Female Athletes and Gender Testing
I've been thinking about female athletes and gender this week after reading a part in My Gender Workbook that described female athletes as being able to "transcend gender" in the act of participating in sports, and trying to figure out how gender plays into athletics in general. For so long, women really weren't seen as athletes. They couldn't play anywhere near the variety of sports that men could, and couldn't compete in the few sports they were allowed at a high level. The advent of Title IX helped to dramatically change that. However, something that I found incredibly troubling is the presence of gender testing of athletes.
In 2009 Caster Semenya, an 18 year old South African, was subjected to a variety of tests designed to ascertain her "true gender" after she won the gold medal in the 800 meters at the World Championships in Berlin. She'd lived her whole life as a woman but authorities called her gender into question because of her strength and appearance. After an extended period of time, Semenya was allowed to return to competition as a woman, but she participated in a make-over for the South African magazine "You" that made her appear more feminine.
In 2006, a similar situation occurred where Santhi Soundarajan actually lost her silver medal for the 800m in the Asian Games because tests proved her ineligible to compete as a woman, even though she'd been previously tested and they deemed her eligible. I find it incredibly offensive and humiliating that these people can say that someone is "too strong" or "too fast" to be a woman. The variety of tests that have to be conducted--physical examinations, blood tests, psychological testing--prove that gender is not black and white. What does this mean that your gender can be "disproved"?