Chris Uggen's Blog: michaela hutchison and gender equity

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

michaela hutchison and gender equity

forget the super bowl. michaela hutchison was the sports story this weekend. on saturday she became the first female in u.s. history to win a state wrestling title competing against boys. as the crowd chanted "girl power," her escape with 16 seconds left in the alaska state championship match secured a 1-0 victory at 103 pounds. according to press reports, a bloodied ms. hutchison walked off the mat to a standing ovation. she finished her sophomore season at 41-4 with 33 (!) pins, one short of the state record.

fortunately, great female athletes need no longer establish their greatness by competing against males. nevertheless, i think this ranks as a spectacular accomplishment. where's the parallel? this is paula radcliffe outpacing the male field in the marathon. this is laila ali knocking out joe frazier, jr. this is michelle wei crushing tiger woods in a pga playoff. well, you get the point. there's no head start, no handicap, no "ladies' tees," no smaller ball, no no-checking rule. michaela hutchison beat the boys straight up.

because her skills and toughness are unquestioned, the males she defeats do not make excuses or otherwise attempt to minimize ms. hutchison's accomplishments. a loss to the #1 ranked person in the state is a source of pride rather than embarrassment. according to the AP story, kodiak high's tucker vanmatre was pinned in 47 seconds at the region championships.

"It was quick," VanMatre said. "She got me in an arm bar and turned me (over)."
"I expected it. She's good," VanMatre added.

evidently, ms. hutchison is not alone. last year, 17 females qualified for state wrestling championships that included males (texas and hawaii maintain separate wrestling programs for girls and boys). but michaela hutchison is the first state champ and will hold that distinction for the rest of her life. where will she go to college? ms. hutchison would be a fine recruit for the top-ranked minnversity wrestling team. though its outstanding coach j robinson has criticized some aspects of title ix, he might welcome a star female wrestler. she would simultaneously help his program and help meet the title ix "proportionality" requirement (that the ratio of male to female athletes be proportionate to the ratio of males to females on campus). if only she had a couple sisters who played football...

at my lad's match tomorrow, i'll try to imagine him locking up against a female wrestler. at 6'5" and 270, i think this is probably a little less likely than in the 103 weight class. while i celebrate ms. hutchison's great accomplishment, i confess that such a match would be tough on both dad and son. like most fathers, i've tried to instill a major double standard when it comes to violence (hitting boys: sometimes ok; hitting girls: NEVER ok). he might therefore hesitate to deploy his standard bag of (good clean) head-butting, shoulder-abusing, oxygen-depriving, knuckle-in-the-solar-plexus, chin-on-the-spinal-cord wrestling tricks. that said, he could do his worst and none of it would slow down a 6'5" 270-pound version of michaela hutchison. no doubt the boys at 103 tried all this and more, yet she pancaked 'em anyway.


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