in violent sport with a girl.
Reilly writes "Does any wrong-headed decision suddenly become right when defended with religious conviction? In this age, don't we know better?'.
So Reilly isn't very impressed with Northrup's "wrong-headed decision" to decline fighting a girl. He continues, "If the Northrups really wanted to "respect" women, they should've encouraged their son to face her."
This sentiment projected by Reilly is an indicator of how distorted the argument over gender equality has become. Since when is hitting a girl deemed ok, when did the forum of wrestling pardon such an act?
When a male teenager is told to wrestle a girl, to get into a secluded area with her and strive for one thing and one thing only; to hurt her, to bruise her, to cause her pain until it is clear that he has "won", well, that is the kind of win that should be respectfully declined. It is an accolade that defies respect, a trophy that has lost its luster.
If it is morally correct to advocate the beating of woman in a monitored setting, what makes one think that the feelings incurred during that "event" will wither away and die. What could make a person so sure that they won't carry over into real life, into relationships and friendships? Once a barrier is broken it is broken forever. An individual cannot pick and choose what human emotions will come out of such an occurrence.
Physical domestic abuse stems from a man not understanding or empathizing with the uniqueness of a woman. She is just another "dude" who got out of line. If he truly understood the nature of a woman and the respect that she should be accorded, then striking her would be viewed as an inviolable sin, a transgression of inconceivable consequence. Wrestling with a woman would no doubt have a negative psychological impact on a man in terms of the way he views and deals with women.
And since when is politesse a "religious" virtue? Does Atheism advocate disrespecting women?
Yes, a woman is equipped with equal rights, and yes, she is no lesser a human being in any capacity than one from the opposite sex. However, to advocate physical sparring between a man and woman is a different subject entirely.
When going out on dates women are taken out by men (not vice-versa), they are to be treated more delicately, dealt with in a softer manner than the rugged one that is usually reserved for guys. In such an instance they should not be treated as equals but rather better than equals, shown more respect and sensitivity.
The most philosophically encompassing line of his article, and thus the most disturbing, is when Reilly writes, "In this age, don't we know better?" Herein lies the problem. Society has become so tolerant that we have now come to the point where immorality is not only accepted under the pretence of open-mindedness; it is also condoned and encouraged. This "age" is slowly but surely eroding basic values which were once considered sacrosanct, but have now been decried as being outdated and old fashioned.
Is chivalry dead yet? It's definitely dying. But there is no doubt that events of this nature (males wrestling females) would accelerate its demise.
Reilly graces us with another tidbit in an apparent effort to further deride the boy's "wrong" decision. "She relishes the violence", he writes, "Body slams and takedowns and gouges in the eye and elbows in the ribs are exactly how to respect Cassy Herkelman. This is what she lives for. She can elevate herself, thanks."
No one is questioning the physical stability or self sufficiency of Cassy, Mr. Reilly. The issue that you fail to address is the effect it will have on Joel Northrup, and all those present. Just because a girl says "hit me" doesn't mean that one should oblige her. Cassy may be different than most girls but that doesn't change the fact that she is a girl. Hurting her physically would instill in Joel Northrup a predisposition of violence towards women.
And what about all the young children that would be privy to watching such a spectacle? Would they in their youthful innocence be able to differentiate between wrestling and real life, or would they walk away endowed with the harmful "knowledge" that men and women are to be treated in the same manner even when concerning using physical force?
Joel Northrup should be lauded for his decision; it should be hailed as a brave act based upon strong ethical values. He did not succumb to the same peer pressure that others before him had. He rose above it and sacrificed his dream of winning the title due to his beliefs. Acts of such merit are becoming fewer and fewer these days, and when they do occur we should adequately commend those responsible for sticking with their value system.
Sadly though Reilly and others cannot appreciate the retaining of moral values in a society that is morally regressing.