Much has been written about the controversy regarding the sex verification testing of Caster Semenya following the IAAF Championships in August 2009 (to read more go here, here, here, here, & here).
Given all Semenya has endured, I can’t say I was surprised (albeit saddened) to see an article today titled, “Embattled track star Caster Semenya gets new coach, new look” which also featured the cover of You magazine (pictured here).
It also got me thinking…When a man outperforms his competition by a large margin—such as sprinter Usain Bolt for example—no one asks “Is he really a man?” No one says, “He is so fast, he might be a woman. He should be tested.” But when a woman wins by a lot—such as sprinter Caster Semenya—her sex is immediately questioned, “Is she really a woman?” This appears to be a clear example of marginalizing female athletic performance, homophobia, and sexism. Unfortunately Semenya’s ‘new’ look is not a new phenomenon for female athletes who have fallen under scrutiny as a result of outstanding sport performances.
Following South African Caster Semenya’s 800m win at the Track & Field (IAAF) World Championships, a storm of opinions and commentary erupted over her subsequent sex testing/gender verification.
Some of the best I’ve seen is The Nation piece written by Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf, an MSNBC video exposing the “Twisted, Sexist, Racist, & Heteronormative” Track & Field History, and two blogs by After Atlanta (here and here).
One sport sociology colleague on Facebook asked pertaining to most of the existing media coverage…”Are we in the 1950’s?” As Zirin and Wolf write, this issue is a “minefield of sexism and homophobia”….but thankfully the critical perspective has emerged.