Recently, the world of sports journalism was gripped by the story of 16-year-old Joel Northrup, a high school wrestler in Iowa, who forfeited his first round match in the state tournament because he was to wrestle a young woman, 14-year-old Cassy Herkleman. Northrup cited his religious beliefs, which promote the respect and elevation of women, as grounds for choosing not to wrestle Herkleman. It was surprising that media picked up the story and criticize Joel for making the decision he did.
Far from criticism and contempt, Joel deserves to be lauded for sacrificing his shot at the championship in order to stick to his principles.
The principle of treating women with respect and dignity, and not being in a position that might require touching a woman inappropriately, is in short supply in our culture. Popular music and media glorify the sexual exploitation and objectification of women and, at times, even promoting violence against women. Dating violence and abuse is escalating. Manhood, once based on the ideals of chivalry and the protection of women, has been reduced to a quest for sexual conquest. It would be interesting to know how many fathers today even teach their sons to “never, ever, hit a girl”?
Title IX, while opening many athletic opportunities for girls, has nonetheless created difficult dilemmas such as the one faced by Joel Northrup. In violent, contact sports, like wrestling, young men may be put in situations where they are told that it is entirely permissible, even expected, to do violence to women. When a principled and courageous individual like Joel Northrup bears witness to what is right, he faces ridicule in the public realm. It is high time that America seriously considers what kind of lessons are being taught to society’s future husbands and fathers.