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  1. Chabas
    Chabas August 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm |

    The thing I find striking is that Semenya isn’t even that fast, if you look at the bigger picture. Yes, she was two seconds ahead of the competition. She’s also nearly that much behind the world record. My boyfriend mentioned that the track might not be that fast, but it’s the same track on which Usain Bolt is breaking records, so that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

  2. shah8
    shah8 August 24, 2009 at 1:19 am |

    Typically though, the usual path of denying women their femaleness is by accusing them of steroid abuse.

    I always shrug at that sort of thing. I still get pissed when I remember that thread with the russian bodybuilders.

  3. Ellid
    Ellid August 24, 2009 at 6:05 am |

    Babe Didrikson didn’t have a six-pack that a man could envy, and neither do most female runners. I would not be at all surprised to find that Semenya is intersex or has androgen insensitivity. Whether it’s fair for her to compete against biologically standard women under those circumstances is a good question, but I’m inclined to say “no.”

  4. Ishtar
    Ishtar August 24, 2009 at 6:43 am |

    Another aspect to consider is that Caster is only 18 years old and has to deal with this level of intrusive global attention. I admire her for her dignified and calm manner but no matter how confident she is, it must hurt to be publically dissected by so many ignorant and unkind people.

    Fortunately the general tone in South Africa is that we support her all the way but people still make hurtful comments. Whatever her sex or biological makeup (I apologise if I’m using incorrect terms), this is something she should’ve been allowed to deal with privately and with the presence and support of her family.

    I can’t imagine having to cope with such a situation at my age of 37, never mind being an 18-year old.

    The IAAF, the media and society in general has treated her with a gross lack of respect. Let’s hope this beautiful and accomplished teenager is given the opportunity to some privacy to deal with whatever the tests reveal. And whatever those tests do reveal cannot detract from her amazing accomplishments. She is a role model. Period.

  5. Jens
    Jens August 24, 2009 at 7:29 am |

    @Ellid

    So, I’m guessing you think Dara Torres shouldn’t be allowed to keep swimming then?

  6. Lauren
    Lauren August 24, 2009 at 7:36 am |

    Whether it’s fair for her to compete against biologically standard women under those circumstances is a good question, but I’m inclined to say “no.”

    Why not?

  7. Evan
    Evan August 24, 2009 at 8:23 am |

    “The IAAF stresses that it does not suspect her of deliberately cheating but questions whether she may have a rare medical condition which gives her an unfair advantage.”

    They all have a ‘rare medical condition’ which gives them an unfair advantage. These are some of the top athletes in the world. They are not “normal.”

    Nobody questions whether Usain Bolt has a “rare medical condition.” He’s just f’in fast.

  8. debbie
    debbie August 24, 2009 at 8:37 am |

    It’s amazing how this story brings out the ignorance and transphobia of cis feminists across the blogosphere.

    Ellid – did you read the OP? And if so, why would you think it would be appropriate to conclude that it’s acceptable to comment on her body? On what basis can you conclude this woman is intersex? Let alone because of her six pack? OMG an elite female athlete has muscles, therefore she must not be a woman? You’re not her doctor. You don’t know. Your speculation is gross, intrusive, and transmisogynistic.

  9. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl August 24, 2009 at 9:07 am |

    Absolutely co-sign what Ishtar said about the IAAF’s appalling handling of this issue. Unbelievably unecessarily intrusive, insensitive and thoughtless of the consequences on a teenager. Ditto the media reaction.

    However, I wrestle with the issue of intergender/sex athletes.

    Clearly, athletes are separated by gender so that there is a roughly level physical playing field on which they can compete. There will always be people who are physically advantaged within this binary and within their sports i.e. Ian Thorpe’s size 17/18 feet or Michael Phelps’ amazing lactic acid recovery rates. These are clearly ‘outlying’ characteristics, at the very edge of what the human physique can be and it is those advantages, along with hard training, that makes them champions.

    But there comes a point where I am uncomfortable with these outlying physical advantages. For example, if Michael Phelps didn’t have any lactic acid build up at all, I would hesitate for his inclusion into competitive sports. Not because he would be doing anything wrong, but because his inclusion actually negates the possibility of fair competition for absolutely everyone else. It would be unfair on him, but fair to the concept of sport.

    And so I really struggle about intersex athletes inclusion into women’s sports (noting that intersex athletes are only typically advantaged if they are competing in the female category and are intersex-oriented more towards ‘maleness’). Not because I have any right to define their identity as women or because women should be/look a certain feminine way (as relates to the OP), but because there comes a point where their physical characteristics just outlies what is possible for every other female athlete to achieve through training.

    It is a medical fact that the hormone testosterone improves athletic performance, muscle strength/size etc and as a result, both male/female athletes have strict guidelines on its allowed levels in their bodies. If a female intersex athlete naturally falls outside this level, is it fair for them to compete? I struggle to answer anything but no.

    It seems a harsh and unfair answer, but competitive sport is harsh, unfair and arbitrary. I’m 5″2 and the rowing coach at my college said I had the best stroke and power through my legs he’d practically ever seen, but the only thing I could be was a cox as I just lacked the height to compete. Horrible for me, but typical sports. Just the same way as it’s almost impossible for a 6ft woman to be a competitive gymnast as a tall person’s lever/power ratio just don’t fit to the expected physical requirements of the sport/scoring system. Again, harsh and unfair and arbitrary, but sport.

    I’d be more than happy for someone far cleverer than me to come up with a new sport system that dispensed with the binary categorisation, but just as long as sports rely on physical characteristics such as strength/height/muscle development, it is always going to throw up problems with outliers from the categories.

  10. me
    me August 24, 2009 at 10:56 am |

    I am still very gratefull to Florence Griffith-Joyner for showing me that my massive tights make me the ideal sprinter and jumper. I am not sporty far from it, I never wanted to compete in sports, but this made me look at my abilities different. I am no long distance runner, but I can actually beat my boyfriend (and other men) on the sprint to the train, my usual discipline and I don’t hate my tights anymore. Yes they make finding jeans or trousers in general difficult, but they also make sprinting easy. And they give me a power that my arms don’t have. I am good at moving furniture, my legs do the heavy lifting. So girls all over the world who look in the mirror and see a six-pack and lots of muscle will go to bed knowing that there are other woman looking just like them and that this is ok. That woman come in more than the waif shape, which is ok too, but some woman have six-packs, some are build like the Williams sisters and some have tights. There is not one form fits all, even if advertisments and hollywood suggest otherwise. By the way I didn’t believe all the media stuff all around FGJ, I just saw a woman with massive tights running and this was enough.
    And I like the comment that all these athlets have a rare genetical condition, this is just so true.

  11. Forrester
    Forrester August 24, 2009 at 11:47 am |

    @debbie

    I believe Ellid’s point was that Caster has abdominal musculature far above and beyond what *other* elite female athletes have, and that that, combined with her blazing speed, would make it unsurprising if Caster is intersex or is androgen insensitive. You may disagree, but I can’t imagine for the life of me why this speculation is gross or intrusive. It would be if there weren’t men’s track vs women’s track, of course. Or, I suppose, if you think that any XY-chromosomed person should be able to race in women’s events if they identify as a woman. But, respectively, there is, and most don’t.

  12. shah8
    shah8 August 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm |

    Again…

    These are elite athletes.

    No elite athletes have standard body chemistry or shapes.

    That’s why they are elites.

  13. debbie
    debbie August 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm |

    I think that speculating on other people’s bodies and medical conditions is gross and intrusive, period. The fact that the speculation about Caster Semenya’s body/medical condition is all wrapped up in the “OMG she’s a MAN!,” and the attendant ignorance about intersex conditions and transmisogyny makes it particularly distasteful on a feminist blog.
    Caster Semenya (why do people keep referring to her as Caster? Do you know her? Are you friends?) was faster than her competition by about 2 seconds, but she’s more than 2 seconds slower than the top time in the women’s 800 meters. If the numbers I’m looking at are correct, her world championship time in this competition doesn’t even put her in the top ten in this event.
    Whether XY-chromosomed people should be able to race in women’s events if they identify as women is a derail, and I’m not going there.

  14. Forrester
    Forrester August 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm |

    @debbie

    Re this: ‘Whether XY-chromosomed people should be able to race in women’s events if they identify as women is a derail, and I’m not going there.’

    What I was trying to say was what WestEndGirl said far more intelligently and comprehensively than I did . . .

    And so I really struggle about intersex athletes inclusion into women’s sports (noting that intersex athletes are only typically advantaged if they are competing in the female category and are intersex-oriented more towards ‘maleness’). Not because I have any right to define their identity as women or because women should be/look a certain feminine way (as relates to the OP), but because there comes a point where their physical characteristics just outlies what is possible for every other female athlete to achieve through training.

    It is a medical fact that the hormone testosterone improves athletic performance, muscle strength/size etc and as a result, both male/female athletes have strict guidelines on its allowed levels in their bodies. If a female intersex athlete naturally falls outside this level, is it fair for them to compete? I struggle to answer anything but no.

  15. Forrester
    Forrester August 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm |

    @debbie

    Re this: ‘Whether XY-chromosomed people should be able to race in women’s events if they identify as women is a derail, and I’m not going there.’

    What I was trying to say was what WestEndGirl said far more intelligently and comprehensively than I did . . .

    And so I really struggle about intersex athletes inclusion into women’s sports (noting that intersex athletes are only typically advantaged if they are competing in the female category and are intersex-oriented more towards ‘maleness’). Not because I have any right to define their identity as women or because women should be/look a certain feminine way (as relates to the OP), but because there comes a point where their physical characteristics just outlies what is possible for every other female athlete to achieve through training.

    It is a medical fact that the hormone testosterone improves athletic performance, muscle strength/size etc and as a result, both male/female athletes have strict guidelines on its allowed levels in their bodies. If a female intersex athlete naturally falls outside this level, is it fair for them to compete? I struggle to answer anything but no.

  16. Michelle Gould
    Michelle Gould August 24, 2009 at 12:28 pm |

    WestEndGirl

    I would like to extend your logic to the rest of the would of professional careers other than athletes. By your logic someone born with and extraordinary voice, due to their vocal cords, should not be allowed to be a singer. Also someone born with a extraordinary good looks should not be allowed to be an actor or actress. Someone born with extraordinary intelligence should not be allowed to use that in their profession. Now as for armature sports where there should be a even playing field your logic stands.

  17. sonia
    sonia August 24, 2009 at 2:21 pm |

    People are considerably stupid over intersex conditions here. An androgen insensitive individual is androgen insensitive which means they are not going to see huge musculature regardless of what they do since they are insensitive to the effects of things like testosterone. So whatever Semenya may be, she’s certainly not this.

  18. Marlene
    Marlene August 24, 2009 at 2:46 pm |

    Ummmmmmmm…

    Actually trans folk are allowed to compete in the olympics. The question of XY people being allowed in “women’s” sports is a fairly well settled issue in most serious sporting circles.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2004/SPORT/05/17/olympics.transsexual/

    People sure do seem to have lots of opinions based on very little fact.

    @Debbie
    Yeah. Ignorance and transphobia. You said it.

  19. Reader
    Reader August 24, 2009 at 4:09 pm |

    A source close to the investigation into the 800 metres gold medallist has confirmed that tests carried out before the start of the World Championships indicated that the runner had three times the normal female level of testosterone in her body.

    If true, that might give Semenya quite an advantage. She has not been investigated because she’s not a “hot number.” Jesus.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/6078171/World-Athletics-Caster-Semenya-tests-show-high-testosterone-levels.html

  20. Thomas
    Thomas August 24, 2009 at 4:36 pm |

    Dealing with the issue case by case could predictably result, and has resulted, in putting an awful spotlight on one athlete. No good can come from that. While I don’t love the IOC bottom-surgery rule (what, a trans man needs a phalloplasty to compete in air rifle? Dumb idea, driven by an outmoded notions that all trans people are binary-identified and have genital surgery as a goal), they at least had the integrity to determine a rule in advance for trans athletes, having realized that case by case is a recipe for disaster.

    “Man” and “woman” are slippery categories. Chromosomes, endocrinology, genital anatomy and identity overlap for a lot of us, but not everyone, and in a world of over 6 billion people, there are way too many people to pretend a bright line exists where it doesn’t.

    Organizations that run sports that are split by sex categories ought to figure out their eligibility criteria in advance, which I hope would minimize (sadly, I doubt it would eliminate) this stupid “looks like …” shit.

  21. Marlene
    Marlene August 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm |

    The competitor does have to COCK the air rifle. :)

    I’m not crazy about the IOC surgery rule either. They should have stopped at gonads.

  22. ACG
    ACG August 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm |

    1. I lust after those abs. LUST.

    2. When your first reaction to the post is, “Yeah, but if you look at her, she really could be intersexed,” you’ve kind of missed the point of the post. Yes, she has a face that isn’t traditionally feminine and abs that you could grate cheese on. You know what she also has? Such low body fat as to pretty much lack breasts, which is not uncommon among elite female athletes – and which leaves those muscles nicely defined. She also has, if you’ve been watching the news coverage, a mother whose face isn’t traditionally feminine, but no one’s questioning whether she’s actually enough of a female to have given birth. (Yet. Maybe it’s a conspiracy! Maybe her “mother” is actually intersex, and she lied about giving birth to Semenya to hide the fact that Semenya is also intersex! Quel scandal!)

    As bizarre as it might seem, some people are fully genetically female and still naturally predisposed to ridiculous athletic talent. Jens mentions Dara Torres, who’s had to endure her own accusations – steroid use – to explain her great performances against women who aren’t 41-year-old mothers of two. Here’s one explanation: Have you looked at her? She’s working on six feet tall and has shoulders that could get stuck in doorways. You don’t need performance-enhancing drugs if a) you’re already built to be an elite athlete and b) you work all day, every day, to make the most of what you’ve been genetically given.

    And that’s the other thing: On top of the assumption that a woman has to look traditionally feminine to be female is the assumption that she can’t perform in a man-threatening kind of way merely by virtue of her own effort. Yes, these women have the bodies to be athletes, but that wouldn’t mean anything in elite competition if they spent most of their time on the couch. That combination of inherent gift and hard work creates a woman who is strong, capable, and not easily intimidated or put in her place, and that just can’t be natural.

    3. I lust after Dara Torres’s shoulders, too.

  23. JJ
    JJ August 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm |

    Here’s a article about the Semenya controversy that I agree with:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6804449.ece

  24. OhSoGirly
    OhSoGirly August 24, 2009 at 6:24 pm |

    “She has a six pack”, is a damn stupid reason to doubt someone’s biological sex as female. This woman is a professional athlete for God’s sake. She probably has the genes and the training to build her body in a way she feels suits her sport. During my teenage years I had always wished to have the discipline to get abs like Janet Jackson’s (the singer). At certain stages they were even more defined that Caster Semenya’s are. No one ever questioned Jackson’s biological sex. I guess she was “feminine” enough in her music videos. Thanks for pointing out that the “Semenya is unusually fast” argument is bollocks.

  25. JJ
    JJ August 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm |

    I’m having another go at posting the link.

    here it is.

  26. timothynakayama
    timothynakayama August 24, 2009 at 11:36 pm |

    If the argument is that elite level athletes have builds and genetic makeup that is not like your typical Jane and Joe, and as some posters have noted above, some of these athletes will have a genetic disposition that sets them a little bit above others (for example: Phelps producing little lactic acid), then can’t we use the same argument to say that elite women athletes should be able to compete with elite male athletes (thus not needing Male and female divisions). If the male athlete is a little bit heavier and taller, couldn’t you then say that it’s just a genetic advantage, like Phelp’s body producing little lactic acid?

    Afterall, people always say that on average, men are a bit taller and stronger than women, but that is the average man and woman. Whereas we’re talking about ELITE level athletes here, people who are BEYOND average by leaps and bounds.

  27. octogalore
    octogalore August 25, 2009 at 10:59 am |

    I agree that the norms female athletes must fit in order to be considered appropriately woman-like are intrusive and misogynist.

    But I also think it’s important to ensure that XX women still have a shot at elite level sports. Semenya, whether or not she is in that category, is blameless here, and doesn’t deserve the negative spotlight, as Thomas says. Prior testing and qualification should be done in privacy. As WestEndGirl says: “It is a medical fact that the hormone testosterone improves athletic performance, muscle strength/size etc and as a result, both male/female athletes have strict guidelines on its allowed levels in their bodies. If a female intersex athlete naturally falls outside this level, is it fair for them to compete? I struggle to answer anything but no.”

    As pointed out above, all athletes have some kind of anatomical advantage, but very few of them restrict out large groups of people — for example, swimmers with different kinds of bodies than Phelps’ or Torres’ can and have succeeded. Allowing more flexibility in this situation, though, would consign XX women to the bench for many elite sports.

  28. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 11:42 am |

    octagalore

    1) The point of the post and thread is that people routinely disclaim the femaleness of any crab that gets too close to the lid the barrel. Sometimes it’s steroids, sometimes it’s omg She’s Really A He!

    2) Testosterone does not improve athletic performance in isolation. Neither does HGH. They aren’t magic chemicals.

    3) On behalf of all the mannish women I’ve ever known, and I’ve certainly known some very mannish women, I really resent the double assumption that they don’t have two XX, and that XY, XXY, X0 people can’t be considered women just because of chromosomes. It’s stupifyingly uneducated, genetics-wise, to think so.

    4) You just can’t make a fair brightline without increasing the male gaze to unbearable levels. For example, all female sprinters must have a certain waist to hip ratio. All female basketball players must have a certain amount of body mass of the right kind in the right players. It’s already truly skeevy when it comes to the defacto body standards enforced on female gymnasts. Or Beach Volleyball.

    5) At the end of the day, there really needs to be a zero tolerance policy for bitter losers in women’s sports because *every* damn time some women crushes her competition, the noises about how manly they are comes out.

  29. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 11:59 am |

    Also, heh heh

    Here’s the interesting thing. Let’s take sprinting…

    Women can be really, really, fast. So fast that it takes a world class male to beat them. That puts a really large barrier for any…OMG TRANSEXUAL to compete in any races. More than that, for said transexual would have to keep popping them steroid pills just to keep up with the natual production from ovaries in other women and to compete longterm. The difficulties go on from there. It’s sorta why transexuals are allowed to compete.

    Whatever the brand of intersex you get, I can promise you that the vast majority can’t compete athletically for similar reasons. To really compete, you’d have to be intersex in a very, very, specific manner, which is nothing compared to the riotous diversity of female endocrine systems (and response to athletic training). The possibilities of women’s bodies can throw out more androgynine shapes than people are willing to give credit for.

    Because then, where’s the sex appeal?

    stop the transphobia.

  30. debbie
    debbie August 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm |

    Since this thread has descended into a derail of whether women with various intersex conditions (or in this case a woman who might have an intersex condition) have an advantage over non-intersex women, is there any evidence this is true? This conversation strikes me as a bunch of non-intersex people, who as far as I know are not doctors (let alone endocrinologists or geneticists), making some strong assertions about intersex people’s bodies. Do you have anything to actually back this up?

  31. Thomas
    Thomas August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    Octo, just to be clear, I don’t think it’s as simple as chromosomes. As Debbie points out, it’s not all that clear what conditions, if any, provide a competetive advantage and also implicate sex category — in track, let alone other competetive sports. (I don’t pretend to be conversant in the specialist literature of the impact of, say, androgen insensitivity on competetive athletics — assuming anyone has even done that research). There’s a whole mix of genetics and endocrinology that affect physiology. And frankly I think that any effort to divide “men” and “women” biologically is likely to be arbitrary — working with biological competitive advantages is, as lots of folks have pointed out, what competition is. But if we’re going to have arbitrary lines that determine which advantageous biological anomalies are favored and which are disallowed, then those judgments should be made ahead of time instead of imposed after the fact.

  32. octogalore
    octogalore August 25, 2009 at 2:48 pm |

    shah8:

    1) See: my first sentence.

    2) Au contraire: “‘A long-term buildup of testosterone would produce results,’ said Allan Mazur, a professor of public affairs at Syracuse University…’Steroids are not going to take someone without athletic ability and turn them into a star athlete, or teach you how to swing a bat and connect with the ball,’ said Douglas A. Granger, the director of the behavioral endocrinology laboratory at Pennsylvania State University. ‘But if you have a certain athletic presence, testosterone could take you to the next level.’”

    3) Please show me where I said that.

    4) Ditto

    5) A zero tolerance policy for questioning would lead to a moratorium on legitimate as well as illegitimate questions. Sounds better in theory than it would operate in practice.

  33. octogalore
    octogalore August 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm |

    shah8 and debbie: the views expressed regarding fairness don’t stem from transphobia. Look at Marlene’s link to the policy for transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics, #18. Transgender advisors weighed in specifically to eliminate gender advantage while ensuring fairness to transgender athletes. Per the link, the policy regarding the participation of MTF transgender athletes was approved by Jamison Green, a member of the board of directors of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, a New York-based advocacy organization. The policy requires: “Hormone therapy — for the assigned sex — must have been given for long enough to minimize any gender-related advantages in sport competitions.”

    I think anyone, whether intersex or transgender, at whatever stage of transition, who identifies as female is female and should be acknowledged as such. That is a separate issue from sports competition.

  34. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm |

    Okay, staying to format

    1) You wrote a Yes, but… post. Same mechanisms traditionally found in anti-affirmative action screeds for one. Your first sentence covers for the rest of what you said.

    2) Your link does not contradict what I’ve said. Of course a buildup of testosterone can give you an edge–in the right context, but the gist of my meaning is exactly what Dr Granger (and the article in general) said. Steroids and HGH has such a huge footprint in people’s minds far more than it merits. People should read the article, it’s actually not bad science writing out of the NYTimes, for once.

    Let’s just break it down into a chunk for non-biologist. Endocrinology, after neurology and developmental biology, is the hardest freakin’ subject around. Every hormone, and I do mean *every* hormone (and similar like neuromodulators) have multiple functions and interact in byzantine ways. If this could be simple, we’d already have the cure for diabetes. Or to put it another way, a woman’s body *needs* long term testosterone buildup to be a woman. Testosterone acts differently in different contexts, on the whole. Which is why testosterone is a preposterous canidate for masculinity identifier. Give it up. There is a reason why tests for gender is so damn intrusive.

    3) Your second sentence! At the very least, by implication! Because, woot! Let’s test every woman for XXness!

    4) That was a response to the last segment of your post at 27. You know, how impractical taking that segment really would be?

    5) Well, I wanted a moratorium because there doesn’t seem to be very many cases of special intersex nonwomen participating in women’s sports in a problematic sense. Or perhaps there is the exact same number as women who like to get pregnant so they can have an abortion. It’s just generally sexist and transphobic, and a great way to put down the achievments of the envied or disliked.

  35. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 4:22 pm |

    Correction for
    4) –taking that segment seriously really would be?

  36. matlun
    matlun August 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm |

    The basic problem of having this kind of “gender testing” is pretty much unavoidable.

    Since men are naturally better at sports than women, the women have their own competitions in sports. If you think this is a good idea, you clearly need to have some kind of criteria deciding which people are allowed to compete in these restricted competions.

    Even if we only look on physical sex, there are border line cases which will require some procedure for fair judgement. So having some form of “gender testing” for unclear cases is necessary. (Whether or not the current procedure is the “correct” one is not something I have an opinion on…)

    That being said, this should not have been allowed to become a media storm. The testing should have been kept as a private matter until a result was reached.

  37. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 4:40 pm |

    How on earth do you keep such things private?

    Testing would make a major burden on female athletes and the sports that they love.

    AGAIN, is this actually a fucking problem that needs solving? Or are you just assuming everyone who’s suspiciously good is a man?

  38. octogalore
    octogalore August 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm |

    shah8, you appear to be reaching for the arguments you wish to refute rather than reading what’s there.

    1) Nope. The first sentence is consistent with the rest of the comment. As I say in a comment still under moderation: “I think anyone, whether intersex or transgender, at whatever stage of transition, who identifies as female is female and should be acknowledged as such. That is a separate issue from sports competition.”

    2) It appears the Olympic medical committee and its transgender advisors disagree with you, per link in comment #18 here.

    3) Incorrect. Saying “it’s important to ensure that XX women still have a shot at elite level sports” doesn’t assume anything about which women don’t have two XX, and certainly doesn’t make any statement that XY, XXY, X0 people can’t be considered women just because of chromosomes — in fact I’ve stated the opposite numerous times now.

    4) “You know, how impractical taking that segment really would be?” Not sure what this means.

    5) Because my earlier comment distinguishing sports competition with infringing on ones rights to self identification and determination is in mod, I will restate: the views expressed regarding fairness don’t stem from transphobia. Look at #18. Transgender advisors weighed in specifically to eliminate gender advantage while ensuring fairness to transgender athletes. Per the link, the policy regarding the participation of MTF transgender athletes was approved by Jamison Green, a member of the board of directors of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute advocacy organization. The policy requires: “Hormone therapy — for the assigned sex — must have been given for long enough to minimize any gender-related advantages in sport competitions.”

    Insisting ones opponents are bigots rather than engaging their actual arguments isn’t the kind of discussion I want to be part of, so I suggest we draw the line here and simply agree to disagree.

  39. Sid
    Sid August 25, 2009 at 5:29 pm |

    For me, the most bizarre issue is why people think her potential intersex or male gender would be more likely than possible steroid use, especially when this hubbub was brought about beacsue of rapid increases in times within a recent timespan.

    Also, @ 10, what are tights, do you mean quads?

    I think what shouldn’t be forgotten in all this talk of her “unfeminine” appearance is the subtle(and oftetimes not) racism that underlies those traditionally feminine appearances: thin, petite noses; soft chins; delitcate lips, etc. features which by and large WOC’s and other minority women do not have in nearly as great proportion as Caucasian women.

  40. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm |

    Of course we can agree to disagree. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m cool with allowing your words to stand and speak for itself.

  41. ACG
    ACG August 25, 2009 at 6:22 pm |

    From what I can tell, the biggest challenge in testing for sex – particularly intersex, because it’s generally accepted that an extremely talented XX athlete is still a female athlete, regardless of outlier-level talent – is to know what to do when you get there. Say a female athlete, genitalia and all, is tested and comes up XY. What do you do with her? How do you decide which group she should compete with? Do you say, “Oh, well, you’re better than the women because you’re an XY, so you have to compete with the men” and then watch her possibly underperform because she’s a woman competing against men? And when she gets to the men’s league, would they kick her back to the women’s league because she presents female? At the very least, you run the risk of an Annika Sorenstam, who dominated the LPGA but showed up average against the men.

    And none of this is to say that a woman can’t possibly compete at an elite level against men – but the ones who can are quite rare. Forcing a female athlete, even an XY one, to compete out of her league because she’s just too good to really be a female athlete will force a lot of talented, dedicated women out of high-level competition. And “Well, now, we just can’t figger out where to put ‘em” is a crappy excuse for excluding intersex athletes from competition.

    To me, though, the entire argument kind of detracts from Semenya’s situation. She’s not fighting for her right to perform as an intersex athlete. She’s fighting for her right to compete as a female athlete – for the sport to recognize that she can look the way she looks and perform the way she performs and still be fully, unarguably female.

  42. shah8
    shah8 August 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm |

    What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll find a whole bunch of run-of-the-mill athletes who play the game because they love it–and then tell them they can’t play the game anymores. Hey, because they are cheating, regardless of whether they actually obtain any benefit from diverging from whatever norms the testing agency proposes.

    Security theater at the expense of women’s bodies.

  43. Jadey
    Jadey August 25, 2009 at 6:35 pm |

    Competitive sports are pretty far beyond my ken, so I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. That being said, it seems to me that given the vagaries of human genetics and how important every little advantage is at this level, the only truly meaningful competitor you can have in these situations is yourself. That is, if the only point is to win (which I’m gathering is the case). Otherwise these thresholds of who can and cannot compete (and against whom) seem arbitary and biased towards the status quo.

  44. Jadey
    Jadey August 25, 2009 at 6:40 pm |

    Also, it occurs to me that my previous comment could be read as dismissive of sports and this discussion, which is not my intention. I think that this issue has a lot of resonance and I think the treatment of Caster Semenya is shameful and indicative of some serious issues, some of which I think are deeply embedded in the mindset and culture of competitive sports, and how bodies are conceptualized and treated within athletic communities and in society at large.

  45. laprofe63
    laprofe63 August 25, 2009 at 11:06 pm |

    Interesting discussion. Sad situation for the athlete who deserves to enjoy her victory without the media spectacle.

    Does anyone think race has anything to do with this? Or is this all about the fact that she won and doesn’t look as women athletes are “supposed” to –ie. “still pretty” –in a traditional way of course (plucked eyebrows, soft jaw, inviting smile, etc.)

    When I first saw this in the news my gut told me that it’s her face that “offends” the sensibilities of those watching women’s sports. “Sorry, no manly (read “ugly”) women allowed. Gotta be ‘HOTT’”! (…as in still sexually desirable to the male gaze.)

  46. matlun
    matlun August 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm |

    I did not mean to come off as overly dismissive about the issue. I just wanted to say that you need some sort of rule for who are allowed to compete in women’s events. No matter where you draw the line there will be room for perceived injustice, so you just have to try to find the best possible compromise.

    That being said, it is certainly possible to criticise the current procedures, but it takes a somewhat more balanced view. See for example the position of the Women’s Sport Foundation.

  47. Freya
    Freya August 26, 2009 at 10:43 pm |

    Re: abs as an indicator of masculinity

    I have abs. Not as good as Caster Semenya’s, but I do have a six-pack. I would undoubtedly have better abs if I actually worked on them, instead of merely having some medical issues which have the side-effect of making it very difficult for me to put on fat coverage and very easy to put on muscles (as well as the exercise intolerance). And I am definitely female.

  48. Stefanie Gilbreath
    Stefanie Gilbreath September 22, 2009 at 7:52 am |

    I completely agree with everything you are saying about women and femininity. As an athlete myself we tend to run into this problem in our own personal lives when it comes to dating and wanting to look the part of a young lady. Unfortunately, in our society we are judged a lot by our physical features and nobody looks past what’s on the outside. It really is too bad that a woman cannot be physically fit for their sport and be considered feminine. It seems like you are forced to choose between being a “girly girl” or an athlete. In the story of Caster Semenya, I feel like the only reason they were questioning if she was a female was because she did extremely well in her race. Then, people started looking at her physical features like her abdominal area, her face, and her strongly defined arms and legs. After they put all that together then they wanted her to get tested. So, does that mean if you actually have all these features as an athlete then you are a male? Even though she ended up having some medical issues, there was nothing that was outrageously prevalent to make people think that she was a man. The way people look at female athletes need to change completely and more people should look into this a lot more.

  49. m
    m October 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm |

    If Ms. Semenya is found to have AIS, this leads me to wonder if she was concerned about her menses (or lack thereof)?
    I hesitate to ask the question because it deals with personal issues but I can’t stop thinking about it:
    Late onset of menses can be an indicator of serious medical issues, including ovarian cancer (a roommate of mine saw here doctor at age 17 because she had failed to begin menstruating. Less than a week later she was starting an agressive treatment to deal with ovarian cancer.)

    More generally, as an athlete, I continue to be frustrated when the male engineers who design the equipment that I use think that they can hide the fact the a product was not actually designed for women by painting it pink.
    Likewise, the aggressive, combative affirmation of their heterosexuality by women athletes is also hard to take (constant references to male partners and to socially acceptable feminine behavior, etc).

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