Friday, August 21, 2009

Gold Medal Winner Must Prove She Is A Girl (Video)

Caster Semenya is getting a gender test to see if she can keep her gold medal. The 18-year-old girl from South Africa won the gold for the women’s 800 meters at the world track and field championships in Berlin. The thinking is: anyone who can run this fast must be a boy. Caster is also not "feminine" enough. And she's the only girl in the race who failed to dress with a centerfold in mind.

Where and in how many variations have we heard this before? Women authors come to mind. When 19-year-old Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and published it anonymously, critics raved and declared the author to be a rare masculine genius. When the author turned out to be just a girl, they changed their minds. Frankenstein was suddenly not such a great book.

The gender test is a full scale "investigation" that could take weeks.

As the Sports Scientists note, this isn’t an issue of cultural gender, but of medical definitions of sex. Semenya has already passed “physical” gender tests (y’know - lifting up her skirt), so all that’s left is examining her genetic makeup to see if she’s actually an intersex athlete: not fully female or male.

Sex-determination testing was once obligatory for female athletes at the Olympics because of persistent allegations that some competitors were not really women. . . The sex-determination testing was phased out in 1999 because of concerns about inequities. The testing is now reserved for specific cases in Olympic sports. . .

The Guardian reports that Caster Semenya "aroused suspicions when she posted the fastest 800m time in the world this year, winning gold at the African junior championships."