(I’ll warn you now this is a serious rant on my part)
Recently I saw a documentary on Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was subjected to a media storm in 2009 over her ‘gender’ and suspended from competing. I sat in amazement, staring at the screen while expert after expert babbled on and on about how there is no scientific test for gender! It seemed fairly obvious to me, if she was born with girlie bits and no boy bits, she’s a girl. At no point was it ever suggested that she had knowingly tried to deceive. The authorities kept going on about hormone levels and medical disorders potentially giving her an unfair advantage. ‘Unfair genetic advantage’ was a term used a lot. I found it interesting that all these ‘authorities’ were men. Has anyone suggested that some of the really tall basket ball players shouldn’t be allowed to play because they have a genetic advantage (being tall), or Michael Phelps the swimmer should be disqualified for having large feet? Yup, got it in one…. no-one is suggesting that at all.
Caster Semenya (photo taken from the Guardian Website – hope they don’t mind)
So what exactly was the problem? Well as far as I could tell, some people consider her a little butch in appearance. Now I’m sorry if I’m up on my soap box about this, but that really gets my goat. Who is to say what a woman should look like?
The media? They’d have us all skinny with boob implants. Take a look at how women are represented on the tv or in magazines. If you’re attractive, you’re thin in their world. I work with teenagers and I know how many of the girls suffer from incredibly low self esteem simply because they don’t look like Kiera Knightley.
Hmmm so what about the Sports organisations? Well Caster Semenya was 18 at the time and I remember all to well how I felt at that age. Constantly worried about my appearance and desperately trying to conform to the ideals of how I was supposed to look. The slightest comment could knock my confidence out the street, round the corner and then propelled it far out to sea where it was set adrift on a small rickety raft and left to die.
Thing is throughout the documentary I just kept wondering how those officials would feel if someone questioned their gender. We all know how sensitive your average man is about his manliness. In her mind this young woman is female, she’s always been a female, and yet here were a bunch of people saying she wasn’t because she could run fast and didn’t look like their idea of a girl. I just saw a teenager in a pink girlie top.
Anyway I shall stop ranting now and if you’re still reading I’ll just say thanks for letting me get that off my chest (a chest I might add that has not been and never will be surgically enhanced).