Caster Semenya: Is It About Time We Rethought Gender And Sport?
South African runner Caster Semenya may be tipped to win the women’s 800m in Rio, but this isn’t the only reason she’s been in the papers recently.
At the age of 25, Semenya has hyperandrogenism, which means she has testosterone levels three times the average level found in women, and internal testes rather than a womb or ovaries.
As a result, some say that she shouldn’t be competing as a woman at all - and some even believe she should be stripped of her former victories including a silver medal at London’s 2012 Olympics.
Harsh, no? Considering the Olympic spirit is all about inclusivity and mutual understanding, the prospect of stripping an athlete of their status due to a medical condition would seem out of order in almost any circumstances.
But on the other hand, this has clearly given Semenya a physical advantage - when she was given drugs to lower her testosterone levels a few years back, for example (yep, that was a thing), the change visibly slowed her down.
Perhaps Semenya isn’t really the problem, but our strict separation of gender in sports and society as a whole. Many would consider Semenya to be intersex - when someone doesn’t fit typical binary notions of male or female - and if she doesn’t fit into one category, it’s no more her fault than the fact we choose to recognise those categories so strictly in sport.
Think about it - when do we decide that an ‘abnormality’ is a step too far for the Olympics? The aim of competing in the Olympic games isn’t to be normal - otherwise occasional joggers would be racing one another instead of world-record holders.
And Semenya’s condition hasn’t eliminated all other competition - she’s the 11th fastest woman ever to run the 800m, not the first.
Since the world’s attitude to gender is changing so rapidly nowadays, and more and more people even think that the ‘woman’ or ‘man’ tick box should be ditched altogether, should sport follow suit and change its attitude towards gender? Or even ditch gender altogether?
What do you think? Tweet us at @YahooStyleUK.
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