Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Monday, August 24, 2009

An "update" from After Atalanta:

First, back to the "old" news of the week: the gender verification of Caster Semenya. Nothing has changed regarding her circumstances. But a lot of objection has been voiced to the process as well as to seeming lack of tact the IAAF has exhibited in keeping this matter a more private one. Both Dave Zirin and Pat Griffin have written excellent columns on the ongoing issue.

From "friend of the blog" Dave:
The people with something to hide are the powers that be in track and field, as well as in international sport. As long as there have been womens' sports, the characterization of the best female athletes as "looking like men" or "mannish" has consistently been used to degrade them. When Martina Navratilova dominated women's tennis and proudly exposed her chiseled biceps years before Hollywood gave its imprimatur to gals with "guns," players complained that she "must have a chromosome loose somewhere."

This minefield of sexism and homophobia has long pushed female athletes into magazines like Maxim to prove their "hotness"--and implicitly their heterosexuality. Track and field in particular has always had this preoccupation with gender, particularly when it crosses paths with racism. Fifty years ago, Olympic official Norman Cox proposed that in the case of black women, "the International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them--the unfairly advantaged 'hermaphrodites.'"
And from Pat:
This sorry incident provides more evidence that the world of sport needs to come into the 21st Century with regard to sex, gender and sexuality. These social constructions are way more complicated and fluid than we are led to believe in our simplistic either/or world. Add sexism to the mix: how could a woman possibly run that fast, she must be a man! Add a little narrow-mindedness about gender expression: She’s too muscular, her hair is too short, her voice is too deep. Possibly add a little racism: would a European or American athlete be treated in the same disrespectful way without regard for her privacy? Heck, while we are at it, let’s also add some homophobia too. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.