Just Another Teammate

From youth wrestling through high school, every wrestler experiences this fear at least once; the fear of possibly wrestling a girl. At some point in every male wrestlers career, they encounter a female in their bracket, and no one EVER wants to wrestle the girl. There is the fear of losing, with the added “pressure” of the ridicule a male wrestler would receive if they lose to a girl. And if he is to win, he is still teased by his teammates. With wrestling being such a masculine sport, it raises the question, “why would a girl want to wrestle?” 

Almost every male wrestler fears wrestling a girl at some point in their wrestling career. But why?

Almost every male wrestler fears wrestling a girl at some point in their wrestling career. But why?

The sport of wrestling has stereotypes for being a macho sport, overwhelmed with male attributes such as testosterone, blood, sweat, bad smells, and physicality. From firsthand experience, I can confirm that most of these

stereotypes are true. Wrestling rooms are almost always smelly, dirty rooms filled with sweaty, smelly boys trying to hurt each other. None of these attributes would seem to appeal to the typical female.

Most would say that no female would ever want to step foot in a wrestling room, let alone be a wrestler. And a few years ago, I might agree. Headed into my freshman year of high school, my thoughts on females wrestling were stereotypical: “wrestling is a sport for hard working men.”

Therefore, when a girl in my grade named Alexandra decided to wrestle I was skeptical. My teammates and I all thought it was unusual and weird that a girl actually wanted to wrestle. We all thought the same thing, “wrestling is a tough sport designed for men, why would a girl want to wrestle?” We also feared that we would lose the masculinity of the wrestling room; most wrestling rooms are dominated by a male atmosphere of cursing, joking, and male egos clashing.

As a whole, we were apprehensive at first. We didn’t know how having Alexandra in the room would change the dynamics of practice and what went on in the wrestling room. But we soon learned that nothing changed; Alex ultimately became just another wrestler. She joked with us like one of the guys, and she trained hard and worked hard in practice like any other wrestler.

After a few weeks, we didn’t notice a gender difference. Instead, we looked at Alex as a wrestler, not a female wrestler. And over the next four years, I became pretty good friends with Alex.

I remember going to a tournament in eighth grade and having a girl in my bracket. I also remember being more worried about wrestling her than the returning state champ (who I beat in the finals). Little did I know that a few years later I would consider a female a teammate and a good friend.

Through four years of wrestling with Alex, I learned that an athlete is an athlete, no matter what their gender is. Male, female, white, black, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim is irrelevant in athletics. If someone is willing to put in the hard work and dedication into being an athlete, they are an athlete.

While I do think that sports should be separated by gender due to biological differences between sexes, I do think in the end athletes are athletes. Female athletes put in the same hours and effort as male athletes. Therefore, it is unfair that female athletics are often put on the back burner to the male equivalent.

This was evident at my high school, where male athletics took precedent over female athletics. This was despite the fact that our female cross-country and track team was a top ten program in the country, and our female basketball and lacrosse teams were amongst the best in the state. This is a prime example of how in society male sports take precedent over female sports.

Title ix     Through the adoption of title ix, females have equal opportunity to participate in athletics as males do. That includes equal opportunity to participate in sports, equal funding for female sports as male sports, and equal number of male and female athletes at schools (Titleixinfo.org). This is evident at the University of Michigan, where both male and female athletes receive equal benefits for being apart of a sports team. They both can receive equal scholarship, they both receive equal privileges such as food, tutors, academic counseling, etc. Nonetheless, society as a whole doesn’t value women’s sports like male sports.

At the end of our senior wrestling season, I asked Alex why she decided to wrestle. She told me that for whatever reason the sport appealed to her and she liked it when she tried it. She was nervous of being made fun of at first, but she ultimately felt that she was a part of the team and that’s why she stayed with. Ultimately, Alex was just another wrestler, an athlete.

It’s time for society to recognize that athletics are athletics, male or female. Basketball is basketball, soccer is soccer, wrestling is wrestling, sports are sports. Ultimately, Alex taught this to me.

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4 comments

  1. ayoubl · October 28, 2014

    Before I begin, I must admit that I am not familiar with the sport of wrestling. However, I found that this article does a good job at noting the ideas of hegemonic masculinity that are present in sports. The decision to incorporate a personal story made this blog easy to follow and relatable. The idea of males being afraid to wrestle females has been shown on television in numerous sitcoms but first hand experience is always beneficial, especially when discussing the presence of gender stereotypes in this case. I found the most interesting part of this article to be that author was already afraid of wrestling females in eight grade. It is unfortunate that these stereotypes are developed in the minds of children at such young ages, however it is great that the stereotypes can be broken. The fact that the author and his peers eventually accepted Alex as a regular teammate showed that they no longer defined her by her gender. Alex was therefore able to disprove preconceived notions and serve as an exception to hegemonic masculinity. While I agree that women are just as athletic as men, I also agree with the author that women and men have biological differences that prevent them from competing fairly in certain competitions. Other than events that have special regulations such as weight classing in wrestling, I feel that it is necessary to have different competitions for males and females which is no way insinuating that women are athletically inferior to men. In all, this blog did was excellent is noting the continued effect of hegemonic stereotypes on female athletes.

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  2. lauraucros · October 28, 2014

    I really liked this post because even though I am not very familiar with wrestling, I had never thought of the way society thinks of it: as a solely manly sport. In class we have talked about the gender inequalities or preconceptions of women’s sports, and this blog post does a great job at making the reader feel this discrimination. The fact that the author described his personal experience with Alex and how his feelings towards girls wrestling changed, is very valuable. I noticed a very interesting characteristic in the writing (and whether or not intentional), I believe is worth mentioning. At the beginning, the author described how his teammates and him were feeling about a girl joining their wrestling team. By the end of the blog, when the author overcomes the fact that Alex was a girl (that is, starts thinking of her a teammate rather than a girl who wrestles in his team), he starts describing the way she was feeling too. I think this situation is very similar to what happened to Caster Semenya. Nobody seemed to care about the way she was feeling at the beginning; for a reason the fact that she was a great athlete was overshadowed by her gender.

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  3. jmd96 · October 28, 2014

    I neither am familiar with wrestling, yet I think this blog does a great job of explaining what the wrestling world is like, and who is usually involved with it. It was cool to see first hand the difference between a women who wants to wrestle and a man who wants to wrestle. As a man, it is respected and almost favored due to the violent sport it is. While to women, it is not as popular, and almost forces girls out due to what people say about the sport being manly. It was also interesting how you were able to go through the four years of high school, and see her progress as a wrestler. To be able to also see her as another wrestler and not a girl wrestler. Breaking these barriers is becoming more and more important in the earlier years of sports, in order to break the barriers higher up in sports. Seeing a girl take a different route and trying something new is important. They are testing the boys, and sometimes beating them. This shows that girls can in fact be just as competitive as boys in sports.

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  4. allanmc2014 · November 4, 2014

    Great commentary. We really need to abolish old notions about women. Women are JUST as capable as men and sports should not be the divisor between the two. You bring up an important issue nowadays in sports addressing that men’s athletics are viewed with increasingly higher importance over their female counterparts. When we think of sports, our thoughts immediately come to males competing against other males. I see this happening all the time when I see male sports dominating ESPN and am left to wonder, who’s broadcasting the WNBA?

    Why should women not be viewed equally in our athletic culture? Sports were meant to unite people, not divide. In fact, this issue stems from yet a bigger issue: gender roles and dominance. Our society still has put males as the dominant figures over females. Gender does not change natural ability, intellect, or character. We should stop categorizing women and making assumptions.

    I loved the personal story you told, it makes me feel proud that someone somewhere is standing up to this. Great blog post!

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