Thursday, August 27, 2009

When the World Debates Your Gender

What a firestorm Miss Semenya has caused. Ever since, she siezed the gold medal for the 800m women's at the IAAF Champs, she's been at the centre of this totally ridiculous controversy concerning her gender.

It's funny to me. When I saw her running, it did not even occur to me that her gender is somewhat unclear. I saw a young woman running exceptionally well and clobbering her competitors. As it turned out, the French and Russian runners that she beat were upset about the astounding way she won the race and went on a mission to create some speculation.

She's been treated to a hero's welcome here - OR Tambo Airport was populated with hundreds of newfound fans congratulating her first-time performance at the tournament.
But it's the questions that baffle me. She's muscular yes, she's strong and athletic in physique like most other athletes yet there still remains a big question mark as to what side of the population she should be classified under and it's kind of tragic.

I know she's a woman. You can see it on her face. She may not conform to the popular standard of beauty that society seems to dictate. Her hair is not long, her body is not soft, her breasts are not full and she does not wear her hair long. That's exactly why she's been given so much scrutiny. I really don't think they would have bothered had she been more feminine in the way she appears.

I've even heard some say that she must change her ways and learn female etiquette. Once again, it comes down to the gender-binary and the pressure it puts on androgynes to fit the norm. I wrote a post about gender-role transcendence before and this is certainly something to consider here. We're a long way away from a world where gender is hardly an issue in the way people are judged.

On the other hand, I would agree with those that accuse those that alleged against her of racism. Would they have bothered to bring this up if she had not placed first and simply won silver or bronze or nothing at all? No, they would not have given a damn and that goes to show that whites still have a problem with people of colour dominating sport. Venus and Serena have had to face up to the same challenges and evne worse for them playing in a sport which is white-dominated.

Claims of racism were made against "white media" and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) by politicians and Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene these past two days, but Sam said Semenya formed part of their strategy for London and would remain so unless an investigation into Semenya's gender by the IAAF proved otherwise.

The bloggers at racialicious made some pertinent comments about the whole charade and I could certainly agree with most of what is being said by the media defending Semenya's privacy. This case should have been handled in a confidential manner but it's leaked. Can you imagine having the whole world debate on whether or not you really are what you claim to be? I certainly can't.

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