I have been watching how the International Federation of Athletic Associations has been handling this whole Caster Semenya thing and I keep help but keep this ‘officials’ the side eye. This 18 year-old from South Africa who has been raised (as far as we know) as a female, will have to undergo a battery of test to prove her gender (and that will take months). Why? She’s simply too good, basically leaving the competition in the dust at the World Championship in Berlin this week. She also doesn’t meet the European standards of beauty. All I can say is this is a slippery slope to an international mess anyway you look at it.
In an article for The Guardian Germaine Greer points out that even the Olympics abandoned gender testing after they tried it for the 1992 and 1996 Games. Over 6,000 athletes were given the SRY test and none of them misrepresented their gender. But by picking up and pointing out developmental sexual disorders in a small group of women who didn’t know they had them proved embarrassing all around. But the IFAA is not suggesting that Semenya take the SRY they want an endocrinologist, gynecologist, and psychologist to test this young woman. Can you say extreme measures?
The Los Angeles Times reports that Nick Davies, spokesman for the IAAF, said it was clear that whatever the results of the gender tests, “clearly it was not her fault.”
“It’s a medical issue. You’re talking about someone’s life. She was born, christened and grew up a woman,” he said in an interview with the BBC. The aim of the tests, he said, was to discover whether anything gave her an unfair advantage.
Does the need to discover this ‘unfair advantage’ require such a public examination of this women’s gender? As far as Semenya, her mother, her coach and her country are concerned she is a female. Pointing out a possible genetic abnormality could harm this woman in more ways than one and perhaps make her an outcast in her own homeland. And what would such a discovery do to Semenya herself? In South Africa she’s getting tons of support and many find this whole gender/identify questioning distasteful, demeaning and culturally insensitive.
Then there’s the question of beauty. Clearly Semenya does not fit the mold of what some say is feminine (which is quite funny because neither do many athletes from Eastern European countries). But is it her dark skin, broad nose and full lips causing the accusations to fly more? Hmmm looks that way to me.
Even the Young Communist League in South Africa see how looks factor in to this whole equation:
“It feeds into the commercial stereotypes of how a woman should look, their facial and physical appearance, as perpetuated by backward Eurocentric definition of beauty.
“It is this culture which has forced many African women to starve themselves with the objective of reaching the model ramps of Paris and Milan to become the face of this or that product or magazine,“
Like I said before, this is quite a mess. A young black woman emerged victorious in a race. Now she has to prove who she is. In this case, no one wins and that’s a crying shame.Read Also