Caster Semenya – Sex-Testing Champion Athletes
South African runner Caster Semenya, winner of the 800 meters in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships is paying a bittersweet price for her victory. The world-class, 18-year-old athlete is the most recent target of gender discrimination, fueling debates on ‘gender testing’.
Ever since finding her success in sports, rumors spread like wild fire on her masculinity, Semenya’s,
“physique and powerful style have sparked speculation in recent months that she may not be entirely female.” (The Age)
Fueling the debate, her coach Michael Seme ironically chimed in with humiliating remarks,
“We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It’s a natural reaction and it’s only human to be curious. People probably have the right to ask such questions if they are in doubt. But I can give you the telephone numbers of her roommates in Berlin. They have already seen her naked in the showers and she has nothing to hide.”
Why does one always have to justify their success?
Despite reaching the heights of victory at such a young age, Semenya now faces the challenge of overcoming the gender politics at play in International Sports.
Interestingly, numerous runway models have similar slender physiques and boyish looks, like the British model, Agyness Deyn, however their gender is never questioned. Why does a woman need to expose to prove her heterosexuality?
“When Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and proudly exposed her chiseled biceps years before Hollywood gave its imprimatur to gals with “guns,” players complained that she “must have a chromosome loose somewhere.”(Dave Zirin, Alternet).
Anna Kournikova or Martina Navratilova, which one out of these two women has a female (XX) sex chromosome? Are we going to question every person’s gender based on their physical dimensions and attributes?
Gender mainstreaming should be implemented to answer these questions and make fair judgments when passing policies like, ‘gender testing’. It is highly rare that we hear of men undergoing such testing, however women are often an easy target due to the hidden social inequalities at play between women and men in many areas of the society.
Nevertheless, gender mainstreaming calls for gender equality and a fair and equal treatment of men and women. Engendering sports would in turn allow for a better understanding of the impact of planned policies on both genders and the necessary modifications before their full implementation.
If both men and women are subjected to gender testing at an equal rate, there would be no debate, but until that happens, no one deserves the humiliation of proving their biological identity.