Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Coed Wrestling In Iowa....

Came across this online the other day. This is likely to get inflammatory so here goes...

Firstly, I will give Joel Northrup credit for having convictions he's willing to suffer for. He could have won this tournament had he been willing to bend on this issue. Furthermore, this might even jeopardize his position on the wrestling team and through that, college scholarships and the like.

A lot of people pay lip service to a particular code or creed but aren't willing to stick to it when the time comes to sacrifice for it. And I will also give him credit for, despite he and his family likely having ideas about proper female behavior I don't agree with (see who is supporting him on this), not talking trash about the two female wrestlers for being unladylike, rebelling against their "God-given" gender roles, etc. and claiming that he's preaching truth to power or whatever excuse people use to make offending people into a sacred act.

The father of Cassy Herkelman, the female wrester Northrup didn't want to face, agrees with me too. Despite how he looks to others (see some discussion below), the man's got class. So does his daughter, based on her comments. Given the amount of crap I imagine they get because she's a girl competing in what has traditionally been a boy's sport (heck, see some of the comments from the Freepers), I could imagine both of them having gigantic chips on their shoulder about the issue, but they don't. Bravo.

I wish I could say that everyone with an opinion on the issue is similarly honorable, but there are people on both sides who are acting like complete imbeciles. I think I'll break it down by category.

Northrup's Supporters

Northrup's pastor is a member of, an online conservative (although lately it's taken a turn for the wacko, being infested with birthers and Obama-is-a-Muslim conspiracy theorists) site and there is a heated discussion going on there.

I'm not going to link to individual threads and comments when there were so many of them, so I'll just link to the threads tagged "wrestling" and you'll find them all there.

One person said that he didn't think women should wrestle, as that doesn't prepare them for what God wants them to be.

What does God allegedly want them to be? Spineless and unconfident? Weak and vulnerable and dependent on men for protection? Given how a lot of so-called "complementarians" seem to think women should live at home until they're married and not work if at all possible, I guess making women unprepared for the dangers of the outside world is a good way to make sure they stay within "God's bounds."

I'll go on the record and say if I had a daughter, I'd send her to karate (or to be really scary, Krav Maga) class from the age of five. That way, she'll be able to defend herself against bullies, slimy teenage boys who want only one thing, and psychopathic vagrants on the Applachian Trail.

(This is a reference to the case of Gary Michael Hilton, the vagrant in question, who robbed, raped, and murdered people on the Appalachian Trail. One of his victims was a grad student at the University of Georgia when I was a student.)

Another poster made some comment about Herkelman's parents not caring about her "respectability." Just because someone is a tomboy doesn't make them a slut. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that the basis for this mindset is something like "she plays roughly with boys/she must not be a virgin/she's not worthy of marriage." Given my objection to attributing motives to people (see below), I will not claim this is what the person actually believes, but I will suggest that this is the origin of the social attitude.

Some people also took issue with Herkelman's dad, saying he looks like Charles Manson. Just because the guy's unkempt doesn't make him a bad person. Surely this person was taught in elementary school if not preschool not to judge by appearances.  They've also claimed both he and the daughter have no shame, the daughter is a gender-confused freak, etc.  Someone tell those characters to shut up, since they're bringing both the Christian religion and political conservatism into disrepute with their antics. 

(I will give credit to the Freepers for coming down on the guy who said if he was wrestling her, he would deliberately hurt her to deter her from wrestling again. Someone who would do that is utter scum and should be treated as such.)

A whole lot of people on FreeRepublic, especially the religious ones, are claiming coed wrestling is defying God's plan for the sexes or something like that. I challenge them to find Scripture backing that up, since right now, all they have backing them are their own opinions. Loudly insisting God is on your side doesn't win you any arguments against someone who isn't intimidated by bluster.

There's also the fact that John Piper, a member of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, has said in the past that Northrup's was the right course to take.

I would put "Biblical" in quotation marks because I don't think it is the only Biblical view or, for that matter, the correct one, but that might look like I was misrepresenting the organization's actual name.

Piper indulges in the usual "everyone knows deep down I'm right and the only reason they disagree is they're afraid of being criticized" B.S. common to Calvinism these days. In fact, he explicitly DENIES that defending female participation in wrestling is about committment to equality of the sexes but is really about fear of criticism. I once saw a video online of him claiming those who don't believe in salvation by grace through faith really want to be God and not for any other reason. His arrogance in claiming he knows what people *really* are thinking, without evidence, grinds my gears.

(That being said, he applies the same attitude to himself--he said if he ever abandoned the Christian faith, he meant he *must* have become a pastor only for the public praise and not because he had a sincere view and then changed his mind. At least he's consistent, even if he puts ideological correctness ahead of reaching a conclusion via examining evidence.)

It is entirely possible to disagree with someone for good reason (not wanting to deny women opportunities, not thinking the case against coed combat sports is strong enough to justify not participating), not bad ("fear of men" or secretly wanting to grope one's opponent). Piper needs to not assume everyone who disagrees with him is evil or cowardly. I will acknowledge even evil causes can have virtuous champions (Robert E. Lee for the Confederacy, Erwin Rommel for the Third Reich) and it would do Piper well to do the same.

Furthermore, I could argue the fact it would seem "weird" has nothing to do morality and everything to do with brainwashing by society at large. Piper invokes conscience, but the conscience is shaped by one's upbringing and culture and is therefore not always a reliable moral guide.

Northrup's Opponents

The issue is also being discussed on, the left's equivalent of FreeRepublic. These are the guys claiming Bush would cancel elections and make himself dictator, that most people in the upper levels of the American economy and government are psychopaths (methinks because calling someone "evil" evokes concepts like sin and they don't like that), that Obama is governing in a more centrist manner because the people who assassinated JFK showed him footage proving their involvement and told him to moderate, etc. The one good thing about DU is that it's largely pro-gun-rights.

Since there are fewer DU threads discussing it, I'll just supply two links:

One person on DU is claiming that Northrup should be ejected from the team, since he cost the team points and is not being a team player. Although there is some sense behind that argument, we should be wary of letting the group take precedence over the individual conscience--this was not the act of some petulant whiner or a coward afraid of losing to a girl.

Another person is claiming he was "scared shitless" that she would "beat his ass." He knows this how, precisely? If he gets tossed off the team next week, that's one thing, but the one making that comment has no basis beyond his or her own prejudices for thinking that.

On FreeRepublic, on DemocraticUnderground, and on the CNN site, there are people who are taking issue with Northrup participating on the high school team, since he is home-schooled. They're saying since he doesn't attend the school, he should not participate in the program.

However sensible that sounds, home-schooling parents pay taxes that support school athletics too. Furthermore, being on the wrestling team is something Northrup had to earn--he had to compete with everyone else to get it, it wasn't just a matter of signing up and automatically getting a spot.

Also, many opponents of home-schooling claim home-schooled kids are being isolated from "mainstream society" and indoctrinated and this is why home-schooling needs to be suppressed or at least closely regulated. As one of the Freepers pointed out, it's hypocritical for them to complain about alleged isolation going on and then when one home-schooler decides to un-isolate, not wanting him around.

Plus there's the usual trash-talking about alleged religious indoctrination. I will admit I find a lot of the religious home-schooling distasteful due to the stuff that's being taught (young-earth creationism, reactionary ideas on women's rights, etc), but there's no need to hate on Christian home-schooling in general.


  1. Good points, all. I haven't really been paying attention to this issue, but I've heard about it from the fringe. I don't see why people are getting so hot over it, myself. But people will find any reason to get hot over . . . well, pretty much everything. :)

  2. I'm glad it's coming from the fringe--if FreeRepublic and DemocraticUnderground represented more than just the most hysterical fringes of their respective political philosophies, we'd be living in Weimar Germany right now.

    Ironically, the people who are getting most upset about this are people who aren't involved--the wrestlers and their families have been nothing but polite about this.