Flutterby™! : Gender and Race

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Gender and Race

2009-08-20 15:25:18.346749+00 by ebradway 2 comments

On the tail of Jamaican Usain Bolt smashing the 100m record, an interesting controversy has come up in women's track. South African, Caster Semenya, after easily winning the 800m event, is having her gender questioned. Interestingly, even if she was born with female genitalia and raised female, if she carries male chromosomes, she would be disqualified. From the Times Online:

There are between 20 and 30 different types of “intersex” conditions, each of them affecting the body in different ways, and it is for the medics to decide whether, if Semenya is found to have one of them, the resulting hormonal balance gives her an unfair advantage.

Granted, I never found this to be much of a problem. But according to the Times, "Gender verification used to be mandatory across Olympic sports but the issue was so delicate and scientifically complicated that it was dropped before the Sydney Olympics."

This could be huge for feminists and homosexuals. First, it creates a class of "natural" or "pure" women, despite the fact that women with "intersex conditions" suffer the same disadvantages (and likely more). If you liken this to Oscar Pistorius' bid to run in the 2008 Olympics, his statement was basically "I don't think anyone is going to cut off their legs to gain an advantage." Similarly, I can't imagine anyone willingly accepting the societal disadvantages of being female just to win races. And no one is questioning Usain Bolt's masculinity.

For homosexuals, it provides more evidence that sexuality and sexual orientation is not cut-and-dry: male or female, opposites attract.

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Erotic Sexual Culture Sports Fabrication Race ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-20 19:48:57.921342+00 by: Dan Lyke

The gender aspects of this are interesting (chromosonal tests to decide which bathroom, anyone?), but it's also a look at how as technology gets better the rules of the sport become more and more narrowly defined. I don't suppose we'll ever know the truth of the matter, but the claims that Floyd Landis's positive tests came from aspects of his physiology might suggest that as we learn how to test for some things, sports create these little subsets of people who can and can't be eligible based on criteria that the participants themselves may not be aware of.

And to mash-up the Oscar Pistorius situation with the Floyd Landis situation, where's the line between taking performance enhancing drugs to overcome physiological lack and using mechanical legs to do the same?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-23 23:06:45.01435+00 by: ebradway

The main difference between Oscar Pistorius' physiological lack and the "lack" made up by doping is that Pistorius' is a lack that is universal to his experience in life - not just competing. No runner would cut off his legs to attain the "advantage" that Pistorius "enjoys". Just as no man would voluntarily live the life of a black woman just to compete in national track and field.