Why Kacy Catanzaro’s Amazing “American Ninja Warrior” First Lady Domination Made Me Happy, Proud, and a Little Pissed Off

She’s the first woman to complete the finals course, but was it really a big win for women?

I watched this “live” on Monday night, because I admit to watching “American Ninja Warrior” (summer shows are slim pickins’!) and was almost moved to tears. I thought maybe it was just me, but it turns out the entire internet is captivated by superwoman Kacy Catanzaro, the 5 foot dynamo from Belleville, NJ (woot!) who conquered the insanely difficult ANW city finals obstacle course complete with leaping, clinging, gripping, flinging and dangling from apparatus 20-30 feet in the air.

Having seen the show a few times, as aforementioned,  I watched how not one woman (besides Kacy) had made it past the qualifying courses – and, really, not too many men make it, either! – so when she stepped up to the challenge I was hopeful, but without expectation. If she even made it as far as the Salmon Ladder I’d be proud. Have you seen this thing?


But she did way more than that. She sailed past the quintuple steps, the log drop, the tilting table, the swing jump, the ring toss, and up the warped wall (the obstacle that no other woman has ever conquered to move past the qualifying round). Then, she kills it on the salmon ladder, Kacy tackles the swinging frames, the pole grasper, and slaps the cherry on top by shooting up the spider climb like she were a g*ddamn spider herself. And hot damn it if it wasn’t the most thrilling and inspiring thing I’ve seen on TV since this season’s top 20 episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.” (Now you know ALL of my summer TV weaknesses!)

But the feminist in me has a little problem with all the hoopla and hurrahs over the first woman completing a course built for a man’s upper body strength and wingspan. It kind of made me sad that we’re cheering for a woman who successfully completed a typically male-dominated sport, when she’s been asked to rise above her womanness in order to do so. (I’m not getting into the women’s and men’s bodies are different discussion, but women’s and men’s bodies are different, ok? By the way, if you don’t think this is a man-slanted show, just listen to the way the host snarls through his Bob Riggle-meets-Tim Allen-esque “Ah-MER-i-can NIN-jah Warrr-grrrr-iorrr.” But that’s OK. It’s sort of funny, really.)

On top of all that, when Kacy does reach the summit and smacks that button with a vengeance, she’s not even allowed to take it all in by herself. Captain Knight in Shining Muscles had to race up the side of the tower to give Kacy a congratulatory hug and kiss. Geez, guy, she knows she’s a badass. Does she need your immediate validation? Let her soak it all in before you gallop in valiantly to make her share the well-deserved spotlight. (Side note: As I watched this show of companionship and chivalry, I questioned the female vs male celebratory dance. While men who beat the course usually tear of their shirts and flex in an ego-fueled Hulk-style demonstration, perhaps, as a woman, Kacy’s first instinct was to cheer for herself, be proud of her accomplishment and hug someone she loved. Maybe she even told him before the run that if she makes it to the top he better be up there to celebrate with her. We don’t know. This is just somewhere my brain went.)

All of this questioning is not to take away from Kacy’s amazing feat of athleticism, or any woman’s drive to push their body to such impressive physical heights. In fact I hope that more women will follow Kacy’s lead and kick some ass on the warped wall. Now that we’ve seen one woman can do it, the flood gates have opened – See it, Believe It, Achieve It, sisters!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of Kacy’s ANW triumph, and I’m not asking for a watered down women’s version of the show, which would be worse, but I do wish that someday we live in a world where “the first woman to ever do <insert male-dominated activity/field/job/etc.>” is no longer a thing to be all OMG about. We’re getting closer, I know. Creeping up that spider climb like the badass black widows that we are. Let’s celebrate Kacy not just because she’s a woman, but because she’s an amazingly awesome athlete, and because she IS a woman and not just one of the guys.

Good luck at Mt. Midoriyama, Kacy! We’ll be on the couch rooting for you.




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