Today’s blog post is brought to you by caffeine and an ever increasing desire to spout vitriolic sentiment to the masses.
This story pissed me off on several levels, but I’m glad to see that it has been addressed very nicely here.
Let’s leave public humiliation of a teenager aside for a moment. Don’t worry though, I’ll get back to that later.
I stumbled across this article here, dated Wednesday 19th August.
“the South African’s physique and powerful style have sparked speculation in recent months that she may not be entirely female”
Does that mean that if she is a pseudohermaphrodite, she wouldn’t be eligible for taking part in the games? And if so, isn’t that a bit… you know… mean? She’s clearly a great runner, she defines herself as a woman – as do her parents according to the birth certificate above (courtesy of the Daily Mail). If her natural levels of testosterone happen to be higher, is that an “unfair” advantage, or just a physical advantage? I never claim that tall people have an unfair advantage when it comes to reaching for things on high shelves (although I definitely will from now on).
According to the NY times:
“The Bantu, a group of indigenous South African people, may be more predisposed to being hermaphrodites but they do not always have obvious male genitalia, said Dr. Maria New, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They are genetically female yet have both testes and ovaries.”
Right… so that means that an unusual but natural physical occurence could make her disqualified from the games?
(At least according to The Age article:)
“there is a strong likelihood that the teenager from Pretoria will be disqualified from the final”
Hold on a moment….
Surely Yao Ming is at an “unfair advantage” for being naturally very tall… and yet he’s allowed to play basketball! Has the world gone mad?
…I think I’ve made my point.
Now on to the public humiliation of a teenager: She was born in 1991. I remember 1991, I was only 5, but it was the year they took “milk breaks” out of our daily schedule in primary school. It was also the year I read “A Christmas Carol” (I’m a fast learner, but that didn’t stop it taking me about 3 months to finish). 1991 was the same year that one of my favourite albums was released - I had no idea what “There’s something about you, baby, that makes me want to give it to you” meant, but I knew all the words.
18 year olds generally have a lot on their plate. Add to that the pressure of being on live international television representing your country. Then on top of that, someone decides that you look a bit mannish. Rather than approach you or your representative in private, this story is leaked, and now the WHOLE WORLD is wondering if you’re a bloke.
A few publications have reported this story. Encouragingly, the comments on the Daily Mail website seem to support Caster Semenya. The Grauniad has a slightly different take on it, with a headline concerning western racist attitudes. And the BBC get it slightly wrong, failing to notice there’s a difference between gender and sex, although this BBC blog goes into detail with links explaining the different examinations she will have to have. For some of the ethics behind this story, I’d recommend Politicsweb.It’s not as simple as lifting up a skirt and going “Hmm… Yeah… Thought so”.
There isn’t much more I can add to the debate, other than ranting a bit, but I’m really glad to see that not only did she take part in the final, she did pretty good out of it too. I wish her all the best at what I hope will be the start of a long and glittering career!