Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wrestler Christian Morals Prohibit Fight With Girl ... Or is he just afraid of her?

A high-school wrestler who forfeited a state-championship match against a female competitor claimed he was following his "Christian values."

Joel Northrum, the sophomore wrestler, said,
Wrestling is a combat sport, and at times it gets violent, and you get put in moves and holds that are comprising [sic]. I just don’t believe it's right that a boy and a girl should, in this manner, wrestle.
Joel's father Jamie Northrum added,
Even though there’s no specific Scripture that addresses wrestling with girls, there is the biblical Christian principle of treating women with respect and dignity, and not looking at them as objects to be defeated on the wrestling mat to be, in some cases, groped or slammed.
This is nothing but a bunch of horse hooey if you ask me.

This is the worst sort of sexual discrimination. His opponent, Cassy Herkelman, had worked hard and competed fairly to get to the Iowa state championship. That's an impressive achievement for any student, male or female. And Ms. Herkelman had a right to be treated fairly by her opponents, to be given the a chance to win or to be defeated, just like any other competitor.

What Joel Northrum did wasn't respectful. He took away Ms. Herkelman's rights. He took away her right to be treated fairly and equally. He took away her right to see if she was really the best in her sport. Winning a match by forfeit is no victory at all. It's a hollow victory. What Joel Northrum did was an insult to all women everywhere.

My family had a somewhat tongue-in-cheek discussion about this on Facebook, and one of the contributors (who is a woman retired from a law-enforcement career) wrote, "This link might provide some insight on what is expected of women in real live training exercises once they get out of school if they opt to pick certain professions...I believe school is preparation for real life."

The link is to this article: Using Defensive Tactics to Subdue Bigger, Stronger Suspects. Many modern young women are contemplating careers in police work, the military, firefighting and other jobs that require physical contact and physical strength. A high-school wrestling match is just a microcosm of what will happen in the real world. If high-school girls and boys are denied the opportunity to engage in these real-life situations, we all lose.

If the Northrups' Christian values say they shouldn't treat women as equals, then I have little respect for their values.

But all that aside, I have to tell you my real opinion. It sounds to me like this kid just didn't want to risk being bested by a girl. He'd never live it down. And this was a girl who had already made it to the STATE championship and through enough preliminary matches to be matched up with him. He knew it would be a real contest. I can't help but wonder if the kid's excuse was just a smokescreen to cover the fact that he was afraid.

And by the way, all the guys in my family decided we wouldn't care to face Ms. Herkelman on the mat. She'd probably kick our asses!


  1. he was in a no win situation. You think he should've mopped the floor with the girl?

  2. Anon – Just the opposite. He was in a win-win situation. It takes a real man to not be afraid of losing, whether it's against another man or a woman. Only men who are uncertain of their own masculinity are afraid of women.

    Northrum should have wrestled with Herkelman and done his very best. If he won, then he won fair and square. If he lost, he lost fair and square.

    By even using the term, "mopped up the floor with a girl" you're showing our societal bias against women's equality. Each of us should be judged on whether we can do the job based on real job requirements, not on preconceived stereotypes.

    A firefighter has to carry bodies out of burning buildings. That's a real job requirement and it has nothing to do with gender. If a woman can do it, she gets the job. If a man can't do it, he doesn't get the job. But they both should be allowed to apply for the job.

    It's no different than this wrestling match.

    Northrum could have shown that he was a real man by competing fairly. If he'd beat her fair and square, he could have shaken her hand and congratulated her for a good fight ... just like he would any other competitor. THAT is what equality is about.

  3. I live in Iowa, and this has been big news (alongside the recent gay marriage kerfuffle, which is always roiling).

    I do not want to detract from her accomplishments as a wrestler, but Cassy Herkelman's forfeit victory was her last in the tourney. She lost the next two matches. She had an opportunity to win through direct competition. Northrup did not take it away.

    There is room for debate, of course, but I also think that a young man who has very strict religious beliefs shouldn't be penalized. He didn't cry foul. He didn't complain. He simply forfeited the match. As Anon. said, he was in his own little Kobayashi Maru. He could either refute his entire upbringing and wrestle the girl, or he could forfeit the match.

    My heart goes out to the girl. She wants to compete and be treated as an equal. But if someone chooses their own religion as a reason to withdraw, that's not their decision. Some religious athletes have chosen not to compete due to religious reasons, and we accept it. It wasn't the championship match, and it wasn't anyone's last shot. He got to go through consoloation, and she still had two losses before elimination.

    Ultimately, this goes back to the boy's father, who is part of a church that is already fringey (Pentecostal), and then is ALSO independent. This is normally a church that demands women wear hair veils in church, and dresses or skirts always. This is a very strict sect of Christianity, and the boy was only doing what his parents taught him to. And it had to be very difficult for him, ranked #5 in the state in his weight, to forfeit a match he probably felt he could win. But he did what he thought was right. I can't fault him for that.

  4. I have to agree with Anon and Mr. leard. Though not wiht makign the distinction between Religious peo;el and Atheists. I relaise you will ignroeme but its still synthetic and I did ask the wuestion fairly on why I ought accepot that Atheisst arent Religious.

    That said, the boy acted on his Principls and on Chivalry. You are simply angry becsuse he doens't share your specific humanist valies, values, I may add, that aren't even shared by all Humanists.

    He acted with Honour, and not in a fashion that demonstates he Violated anyones rights or disciminated.

  5. You know what would have been respectful? To ask HER what SHE wanted to do. By making the decision FOR her, the boy completely discounted her as a person. If that's the definition of chivalry then good riddance.

  6. @ Edie Hope, WELL SAID! I suppose his selfish religion came before his 'respect' for women.

  7. Anon and Edie, should we let others dictate how we practice our faith, or lack thereof?

    I could see how rules could be passed advising wrestlers that they may wind up facing opposite sex wrestlers, and if they want to wrestle, they must be prepared to do so. But as this rule does not yet exist, at least in Iowa, I would think a respect for this young man's beliefs would take precedent over an ultimately pointless forfeit. Should he have thrown the match because he wasn't comfortable? What was he to do?

  8. JL – according to various news articles, he knew a LONG time ago that he'd eventually have to face a female opponent. He should have quit then or else faced her like a respectful athlete.

    People are free (in the legal sense) to worship however they like so long as it doesn't violate the law. But that doesn't mean we have to respect their views. I don't respect racist or sexist religious views. I don't respect the anti-gay views. I particularly don't respect activists who try to force their views on the rest of us.

    It may seem like I'm stretching the point, but this is the same sort of ignorance that is responsible for diluting our science and history to match conservative Christian theology. This boy's attitudes spring from the same source. If we don't take a stand all aspects of these intolerant, discriminatory and anti-science beliefs, then they'll destroy all of the social and scientific progress we've made.

  9. Does that mean people who don't agree with you don't have to respect your views, Mr. James?

    If so, then why do you take such great offence at me when I have been polite to you?

    By this standard, I can just heckle you. After all, your Religious Beliefs prevent you from even admitting you are Religious, you think Easter has Pagan Origins even though it doesn't, you claim Durant was a Highly Respected Historian when he was a Philosopher whose works were contested (And don't really cite his exact passage) and you think the mere presence of a Crucifix somehow makes people who aren't Christians instantly Second Class Citizens.

    You also call; Religion a Virus with nothing to back this up but your own dislike of Religion, which is nothing more than belief in God to you.

    You also nearly always just focus on Christianity and a good part of the time say "Religion" when you mean "Christian", like when you say theat Religion requires us to believe the Bible.

    Why should anyone respect this when its obvious your own beliefs are self serving and designed to make yourself feel superior, and to justify the hatred of others?

    What makes the Anti-Religion rants really any different than Racism or Sexism or mockery of Nationality?

  10. Craig,

    Sorry, I didn't see that part. I'm surprised I never ran across it, seeing as how I've read about it several times. Anyway, knowing that now, I am fully in agreement. He had a responsibility to withdraw before then, instead of using his female opponent to make a point. If he was unsure or unaware of this possibilty, I could give him the benefit of the doubt, but knowing and then forfeiting goes from "acceptable religious reasoning, a la Sandy Koufax", to "grandstanding", just like that.

    If he'd wrestled her, no one would have known or said anything. Now he's in the news, his dad and the church are in the news, and it's a big story. And instead of an innocent stand for his own beliefs, it starts to look more like a calculated attempt to make a statement. I can't say that's his stance for sure, but that's certainly what it ends up looking like.

  11. I would like to know if he has ever wrestled a female. I live in Ohio and my stepson wrestled. There was never any hesitation of any male wrestlers when they had to face females. In fact, facing females in matches made them focus more, specifically because of the idea of male dominance in the sport and the possible ridicule they would receive from teammates. The truth though is females would beat the males sometimes. And do you know how much flack they got for it? None.

  12. I find this ridiculous. The guy has every right to choose who he does or doesn't compete against - regardless of what that judgement is based on. I've played cricket against girls who were far better than me - not a problem. If they choose to put themselves in the way of a hard ball travelling at speed then that's their look out.

    He on the other hand didn't want to compete against her, so he didn't. A non-news story if I ever heard one.

    P.S. I'm an atheist


Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.