Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gender Controversy: A debate

Any big event is going to be with its fair share of controversy. That’s just the way things work. The World Championships in Berlin are no different. Today a story has emerged that has the word written all over it. The women’s 800 meter final is tonight and it may or may not go off with this season’s best performer, South Africa’s Caster Semenya in the field. If you’ve been watching closely and happened to have caught the prelim of this event, you may remember she was part of the mix-up that caused the previous World Champion to fall and come in dead last, and herself to come extremely close to taking a bad fall, but somehow managing to save herself and finish the race in 1st.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here just a bit…the fact that I’m referring to Semenya as a “she” is the whole reason for the controversy. It seems there has been testing done (or there will be in the near future) to see whether she’s male or both, and therein is where the problem lies. According to IAAF rules, a competitor must be fully female to compete in women’s events. She seemingly came out of nowhere and burst onto the international scene to be the best in the world and that was the first clue that something was amiss. Add to that her running style and mannerisms and people really begin to scratch their head.

The fact remains that nothing has been confirmed yet but that of course does not stop tongues from wagging. And if it is true, perhaps she didn’t knowingly try to gain an unfair advantage and figured she wants to live her life as a woman and therefore it wasn’t something she truly thought about when she laced up her spikes. You can see from this interview that she is very new to the sport and comes from an extremely simple background. It could be something that was never even discussed with her teammates and coaches, and now unfortunately it is turning into a global media story. For that, I do feel sorry for her. But it’s hard enough racing against the best females in the world, who wants to also add to the mix those who have extra testosterone and other beneficial male characteristics?

So what do you make of the story? It will be horrible if it turned out not to be true, but if it is, I think it wouldn't be fair to let her compete. I guess I feel like the only fair thing that could be done in the future would be to allow them their own category, just as the Paralympians have. But for the immediate future, it just seems like the 800 final will have a fair share of controversy surrounding it.

Some articles: (If you google it, you can find plenty more)


Daily Telegraph

The Age

Interview after the Semi's:


Fentriss said...

Ok, why am I under the impression that no one should be mistaking this for a woman and/or why is this not confirmed or a part of confirmation before track and field competition begins?

Now, if this is a woman, my apologies. I am not even concerned about how this individual looks, I am just looking at mannerisms.

Anonymous said...

"She" is not behaving any differently from the "Stud" Lesbians I've seen.

You think she's bad? You ain't seen nothing until you've seen the documentary The Aggressives

After watching it, you won't think anything of her mannerisms.

Brianna said...

She ran and she won!

t.v. said...

Reading this blog and thinking back to the race I just saw, makes me laugh. Nuff respect.
The woman is a she until proven otherwise. She's just mannish. Is that even a word? lol
She is fast... A female Bolt? lol...

j buck said...

How about just sneaking a peek in the shower after the meet?

Rob said...

Ever seen pictures of Jarmila Kratochilova, who still holds the WR over 800m? Here is one:

And she was active when gender tests were done regularly.

Weekly Football Predictions said...

Why couldn't they have kept this a little less publicized. If this isn't true, it is so incredibly embarrassing for this person. The media explosion doesn't help.

Brianna said...

@ rob...yes, you're right. and kratochilova was roided up so that really isn't a fair comparison.

and I do agree...the fact that it is being so publicized is really not fair, especially since they weren't going to disqualify her anyway.

Rob said...

@Brianna: My point was, someone may not look like a woman, for whatever reasons, but could still be one. I saw Kratochvilova in Munich when she broke the world record. She looked more like a man than most male athletes in the stadium.

Here is an interesting statement from a south african blog: "Caster Semenya is an interesting revelation. Interesting because the 18 year old was born as a hermaphrodite and, through a series of tests, has been classified as female." (Source: Apparently some sort of tests have already been performed in South Africa.

anonymousnupe said...

Dude look (and sound...and move) like a la-day. But if the the governing body already approve shim to run previously, what the hell, y'all?! Where's the accountability?!

Anonymous said...

ok brianna--here we go you may not post this one but wth. Wilma Rudolph ran for tennessee state tiger bells--she is probably the greatest female sprinter of all time-i forget her coachs name--but when he put together the first great all womens track team he told them "i want fox's not ox's night b4 a race get ur hair done do ur nails shave ur legs-be a athlete thats fine with me-but always be a lady" well what did he mean without getting all crazy-as easy as i can with this?--be feminine--he might of ment the western/european standard of beauty which ol girl is not--but damn she coulda shaved the arm pits at least or added some moisturizer to her cornrows--point is she young and dont have any friends that shoulda pulled her to the side and holla'd at her--"shawty here go a razor some cocoa butter some chap stick etc;" some womenin the track world need image consulstants and some athletes menand women need to answer the question asked during the interview--and when are the women on the team that are married gonna stop with the duo last name thing--? either ur married or not and as much as folks thank god for thrre much deserved success shouldnt they take on the husbands last name and drop there own--im not too religeous in terms of that--i'm just saying--joe p vegas/dc--p.s. the weave thing is killing me--no one told a certain 400h & 200m runner how busted the hair is?--any black hair salons in europe-?

Diane said...

Who, I wonder, decides when a woman's "mannerisms" are acceptable? Obviously, you have some artificial definition of what is "feminine" and you apply that idea to all women. We all know where these definitions come from, but some of us are pleased to reject them.

And Anon--why on Earth would I want to use my husband's name when I have one of my own? I am not part of a corporation that is my husband; rather, I am a separate human being.

Angie said...

There is something wrong with a female athlete who apparently agrees with all the men who think men are inherently better athletes than women--just by being a man. She's too good to be a woman!