Saturday, February 24, 2007

When the Gender Police Attack: Tulsa's Girl Wrestler Overcomes the Odds

Remember when cultural conservatives were more interested in personal freedom and individual initiative than in formulating rules for the rest of us to follow?

If you—like us—have a hard time recalling those days, here's a quick reminder of how some right-wingers use their narrow ideology to impose restrictions on folks who stray from the gospel of right-thinking.

Witness the case of a Tulsa high school senior who this week signed a wrestling scholarship at Oklahoma City University. The deal will help the student pay for college.

But wait—the student is, heaven forbid, a girl! A girl who wrestles! Who ever heard of such a thing? Turns out, OCU is one of a handful of schools that now sponsor women's wrestling as a varsity sport. (Canada has 16 colleges that sponsor women wrestlers. Who knew our northern neighbors were Godless heathens?)

Indeed, our East Central High School student, loves to wrestle. It's her passion. The Tulsa World reports that Cheyenne Stokes got her first taste of the sport as a mere 5-year-old when she watched another girl wrestle at a tournament in New Mexico. Her dad was unenthusiastic, but Cheyenne persevered and is now ranked as one of the top female prep wrestlers in America.

But leave it to our friends on the right to see this success as an affront to proper femininity. Women, we are assured, must be modest and stay away from pastimes that are rough, sweaty, or otherwise unbiblical.

At least that's the view of a conservative Oklahoma City activist and blogger, who this week criticized women's wrestling and OCU for straying from the gospel. (Those dang college-educated, libertine Methodists—never know what they'll do next!)

We admit: we don't know God's mind on the issue of women's wrestling. We don't think the critics do either. But we can argue with some confidence that notions of femininity are culturally determined and dynamic, not locked in place, and certainly not locked in the ancient world. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that women right in the the good ole USA were told they couldn't be doctors, lawyers, architects, ministers, journalists, and so on. Those notions of "proper" femininity were wrong.

We support Cheyenne. She pursued her passion and showed initiative. She overcame obstacles. She succeeded. All this seems wonderfully and powerfully American to us.


Buster said...

Which blog was that?

Alternative Tulsa said...

Good question. We were trying not to name names. But check out Brandon Dutcher's Blog at