Some people just want to wrestle. Twelve-year-old Audrianna Beattie is one of them.
In fact, she does wrestle, and has been since the third grade. She’s not bad, either. But when she moved from Iowa to rural Pennsylvania she found that she couldn’t compete against the boys.
I don’t mean that in a “she’s not good enough” kind of way. Last year she competed against boys, and her record was 5-3. No, what I mean is that at her new school she isn’t allowed to compete with boys. It’s against the rules.
She’s not taking this lying down. She’s literally making a federal case of it. Last week she testified for 40 minutes in front of a federal judge for her right to compete with the boys. Audrianna’s parents believe that their daughter’s ineligibility violates the federal equal protection clause and the state constitution’s equal rights amendment.
Not everyone is so convinced. There is, of course, a lot of heteronormative hemming and hawing and pearl-clutching from the school district.
According to the president of the school board, Troy Laudenslager: “You’re supposed to stick your face in the girl’s chest. Anywhere else you would be suspended.”
Yeah, bro. If I had walked around my middle and high schools whacking things with a tennis racket, I probably would have been suspended, too. But even though I had those raging teenage hormones, I could still tell the difference between playing a game and going to class and otherwise existing in the world. It’s not a hard lesson to teach and learn.
School board member Lauren Hackenburg said: “I don’t think it’s OK. I think it sends mixed messages.”
Really? Like what? That women and girls are capable competitors? That being female-bodied or otherwise identifying as feminine doesn’t automatically make someone weak? These sound like good messages to send to everyone regardless of gender.
School board member Ron Neidig was concerned for the psychological well-being of the boys. (Honestly! Will someone please think of the boys!) He called it a “lose-lose” situation because if the boy beats the girl, then, well, they’ve beaten a girl. If the boy loses, then he’ll get teased about losing to a girl.
See, this sounds like a problem with boys, not Audrianna, and it’s a problem that could be addressed by simply letting the girl wrestle. It seems obvious to a lot of people that boys should be the best and strongest and brightest. But you know what? That’s not always how it plays out in life. Both boys and girls should learn that early. It’s not what gender you identify with. It’s how hard you work.
A decision should be made in December, and there has been a restraining order issued so the school can’t enforce its rule in the meantime.
There are certainly physiological differences between men and women and boys and girls, broadly speaking. But that is really only a generalization. Individuals can vary. If Audrianna can hack it with the boy wrestlers — and it sounds like she can — for God’s sake, let her play.
Photo Credit: Tsutomu Takasu via Flickr/Creative Commons