I feel bad for Cassy Herkelman.

I mean, not that I pity her; I don’t think she needs my pity. Also, she could probably tie me in a Windsor knot but what I feel bad about is that:

She makes the friggin’ Iowa state tournament in wrestling. She and one other girl (Megan Black) are the first two girls to make it to state in the 85 years the tourney has existed. And when she gets there, she doesn’t even get to wrestle her first round because her opponent’s religious beliefs preclude him from being violent with a woman.

Obviously, it’s admirable to not want to be violent with women. It’s admirable to have a principle and stick to it. And from all reported accounts, the guy is not a douche. He’s just trying to reconcile his religious beliefs with a modern Western nation where girls are allowed to wrestle competitively, and sometimes kick copious amounts of ass.

But, here are the buts.

1) It’s also admirable not to want to be violent in general. In polite, compassionate society, dudes shouldn’t hit, tackle, or bodyslam dudes any more than they should hit, tackle, or bodyslam women. Wrestling is not polite society, it’s a sport. When you reach a tournament, your opponent deserves the respect of acknowledgment that they, too, have kicked enough ass to be there.

2) Last summer I read about this study in Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps; in it, 6 month old babies were allowed to crawl down slopes of various steepness. Sometimes with their mothers in the room, sometimes with just impartial researchers in the room. In the study, when the mothers were in the room, they wouldn’t let female babies crawl down as steep of a slope as they would let a male child. They probably felt more protective over their female children, physically, because of course, female children are weaker. The problem is that, at 6 months, female babies are actually generally stronger than male babies. Without the mothers in the room and left to their own devices, the female babies could actually handle a steeper slope than the male babies. Those physical differences even out later — and at puberty, testosterone does create a stronger aggregate male population than female. But the social differences — what we believe girls and boys are capable of, physically; what we “protect” girls from doing while encouraging boys to do — amplify those differences in a gigantic way.

When girls like Cassy and Megan, against odds, are socialized NOT to believe that they are necessarily weaker than any male human they encounter, and could in fact wrestle quite a few of them to the ground, it is a triumph of truth over fiction.

3) Everyone, including Cassy’s dad, are going to lengths to say that her forfeiting opponent is a really nice guy in a tough bind. I believe that, and I love the Iowa sense of courtesy that has everyone tripping over themselves to be gracious in this circumstance. But I also really want to hear from CASSY. I want to hear from MEGAN. The entire story in the article I linked to mentions them only as a side note. A boy forfeiting a match is a bigger story than two girls reaching the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament for the first time in 85 years. I get it, editorially speaking, but… SMH.

I’m really curious why Cassy wasn’t available for comment. Here’s a nice article about Cassy making it to State, where she did comment, and where we can see that her dad really is proud of her accomplishment.

Maybe this time around, she doesn’t know what to say, maybe she’s shy, maybe she really doesn’t feel the need to comment on it and she just wants to wrestle. Maybe it’s not that big a deal to have a forfeit in a state tournament — Lord knows I don’t know that much about teh sports. Anyway, I hope that’s the case.

But, maybe she’s quietly pissed but would feel bad (or, say, “shrewy” or “shrill” or “bitchy”) saying so because everyone’s trying to be gracious about it.

I guess… I think there are a lot of ways to be gracious, and I think acknowledging a legitimate opponent as a legitimate opponent is one of them.

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