Answer: When you are a 17 year-old girl in Philadelphia at a Catholic high school.

I subscribe to google alerts for “jiu jitsu” and “bjj” which is how the story of Amanda Leve was brought to my attention. The headline was “Ryan girl deserves chance to wrestle.” Amanda is a 17 year-old girl involved in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and she wanted to join her high school wrestling team, but was denied based on her gender. (emphasis mine)

“All school academic, athletic, social, and community service programs serve to provide for intellectual growth and proper Catholic human formation,” Gavin added. “This involves a respect for the differences between females and males. To allow for coeducational participation in wrestling, which involves various levels and types of full body contact, does not meet this standard of respect.” (from “Ryan girl deserves chance to wrestle.”)

To make it even worse, the junior-varsity coach, Vic Stanley, who has coached for more than 40 years, went on to say,

I do not think that it is a good idea for girls to be involved in wrestling with boys,” he said. “I think it is a no-win situation for the boy, because if he wins, oh, you wrestled a girl; if he loses, oh my God.

 

When adults say these things, children hear it, and these antiquated points of views are propagated. A quick search of Youtube calls videos of girls winning “Girl beating guy in wrestling match hilarious” or “Guy wrestles girl and LOSES.”

Take a break from the negative – here’s a video of Amanda Leve at Grappler’s Quest![youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbxsws74pTE]

The whole situation reminded me of what went down years ago: “Wrestler Joel Northup Forfeits to Female Opponent in Iowa State Championships

In a statement Northrup wrote, “As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner.”

His father explains, “Wrestling is a combat sport and they’re out there and it gets violent at times, and my son doesn’t believe that girls should be engaged in that way,” said Jamie Northrup.

Rather than have one single question, I find myself asking a few questions:

a) What is so different about wrestling and BJJ that girls are not allowed on wrestling teams but allowed to train BJJ? Is it because wrestling is an official team sport?

b) Do people give religion a pass for not allowing boy-girl mixed wrestling/bjj? Should we? I mean – obviously that’s not going to fly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and you aren’t likely to see Orthodox Jewish Mixed Gender Wrestling Teams any time soon. If we give religion a pass, do we automatically give religious schools a pass then as well?

c) Is there a difference between someone in a religion making a choice not to wrestle mixed-gender and a decision made about an entire team set in a religious school? Ie. a person deciding not to wrestle a girl vs a school not permitting a girl to wrestle?

d) If an organized religion decides that mixed gender isn’t okay, is separate gender okay? What if there simply aren’t enough girls to populate the girl’s team? Then what? Isn’t that what Title IX is for?

e) Does the year make a difference? It’s not, after all, as if most religions go through major changes – so although the year is 2014, most of these religions are operating on Very Old Beliefs.

f) Why is there a belief that it is disrespectful for boys to touch girls in wrestling or jiu jitsu?

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What are your thoughts on these points – or if I’ve missed something, please ask your own question! Please remember to play nice, and err on the side of politeness – religion can be a really heated, sticky debate, and I would like people on both sides to feel comfortable participating. Don’t forget that participating in these discussions helps you on your quest to get those sweet sweet OK! Kimonos spats!