Yesterday, seventh-grader Audrianna Beattie — a straight-A student who's fighting to be allowed on her middle school's boys wrestling team — testified before a Federal judge for 40 minutes. (As a former 12-year-old, I am dumbfounded as to how she stayed on one topic for 40 minutes.) Audrianna's rural Pennsylvanian school district, Line Mountain, currently prohibits co-ed competition in contact sports, but the Beattie family is taking the district to task over state and federal violations of the 14th Amendment.
While Audrianna and her father insisted that gender restrictions are nonsense and that she just wants to wrestle (goddammit), members of the Line Mountain School Board expressed concern regarding the safety of the female players as well as the potentially awkward situations that could arise from allowing body contact between pubescent confused teenagers.
Board member Lauren Hackenburg expressed her concern:
"I don't think it's OK. I think it sends mixed messages. It's inconsistent to teach male students that it's fine to be aggressive and pin women down during a sport."
Board member Ron Neidig expressed his concern for the psychological well-being of the boys competing against girls:
"…[I]f they win, they've beaten a girl; if they lose, they are harassed by their teammates for being beaten by a girl."
And according to the school board President Troy Laudenslager,
It's just not appropriate for males and females to be touching in such a way, particularly at ages 12 to 15, when hormones are just starting to kick in.
Okay, wow. Take it down a notch, school board. Stop sexualizing full-body contact sports. Sure, it's an awkward point in kids' lives. But the line seems pretty clear. Spandex onesie, helmet, gym mats, referee: wrestling. Everything else: everything else.
There is plenty of consistency in teaching players that it's appropriate to pin down another player when both players have consented to engage in the sport. It's not like the members of the wrestling team are just constantly tombstone piledriving (a legit move in junior high wrestling) other boys in the hallway because they are sOoO confused by the whirlwind of mixed messages.
But Audrianna's testimony is a thing of beauty. I may or may not be writing these down on sticky notes for my sad bathroom mirror.
"I'm on a boys team. It doesn't matter that I'm a girl, because I'm just as good as they are…I've been bullied in the past, and (wrestling) helps me get over it…I can take my anger and use it, but not in a mean way, and do good."
"In sixth grade, I did fairly well. I won some, I lost some. It's the way it goes, but it's not the end of the world."
And when her School Board authorities tried to argue that uh, this one time they saw Audrianna look visibly upset after losing a match and maybe she was injured?
"I did cry. It's normal. I've seen a lot of boy's cry and throw a fit and throw their headgear on the ground. I wasn't hurt or in pain. It was just a matter of being emotional."
Emotions! After a competition? What the devil is going on here?
After establishing that 1) the president of the school board could not cite a record in the district of a female player being injured after wrestling with a male player, 2) there are policies in place to punish male students who inappropriately touch female students, 3) that there are instances in which a girl could be stronger than a boy, 4) that boys can get injured too, and 5) that boys fucking cry from time to time and that's okay, it looks like Audrianna may have a case.
I hope Audrianna gets to wrestle because she is passionate, and that's what she wants to do, and she seems to be doing fine. Her record last season was 5-3, (four wins were against boys). If she happens to break down a barriers for other girls, then that's a pretty sweet deal too. Either way, she is officially my new spirit guide, so it looks like Jessica and her affirmations can find a new job.
[Daily Item, News Item]
Image via AP.