Seldom have I seen a rejoinder as plain-spoken and incisive as the ANC’s to accusations that women’s 800-meter world champion Caster Semenya is not a woman. I could not find or conjure up a better title for this post.
Caster Semenya earned a gold medal in Berlin yesterday by winning the 800-meter final rather handily. But, in timeworn fashion, there had to be controversy. Whenever a female athlete performs above expectations, especially if she has a muscular (often rendered artlessly as “masculine”) build, you can bet there will be questions. Other recent victims of this include Cris “Cyborg” Santos and Dara Torres.
This sort of thing is nothing new, however, as Erik Siwak correctly points out. And “gender verification testing,” which Semenya is now being subjected to, has its own long, sordid history: a realm where science begins to look rather like the dog chasing his tail.
Female athletes shouldn’t have to contend with such nonsense. To my mind, the thinking that animates this holds back female athletes more than anything else. They sometimes curb their training, fearing ridicule or censure for a look that is too muscular. Worse yet, often these are the more talented athletes. How much better would they be if they weren’t held back by outmoded nonsense?
The Semenya “controversy” can fairly be said to evince sexism, racism, and homophobia; but perhaps most of all, lunacy.