Thursday, February 24, 2011

The case of Joel Northrup

Joel Northrup is a 16-year-old boy from Iowa. He is the son of a pastor, and is home-schooled. He also wrestles, and does quite well.

Last week, he was scheduled to wrestle in the first round of the Iowa state high school wrestling tournament. He didn't wrestle. He forfeited the match and his chance at the state title.  Why? In his own words: "As a matter of conscience and my faith,” he wrote in a statement, “I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner."

The boy's father supported his decision: "We believe in the elevation and respect of women, and we don't think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do. Body slamming and take downs -- full contact sport is not how to do that."

A lot of people are applauding the boy's decision. A lot are not. Even on an article on Focus on the Family's website, there are comments like this:

This one from a woman:

I come from the other side of the issue. I have a daughter who loves to wrestle. Being the only girl in a family of 3 brothers and all male extended family, she is very much a tom-boy. Don't get me wrong, she is totally female and knows how to be and act like a lady. That background is to share that she knows how to be rough with boys and take it -- knowing full well they can hurt her.
With that history, she wanted to wrestle. There are no all-girl wrestling teams in our area so she had to join the boys team. The only boy who would even practice with her was a boy that had been part of our family (I babysat him and his brother) since she was born. She ended up giving up something she loved because the boys wouldn't wrestle with her. Is she supposed to refrain from something because it's a "boys" sport?

This all took place before she hit puberty and high school, so hormones and curves were not an issue. I don't know if she would have continued with the sport after such time any way because she has slowed down on wrestling with her brothers or if she would have wanted to continue. We were never given the opportunity to find out. Not because she wasn't allowed to play but because the boys would not engage with her. She could hold her own in the matches, but never won because she did not get the practice she needed.

And this one from a man:

I'm with you, Brina. The boy and his father, I feel, are in the wrong for many reasons here.

First of all, they're NOT showing respect for the young lady by refusing to grapple with her. They're showing contempt for her abilities and hard work. She has made a choice to compete against young men, and knows what she is getting's not like he's going to come up behind her in a dark alley and knock her in the head and steal her purse!

Secondly, it's a cop out to make this a sexual/morality issue. If the young man in question can't control his hormones for the length of a high school wrestling match, maybe some counseling is in order.

Finally, at the end of the day, I think this is a case of "I don't want to get whipped by a girl" cloaked under the guise of Christianity, making all of us Christ-followers appear childish and silly.

I have read similar comments on news sites, and to be honest - they tick me off. I firmly believe the young man did what he did out of moral and Christian convictions - not because he was afraid to get beat by a girl. And disrespecting a girl by refusing to wrestle her? You gotta be kidding! The girl's parents are the ones who are disrespecting her!!!

Let me be blunt: wrestling is a contact sport. The intent is to take down your opponent by any means necessary. There is a lot of grabbing, groping, etc going on while trying to do so. How and why would anyone want their daughter in that position with a boy? The possibility of her breasts being grabbed by a boy, her butt or private area, her face ending up in the boy's crotch or butt? Is that really appropriate?!

When and how did we get to the place that this is condoned, and we ridicule a young man with the integrity, honesty, and courage to back away from doing that? Instead of cheering him on, applauding him, we make fun of him, claim he is disrespecting the girl, and that he is afraid of being beat by a girl. Really? How about questioning why a girl should wrestle in the first place with other girls, much less boys? And why a parent would be willing to place their daughter in that position, all for the sake of winning. Winning what? A trophy? The young man is the winner here.

Which would you rather have marry into your family: a young woman who wrestles boys and puts her body in the position to have done what I mentioned, or the young man who values women so much, and sticks to his religious convictions so much, that he is willing to forfeit his chance at winning a title to do so? I would pick the young man. He sounds like a guy I'd want my nieces to date.

And speaking of nieces... my three would never wrestle - they are young ladies, after all, but if they did, and if their parents allowed them to wrestle boys - which they would not - I would have something to say about that - so where are the people condemning the girl and her parents?

My hat is off to Joel Northrup - and his parents, for raising such a courageous young man with integrity. I wish there were more like him.


Glynn said...

I'm with you, Mark. The boy did the right thing. And he'll be criticized for it by a lot of people, including Christians. But he did the right thing.