Caster Semenya allowed to compete again

Almost a year after South African runner Caster Semenya became an international headline, the IAAF has announced she will be allowed to compete once again.
Her participation was called into question by the IAAF, an international sport’s governing body, who subjected Semenya to an array of “gender testing.” This was not the first time a female athlete had been subjected to these tests–ranging from genital checks to chromosomal typing and hormone evaluations.
I’m glad Caster will be allowed to compete once again, but this ruling by no means clears up the underlying issues at hand with gender based sports.
I’ve argued before that the gender binary is not as black and white as our society would make it seem. This point, in my opinion, is further elucidated when someone tries to “prove” gender. There are wide variations that exist, which poke holes at our attempts to simplify everyone into an either or category.
What does that mean for gendered sports? I can’t pretend to have the answer to that question, or the myriad others that are brought up by the fact that our society is still fundamentally organized around these gender categories.
One thing is clear though. No one should be subjected to what Caster had to endure, especially not on the international media stage.

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9 Comments

  1. Steveo
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I was glad to hear as well that Caster is allowed to compete again. What she had to go through must have been awful.
    As to what should happen with gendered sports, its a difficult question, and I don’t think a perfect solution is possible. Although I agree that there is a spectrum of genders, most people seem to fall into one of the two categories, so abandoning these is not a good solution. I think the solution is to choose on definition for gender, (which no matter what it is, won’t be perfect) and stick to it. For professional sports or the Olympics, it probably won’t eliminate all problems as far as who should compete in which category, but with the right education, it could help people understand that the nice little boxes we have made for genders aren’t perfect and somewhat arbitrary.
    Also, as a child, there were lots of examples of girls playing on boys teams, and rarely boys (well, as far as my memory goes boy) playing on an all girls team in a sport that wasn’t offered to boys. As far as the level of children (which has more participants) I don’t think any definition of gender would really change anything and we just want to encourage more children to participate in sports. The more children participating the easier it will be to have teams composed of players with appropriate skill level and segregation based on gender will be unnecessary (some will happen naturally, especially in the teenage years when there are natural physical differences between the boys and girls)

  2. Honeybee
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m extremely confused by the use of the word “gender” in this post.
    They didn’t subject her to “gender testing” and sports aren’t divided by gender – they subjected her to tests to determine her SEX, and sports are divided by SEX, not by gender.
    E.g., if you are a pre-op transman, you would be put into the women category, because that’s your biological sex.
    The sexes aren’t divided because of gender, but because of biological differences between the sexes.
    Was the use of the word “gender” done on purpose? If so, what point is trying to be made? It seems very inaccurate as written unless there is some satire or point I am missing.

  3. Brittany
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I think she shouldn’t be able to compete, as debatable an opinion as that is.
    The extra testosterone is a very unfair advantage, and we should support the fairness of the many as opposed to what’s most fair for one person.

  4. Véronique
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Miriam, when you write “gender binary,” do you really mean sexual dimorphism?

  5. no2ndtroy
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    So should men with higher levels of testosterone be barred from competing with men who have average levels? They might have an unfair advantage, after all. But somehow I don’t see that argument actually flying in men’s competitions.

  6. Brittany
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    That’s a big difference though.
    Man with slightly more/a little more testosterone =/= a woman with far more testosterone and an unfair advantage.

  7. Femgineer
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    What about basketball players with gigantism? Obviously being tall is an advantage in basketball, but should they be barred from playing because they have that advantage?
    What about Micheal Phelps? He has a body that seems to have been designed to do the butterfly. Is that an unfair advantage to “average” bodied people?
    There is a difference between an advantage and an unfair advantage.

  8. Mike Crichton
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    If a male with unusually high testosterone levels has as much more extra testosterone as a “normal” male has over a “normal” female, then yes, that male probably should be barred.

  9. Mike Crichton
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    IIRC, people with gigantism usually have health problems that would preclude them from playing competitive sports.

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