Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wow - The World Moves Too Fast for Me

I got home from a day at the tennis tournament, popped on the great CBC streaming coverage of the IAAF Athletics World Championships, as archived, and was blown away by the utterly amazing great run by Caster Semenya in the 800 meters. I had not seen the like since seeing, my memory says, though I wonder how accurate it is, Kazankina, presumably on steroids (my memories of her remain generally positive), run under 1:55 at the Olympic Games in 1976. And I wondered, will I, if I live long enough, wonder some day if this run is so tainted? (And I guess the question indicates the answer.)
Turns it out it might come sooner.
The Science of Sport guys are all over it.
I have been quite silent on the issue, and will continue to do so because at this point, there is nothing but rumor to go on, with no confirmed (and independent) facts. In the days after her 1:56 time, it was widely reported/speculated that Semenya was born a hermaphrodite (having both male and female reproductive organs), and that she was cleared by testing done by Athletics South Africa (ASA). Both reports are unconfirmed, though I do trust my particular sources of that information.

I am not someone who thinks that sex (those in the humanities like the word 'gender', as it seem more fluid to them but I do not have any wish to use the word as other than a grammatical category) is totally fluid, but it is clear even biology is not delivering binaries here.
Actually if you go to the link, I do not mind their distinction between 'sex' and 'gender'.

First of all, the difference between sex and gender must be clarified. In most cases they are used interchangeably, but this is incorrect. Gender refers to how an individual portrays and perceives him or herself---for example male or female. It is more of a social construct than a biological one. Sex, on the other hand, is biological, and that is the essence of the debate in this case, whether or not Semenya is of male or female sex, not gender.

As pointed out as well, we simply do not know much right now. But this was an issue that HAD to arise somewhere in sports with sex-related categories.


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