27.8.09

Caster Semenya


For those of you in America, you may not have heard about Caster Semenya, the South African runner who recently broke a world record for the 800 meter at this year's world championships in Berlin.

Unfortunately, if you know even that much about her, you probably also know about the controversy surrounding her...the fact that her sex is being called into question, and people are claiming that she is not eligible to run because she is not a woman.

First of all, as we discussed in my media class, people need to start getting terminology right, and they need to understand important distinctions. Most articles speak about her "gender" and how she isn't a "woman." Gender is not something you can test. Well, I guess it is, but it'd be a pretty simple test, you'd simply ask her, "Are you a man or a woman?" and whatever she responds with, that's what gender she is. Gender is simply a construct...a Western construct, at that. Sex is your biological traits, and even our thoughts on that are flawed. We are stuck in the belief that there are only 2 sexes, and that they are 100% correlated with our genders. This is simply not true. Some people are born with a XX chromosomes, but they feel like men, or they're born with XY chromosomes, but feel like women. That's not the only case though, as some people are born with XXY chromosomes, or XXX chromosomes.

Why are we so stuck on categorizing people and making sure they fit our stereotypes? In my class, people were suggesting that she has "masculine" traits, so they should investigate her. Excuse me? What exactly are "masculine" traits? Do all men suddenly look alike? Are they all exactly the same? Bill Clinton and I probably share more traits than he and Shaq do...but they're both men. We really need to reaccess what defines people and with which criteria we should judge them by.

If it is found that Caster is not "fully" female (explanation in this article), should she be disqualified from the race? I think not. Many other athletes have "deformities," yet they're still allowed to compete. Lance Armstrong has an abnormally enlarged heart and lengthened femur bones, and Michael Phelps has relatively large feet and double-jointed ankles...so should we disqualify them from competitions? Of course these "deformities" give them advantage-- but is that really the only thing that makes them good athletes? No, of course not. They work hard to be in the shape that they're in-- why would we disqualify for something they were born with? The same should apply to Caster.

And for goodness sake, back off of the poor girl. She's 18 years old and she likes to run. Let her! Stop insulting her by saying things like you "can see her Adam's Apple." And start getting terminology correct.

But most of all, have some respect for her dignity. No matter what you think she is, she is first and foremost still a human.

1 comment:

  1. I agree... :D And I was in Berlin when she won it!

    ReplyDelete