Adult room in soweto
We write in response to the controversy surrounding the 800 m women’s world running champion, Caster Semenya and the flurry of articles surrounding this sad saga.
Some of those championing Caster’s cause accuse those wanting to sex-test Caster of imperialism and racism (as well as sexism).
Others plead for the us to wait before ‘reaching a verdict' arguing that the realities of sex testing are enormously complex.
Firstly to address the issue of terminology, over which there seems to be confusion.
At the core of this issue are ideas about gender - how girls/women and boys/men ‘look’ and ‘behave’ and perform (in this case perhaps a young woman winning by 2 seconds ahead of the field is not seen as 'normal').
Societies have a long way to go in terms of changing the dominant ideas on how women and men should ‘look’ and behave and perform and in some cases, dress – and allow for variations in ‘looks’ and roles to be underpinned by what people would like to be and do, rather than societies’ current dominant expectations.
It is these ideas and actions that promote gender discrimination.
This leads to men, who in societies’ terms do not look ‘masculine enough’, being called ‘sissies’ and women who look not ‘feminine enough’ being labelled ‘butch’.
Professor Tim Noakes, an international sports science expert says the issue of ‘unfair advantage’ which is the only thing that should be at play here as it is in the case of drug use,is simple to establish.
He states that the issue that needs to be clarified here is whether the person concerned is a man masquerading as a woman or not.This could be established by a simple physical examination ‘handled within the usual constraints of the doctor/patient domain – not in the public domain” (Cape Argus, ‘Why the world should leave Caster alone’ Fri Aug 21, 20), as has happened in the harmful manner in which the IAAF has handled this. All other possible tests including chromosome testing are indeterminate and should be left well alone.The calls for more to be done in dealing with this issue and await judgment are therefore erroneous and cloud the issue in a shroud of inappropriate so-called scientific enquiry.Gender is the dominant society’s views on how women and men should look, behave, what roles they should play in society, how they should perform and frequently what rewards they receive – hence gender inequity.