Will American Ninja Warrior crown its first female champion at the top of Mount Midoriyama?
Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman ever to complete a city finals course, in Dallas, and the first woman to ever make it to the finals in Las Vegas. If she manages to conquer Mount Midoriyama she could win the $500,000 prize and the title of American Ninja Warrior.
Catanzaro, who first competed on ANW last year, dazzled the crowd with her flawless performance in Dallas. While she stands at only five feet and weighs a lithe 100 pounds, Catanzaro is a lifelong gymnast, who, competing on behalf of Towson University, was named the NCAA's Southeast Regional Gymnast of the Year in 2012.
ANW, a takeoff of the Japanese show Sasuke, is an obstacle course competition that doesn't discriminate against gender; both men and women compete, and, arguably, they compete "against" each other since there is only one champion. Men and women of all shapes and sizes have competed on the show, in part because the competition is about the level of ability and power a person has to push their body through the course. If anything, ANW isn't about competing against another person or persons but, in true eastern philosophic sense, about competing against, as in working with, one's own body.
Although it's reality television, the show may actually be helping viewers think beyond really reductive social Darwinian ideas about physical strength and gender. What it means to be "strong," even physically, is wildly subjective, as any woman who has given birth would gladly attest. These ideas — which, by the way, aren't even Darwin's but those of sexist social scientists adapting his works later in the 20th century — have been used to justify certain roles, especially in the military, for men and women.
Perhaps those using the "women just aren't strong enough" argument to continue to fight against female soldiers being assigned front-line combat positions should take a look at Catanzaro's highlight reel.