He Still Should Have Fought the Female Wrestler

Earlier this week, I mentioned the story of the evangelical Christian wrestler (Joel Northrup) who refused to fight a girl (Cassy Herkelman) in the state tournament, thus forfeiting his own shot at a state title and taking away her chance at showing everybody what she could do against him in a match.

Rick Reilly at ESPN made a comment about it that you tend to only hear on atheist blogs:

The Herkelmans — and most of the state of Iowa — praised Northrup for being a boy of faith. “It’s his religion and he’s strong in his religion,” says Megan Black, the only other girl who made state. (These were the first two in the state’s history. Black lost both her matches.) “You have to respect him for that.”

Why?

Does any wrong-headed decision suddenly become right when defended with religious conviction? In this age, don’t we know better? If my God told me to poke the elderly with sharp sticks, would that make it morally acceptable to others?

And where does it say in the Bible not to wrestle against girls? Or compete against them? What religion forbids the two-point reversal?

Beautiful.

Religion isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card that you can use anytime you commit bad/intolerant behavior.

Your faith doesn’t excuse you from treating gay people like shit or taking away their rights (or not speaking up when you see them being taken away).

Your faith shouldn’t excuse you when you get in the way of women and their doctors.

Your faith isn’t an excuse to get out of learning proper science.

If someone asks you why you think a certain way, and your answer is “Because of my faith,” you’re not giving a reason at all. You’re giving an excuse. You’re too lazy to think for yourself and come up with a rational explanation. You’re trying to cover up for behavior you probably know is inexcusable, but you think you can get away with it if you use religion as a scapegoat.

It’s pathetic.

I still think the sides involved are being too polite about all this — and maybe that’s fine since they’re the ones affected by this — but Northrup didn’t do Cassy any favors by not fighting her.

Again, Reilly gets it right:

“We believe in the elevation and respect of woman,” [Northrup's] father told the Des Moines Register, “and we don’t think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do. Body slamming and takedowns — full contact sport is not how to do that.”

That’s where the Northrups are so wrong. 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.


  • Miko

    Praising a person is not the same as saying that their actions are morally right (in what Nietzsche called the “slave morality” that defines actions in terms of good and evil) since praise is based rather on a virtue ethic (i.e., what Nietzsche called the “master morality” that defines actions in terms of good and bad).

    Put more simply, it’s potentially praiseworthy to stand by your beliefs, even if your beliefs are stupid.

  • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com Custador

    Superb. I agree whole-heartedly. Elevating women means treating them as equals; it means not differentiating between two human beings based on nothing more than their gender – It doesn’t mean wrapping them in cotton wool.

    And for what it’s worth… I know women who would kick that dude’s backside, wrestler or not. Perhaps that’s what really scared him – perhaps he knows he hasn’t got the spine to get beaten by a woman and accept it.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Elderly people? Sharp sticks? Faith as an excuse?

    I just got an idea for a potentially hilarious video…

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Pffft – This is just another case of where anything that religion promotes must be bad. Well sometimes people who happen to be religious happen to use their religion to defend something that doesn’t need religion at all. So they don’t really need to use reilgion to defend it, but if they do, that doesn’t automatically mean what their defending is wrong.

    Some Christians give blood regularly because they think God wants them to – and for no other reason. Is that so wrong that you’re going to oppose them giving blood? Of course not.

    If a boy in school doesn’t want to play co-ed sports, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that religion has ruined his mind. Sheesh.

    Did you ever think that the real reason is even more embarassing then his religious convictions? Sometimes religion is just an excuse. Some religious people are used to using their religious convictions as a convenient excuse.

    I don’t believe we adults should be using kids as pawns in an adult social conflict like this.

  • Claudia

    I can’t read the boys mind, but I get the feeling that he’s trying to use religion as a shield in order to not give the (more embarrassing) reason he didn’t want to fight her. As mentioned by other commenters in the previous thread he’s a teenage boy and she’s a teenage girl. I’ve seen wrestling videos and I can totally see where a 15 or 16 year old would be ansty about wrapping his entire body around that of a girl his own age, and probably a very fit and nice body, being an athlete. This may include burying his face in her crotch or ass or bumping her from behind pelvis to pelvis.

    Now, why would a teenage boy find that uncomfortable to do in a spandex suit where literally every bump and muscle is visible in front of his family and entire school?

    Of course, conservative religious upbringing probably makes the matter even more emotionally difficult, since I don’t suppose he’s been taught to view sexual urges as natural and healthy. I think however that it’s likely that his true motivations are more normal than the excuse lets on, but rather than suffer the embarrassment of saying “What if I get hard?!” he used religion, suspecting, probably correctly, that he’d be laughed at if he gave an honest answer and respected if he gave a bullshit religion based one.

  • J9

    Claudia, I couldn’t have said it better myself, and Joe, I agree with your statement, as well.
    Joel Northrup is a kid, and wrestling is a full contact sport. There is more going on here than just religious beliefs colliding with gender equality. Hemant, it’s just not that simple of an argument.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    If he really thought that boys shouldn’t wrestle girls, he could have wrestled her and developed a big bonor for all to see. The organizing authorities probably would have freaked out and canceled all future coed wrestling. Perhaps he did the sport a favor with using religion as an excuse and removing himself from the competition.

  • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com Custador

    @ Claudia: Teenager or not, if he gets hard in front of a crowded auditorium and/or while inflicting pain on a woman or having pain inflicted on him, then I’d suggest his sexual tastes are somewhat more sophisticated than the average fifteen year old normally has. Do you think that the statistically innevitable portion of the high-school wrestling circuit who must be gay worry about getting wood? I doubt it. Besides that, it’s simple parasympathetic physiology: Stress equals adrenaline equals the little wrestler curls up and hides!

  • J Myers

    There is no “fighting” in wrestling; he should have wrestled the female wrestler.

    Body slams and takedowns and gouges in the eye and elbows in the ribs are exactly how to respect Cassy Herkelman.

    Takedowns are worth 2 points; everything else here is forbidden.

    Now, why would a teenage boy find that uncomfortable to do in a spandex suit where literally every bump and muscle is visible in front of his family and entire school?

    I very strongly doubt there would be any potential for arousal in an actual match; you’re far too focused on winning, and any wrestler competing at this level would be well aware of this fact. Wrestling is a grueling, brutal sport, and incidental contact of this bit with that simply isn’t noticed when you and your opponent are focused on physically overriding each other’s free will and trying to breath in enough oxygen to remain conscious.

  • nankay

    From the letters to the editor I’ve read here in the state, a common theme seems to be “Boys shouldn’t be touching girls that way.” This makes me scratch my head and wonder why they think boys touching boys is just fine? Wrestling holds are not sexual.

  • Claudia

    @Custador and J Myers, your faith in the lack of overlap of strong emotions with sexual arousal is actually charming. Especially considering that we’re talking about an adolescent male, who if my men friends have spoken to me truthfully, is fully capable of developing a hard-on due to….well anything and nothing.

    Now, go to youtube and search “singlet”. You’ll easily find a good number of videos of guys who (wrestling other men) don’t seem to have caught on to the fact that boners are incompatible with wrestling.

    I don’t even think the guys are gay, neccesarily, though the sport does have something of a reputation. Strong emotions combined with rubbing I’m sure can cause a physical response that doesn’t neccesarily have to mean that there is actual sexual arousal.

  • Kailey

    I would have had not problem if he had chosen not to wrestle her for “personal” reasons – it is all he needs to say. He chose, however to use his faith as an “Excuse” not to do wrestle her – and an excuse is basically a cop – out. It also makes HIM a victim if anyone calls him out on his misogyny – because “he’s religious” and “you are going after him because he has principles?”

  • http://agnoistrology.com edd

    It’s pointless to argue what the boy ‘might have been thinking.’ All we can go by is what he actually said in his statement. He said his conscience and faith required him to abstain and that is what I’ll take him and his family to task for. He is under no obligation to wrestle anyone he doesn’t want to and I believe it would be wrong to force him to do so, but I also believe his written statement is indicative of the misogynistic attitude religion foists under the guise of ‘chivalry.’

  • Michelle

    Rick Reilly has made a great feminist argument while being funny. This article made my day all around.

  • Robert W.

    This poor kid. He stands up for his religious convictions that tell him he should not be violent, or at least intimately physical in public with women, even in the realm of a sport, and he gets accused of really hiding his fear of either getting beat by a girl or sexually aroused.

    Had he simply said “my morals tell me that I do not want to get that physical with a girl at my age” I doubt you would have criticized him, but because he uses the “r” word then it is an excuse.

    For a group of folks who routinely say that everyone’s morals are their own business and that everyone else should respect them, I find that hypocritical.

    You are not honoring his morals, yet you are forcing hers upon him with your criticism. Just because her morals said it was okay to get violent or at least physical why should he have to honor that, regardless of his motivation?

  • Qwerty

    While I don’t agree with his particular actions, and in general the whole “oh, well, if it’s religious, that’s okay, we don’t want to mess with that” line of thinking gets people in to trouble…

    In this particular case, what’s the big deal? It’s a volunteer sport. If he doesn’t want to wrestle, okay. Whatever reason he gives, I don’t really care. As long as everyone is doing what they want, and being allowed to abstain from what they don’t want to do, I don’t see a problem.

    I also don’t think that it’s fair to assume that because he gives religious reasons for abstaining, that he really has no reason, or is hiding his true reasons, or something. Sure, religion is sometimes (often) used to do things for entirely nonreligious reasons. But this is a 10th grader, I doubt he’s thinking that far ahead. Sometimes people do come to ideas through their religion. And religion isn’t just what’s in their scripture, either. Things he’s learned from his parents or community about gender roles may, to him, count as religious.

    I’d love to sit down and have a talk with him, figure out why exactly he thinks it’s improper, and show him where most of his reasonings fail. But if he wants to abstain for religious reasons, that’s entirely his right.

    And as far as people respecting him because of his religious commitment, well, I’m surprised by no one. Of course other, similarly religious people of a similar religion in his state are going to applaud him, and of course a bunch of atheists are going to disapprove. Are people wrong for thinking he’s a stand up guy because they share values?

  • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com Custador

    Robert W, you’re re-asking the questions that the OP already answered. Point spectactularly missed, I’m afraid.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    thus forfeiting his own shot at a state title

    This is factually incorrect. Northrup defaulted the match, rather than forfeit. That means he had a chance to work his way back through the loser brackets. It was a more difficult path, but he still did have a chance.

  • http://www.TheWordsInTheStone.blogspot.com Kevin

    The last paragraph says it all. For people like this kid and his family, “respect” for women means treating them like fragile china dolls who need to be protected from the big, bad world, instead of treating them like equals.

  • Steve

    If he doesn’t want to wrestle a girl, fine. I don’t agree with the attitude, but it’s not me there. However, he should have simply said so. Instead he lied.

    He didn’t act out of any religious conviction or opinion. It was just a lame excuse. And likely not even his own. He is home-schooled, so the conservative upbringing probably warped his perspective and social skills a bit. It’s a good bet that his parents (and particularly his father) had a lot to do with this decision.

  • JB Tait

    Would he have received similar support from the religion-defenders if he had refused to wrestle a person of color and giving the same excuse?

  • Rich Wilson

    What @JB Tait said.

    And what if he’d refused to wrestle someone of a different religion? Or if his religion hadn’t been the majority?

  • http://agnoistrology.com edd

    Northrup has every right to choose to default because his opponent is female(!), Jewish, black, tall, or quadraplegic, it still doesn’t mean he is right to do so.

  • J Myers

    your faith in the lack of overlap of strong emotions with sexual arousal

    No one claimed anything so silly; no idea what you’re talking about here.

    an adolescent male, who if my men friends have spoken to me truthfully, is fully capable of developing a hard-on due to… well anything and nothing.

    As a former adolescent male, I can confirm that it isn’t particularly challenging. But, as Custador and I already explained, there are things that tend to discourage the event, and competing in a wrestling match is one of them (as a former wrestler, I can confirm this as well).

    go to youtube and search “singlet”. You’ll easily find a good number of videos of guys who (wrestling other men) don’t seem to have caught on to the fact that boners are incompatible with wrestling.

    “Having an erection” and “being sexually aroused” are not synonymous, which renders this moot… though I’ll still note that you must have a different definition of “a good number” than I do; I only found a… um…. handful of videos claiming to depict this, and of those, there was only one that was probably showing what it was claiming to show.

    I don’t even think the guys are gay, neccesarily, though the sport does have something of a reputation.

    Really? Are you claiming that people actually think that the sport is particularly popular within the gay community? I imagine there are a few people who think this (as there are for just about any belief), but are you saying this position is prevalent enough to constitute a reputation?

    Strong emotions combined with rubbing I’m sure can cause a physical response that doesn’t neccesarily have to mean that there is actual sexual arousal.

    And here is where you explicitly refute your own argument. If the arousal is non-sexual, then this is an issue that all wrestlers must deal with in every match, regardless of the gender or proclivities of the competitors; the fact that one wrestler was female would have no relevance in this regard.

  • Tom

    Kind of ironic that Rick Reilly is the one to make this argument since he infamously uttered “It’s a lousy night to be an atheist!” when born-again Christian Josh Hamilton was having a great night at the Home Run Derby a couple years back. I’m pretty sure he never apologized nor did ESPN punish him.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    I’m still not seeing the negative here beyond the young man holding an unfortunate belief.

    There’s a process in place by which one wrestler may default a match to another and suffer the consequences. That’s what Northrup did.

    I think his reasoning was faulty, but he didn’t ask for any special consideration. No being assigned a different opponent or having women banned from competition, instead he alone suffered the consequences of his decision.

    If believers want to sit out life experiences because they clash with their beliefs, why should it concern nonbelievers? As long as no one else is discriminated against or forced to accept faulty reasoning it shouldn’t be an issue.

    As I said in the previous thread, I wish believers would take the same approach to marriage and education and not participate if they can’t accept equal access and the teaching of evolution.

  • odgie

    How brave of the author of this blog to attack a high school student twice in one week! Surely you are striking a blow for freedom and equality by doing so.

    This kid didn’t criticize the girl, he didn’t lead a movement to get her banned from the league, and he accepted the consequences of his decision without whining. Why does anyone have a problem with that?

    As to those who insist that he is hiding behind his religion – it’s amusing that while you don’t believe in God you apparently have great faith in your own ability to read the minds and motives of complete strangers. Most impressive.

    Both of these teenagers and their families have shown real class throughout all of this. Maybe the rest of us could follow their example?

  • martha

    I find wrestling a peculiar sport, but to each his (or her) own.

    I feel bad for both of the kids. (As bad as I can feel for kids I don’t know playing a sport I find meaningless). I can understand a teenage boy not wanting to wrestle a teenage girl, rationalizations aside. As a result he had to forfeit the match. Lucky for him that he wasn’t the best high school wrestler in the world. The best wrestler can’t afford to forfeit.

  • IThinkTherefore

    We’re hating on this kid a lot, but I really don’t think he did anything all that bad.

    What he could have done is claim that the match went against his religious beliefs, so Casey shouldn’t have been allowed to wrestle, or that he should be passed through to the next round without having to compete.

    Instead, he defaulted and took the harder route.

    Now, his choice was definitely disrespectful to Casey as an athlete and as a person. However, he did took the most respectable route possible without going against his perceived notions of femininity.

    It was his right not to compete – it wasn’t his right to say Casey shouldn’t compete. In my eyes, he did okay, although yes, he should have wrestled her.

  • Stephen

    The term is wrestle, not fought. He should have wrestled the girl, not fought.

  • Kevin S.

    For those saying he might be worried about getting an erection publicly during the match, I can say from personal experience that this would be unlikely. In middle school, the wrestler in the weight class above me was a girl, and we often practiced against each other. This was after I figured out that girls didn’t have cooties, but there were still no embarrassing moments of that nature. When you’re on the mat, it’s about the bout. That’s it.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    It’s interesting to note that all of the guys who have actually been in this situation (wrestling girls) and who have posted in this thread (and in the original thread), have basically said “not really an issue” when it comes to the question of sexual arousal.

    If this was ‘the’ issue for Northrup, then it’s a shame that his lie about it resulted in a statement that was incredibly insulting to his female opponent.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Robert W wrote:

    Had he simply said “my morals tell me that I do not want to get that physical with a girl at my age” I doubt you would have criticized him, but because he uses the “r” word then it is an excuse.

    For a group of folks who routinely say that everyone’s morals are their own business and that everyone else should respect them, I find that hypocritical.

    You are not honoring his morals, yet you are forcing hers upon him with your criticism. Just because her morals said it was okay to get violent or at least physical why should he have to honor that, regardless of his motivation?

    Why? because when he signed up for wrestling, he was signing up to take on whatever valid/legal opponent that he’s called upon to fight. If he was aware that he could/would face a female opponent at some point, and knew that he would refuse that fight, then he shouldn’t have joined the wrestling team in the first place.

    If a white kid said that his ‘religious beliefs’ prevented him from fighting a black kid (because they’re ‘physically inferior’), would anyone praise that? No matter how you slice it, such a refusal is inherently insulting to the opponent.

    There’s a scene from the show ‘Modern Family’ that is sooooo appropriate for this conversation ~ Manny (the 11yr old latino kid) is a hot fencer and comes up against a female opponent and the following dialogue ensues:

    Manny: “I just don’t want to fight a girl

    Mother Gloria: “what?”

    Manny: “defeating a woman would be a mark on my honour

    Mother Gloria: “why? because men are always so superior to women?”

    Manny: “uhh….”

    Mother Gloria: “Manny, you always call yourself the ‘lover of women’, but if you don’t compete with this girl, you’re showing me and all other women that you don’t respect us

    Manny then admits the error of his thinking and agrees to the match…..and beats her a**.

    Taking on an opponent, like they’re any other opponent, is what shows respect.

    The problem here is that Northrup’s idea of “respecting” his female opponent is precisely the opposite of respect…..no matter WHAT the reason is.

  • Donalbain

    The kid took a place on a team that should have gone to someone who was willing to fight.

  • http://krissthesexyatheist.blogspot.com/ krissthesexyatheist

    In Reily’s mailbag, at least the comments, all the supporters of the sexist boy wrestler (did) say that his faith trumps the bigger picture, which is seixsm-but I don’t think they realized that. Sad.

    Kriss

  • Scott

    When I was in high school in the early 90′s, we had a girl on the wrestling team. Me, being the most lightweight guy on the team at 112 lbs, had her (98 lbs) as a wrestling partner for a whole season. There was nothing sexy about it even though she was a fairly attractive girl. I admit that I definitely felt weird about it at first, but I figured she wouldn’t be in the room if she didn’t expect to wrestle some dudes, so I swallowed my anxiety and treated her like a wrestler.

    And, you know what; she was not half bad. She knew the moves and she didn’t give up. She was the only person on the team I could beat, but she was also the only person on the team whom I outweighed.

    She completed the season and was one of the most respected wrestlers on the team. This guy in the article should be ashamed for treating this girl like a second class citizen, unworthy of his attention. Shame on him.

  • J Myers

    thus forfeiting his own shot at a state title

    This is factually incorrect. Northrup defaulted the match, rather than forfeit. That means he had a chance to work his way back through the loser brackets. It was a more difficult path, but he still did have a chance.

    No, he didn’t; Northrup forfeited his first match (declined to wrestle), which is one way for his opponent to earn a default victory (others would be inability to continue due to accidental injury and failure to make weight). By doing so, he also forfeited his chance to win the state title, as the highest he could place in the losers bracket would have been third.

    It’s interesting to note that all of the guys who have actually been in this situation (wrestling girls) and who have posted in this thread (and in the original thread), have basically said “not really an issue” when it comes to the question of sexual arousal.

    I was hoping someone would notice this… although I think there was one person in the original thread who mentioned getting aroused occasionally when practicing with a girl on his highschool team… that I believe, but it isn’t relevant here–practice is a world apart from actual competition (especially a high-level competition like a state championship tournament).

    The kid took a place on a team that should have gone to someone who was willing to fight.

    Ideally, of course, but Northrup was the one who won the matches to qualify for the state tournament. If he had planned to skip the tournament altogether, I might agree with this, but if he was willing to wrestle back for third (as all but two competitors will end up doing in any weight class, anyway), there’s not much to be done here; it’s the right of any competitor to concede any match at any time, no matter how pathetic their reasons might be for doing so).

    General comment: As repeatedly noted in this thread, the term is wrestle; fighting is a different thing altogether.

  • walkamungus

    I wan’t a wrestler myself, but I’ve watched an awful lot of wrestling, starting at about age 9; I was a scorer for college matches and tournaments, and a timekeeper for freestyle meets, starting when I was a freshman in high school. Wrestlers are serious athletes, and anyone who’s good enough to compete at Iowa’s state meet is focused on the bout, not the “ooh-I’m-rubbing-against-another-body” problem. These kids have been wrestling for years.

    I strongly suspect that Joel Northrup’s dad made him forfeit the match, and told him what to give as a reason. I cannot prove this, but it makes more sense.


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