A Bittersweet Triumph

by intern Amber

After testing, poking and prodding her gender chromosomes, doctors have agreed that yes, Caster Semenya is indeed a woman! So now she can cheerfully take home the gold medal she rightfully deserves. However, cheerful is not the adjective I would use to describe the way Caster and her family feel right now. After all, this shocking controversy overshadowed Semenya’s triumph.

As we recently reported, 18-year-old Caster Semenya, South Africa’s professional female athlete, beat her rivals by a large margin in the world championship 800 meters in Berlin. She blasted through the finish line ready to claim her place as the fastest woman in the world. Instead she was blasted and humiliated by accusations that she was too masculine to be a woman. Athletics world governing body asked officials to conduct a gender verification test and now that the studies have proved her critics wrong the Athletic government is embarrassed and being ridiculed by the ASA (Athletics South Africa) for being sexist and possibly racist. Rightfully so, because immediately, stepping onto the Berlin track, it seemed everyone was criticizing young Caster for her strong athletic build and unfeminine like features. Semenya’s 80-year-old Grandmother said, ‘She called me after (the scrutiny) and told me that they think she is a man. What can I do when they call her a man, when she’s really not a man? It is God who made her look that way.’ Despite her country, South Africa, firmly standing in support of their ‘Golden Girl’ and despite her mother showing a birth certificate and other documentation to declare that Caster is a woman. Sports officials still wanted more proof. Why? Perhaps it’s because Caster does not represent the ideal look greatly associated with popular female athletes such as Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova or Kerri Walsh, all blonde, all leggy, slim and lets face it -they all look good wearing skimpy clothing to satisfy male readers of Sports Illustrated magazine. These women have combined athleticism while maintaining a heterosexual appeal thus making them more famous than their other female counterparts. One sports official has concluded that the reason for speculation of Caster’s gender is the fact that she does not have breasts. Yet look at Marion Jones, albeit now a disgraced former track and field champion, her tough flat-bosomed body was never put to test. Marion’s physique was even labeled beautiful. To observe the difference between Semenya and Jones, it is obvious; the latter is pretty and feminine. Marion ran with jewelry, had a delicate voice and wore dresses off the track. Caster prefers pants, speaks with a gruff voice, and doesn’t care for make-up. Without the looks to pass as a sexual object, Caster had to prove she has a vagina. Women athletes have struggled for decades to prove that their power and strength is both beautiful and feminine. But time and time again the media presents us with a celebration of their physical beauty more so than their athletic skill. Sadly the media influences young girls and I worry that this kind of damning news will deter them from seeking love of sports for fear of being labeled a man. I wonder if Caster Semenya got DD implants, plucked her brows and wore lipstick while crossing the finish line would she suddenly be praised as the hottest female cheetah from Africa? I think so.

photo courtesy Guardian.co.uk

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A Bittersweet Triumph

by Team Intern

After testing, poking and prodding her gender chromosomes, doctors have agreed that yes Caster Semenya is indeed a woman!  So, now she can cheerfully take home the gold medal she rightfully deserves.  However, cheerful is not the adjective I would use to describe the way Caster and her family feel right now. After all, this shocking controversy overshadowed Semenya’s triumph.  

As we recently reported, 18-year-old Caster Semenya, South Africa’s professional female athlete, beat her rivals by a large margin in the world championship 800 meters, in Berlin.  She blasted through the finish line ready to claim her place as the fastest woman in the world.  Instead she was blasted and humiliated by accusations that she was too masculine to be a woman.  Athletics world governing body asked officials to conduct a gender verification test and now that the studies have proved her critics wrong the Athletic government is embarrassed and being ridiculed by the ASA (Athletics South Africa) for being sexist and possibly racist.

Rightfully so, because immediately, stepping onto the Berlin track, it seemed everyone was criticizing young Caster for her strong athletic build and unfeminine like features.  Semenya’s 80-year-old Grandmother said, ‘She called me after (the scrutiny) and told me that they think she is a man.  What can I do when they call her a man, when she’s really not a man? It is God who made her look that way.

Despite her country, South Africa, firmly standing in support of their ‘Golden Girl’ and despite her mother showing a birth certificate and other documentation to declare that Caster is a woman.  Sports officials still wanted more proof.  Why?

Perhaps it is because Caster does not represent the ideal look greatly associated with popular female athletes such as Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova or Kerri Walsh, all blonde, all leggy, slim and lets face it -they all look good wearing skimpy clothing to satisfy male readers of Sports Illustrated magazine. These women have combined athleticism while maintaining a heterosexual appeal thus making them more famous than their other female counterparts.

One sports official has concluded that the reason for speculation of Casters gender is the fact that she does not have breasts.  Yet, look at Marion Jones, albeit now a disgraced former track and field champion, her tough flat-bosomed body was never put to test.   Marions physique was even labeled beautiful.  To observe the difference between Semenya and Jones, it is obvious; the latter is pretty and feminine.  Marion ran with jewelry, had a delicate voice and wore dresses off the track.  Caster prefers pants, speaks with a gruff, and does not care for make-up.  Without the looks to pass as a sexual object, Caster had to prove she has a vagina.

Women athletes have struggled for decades to prove that their power and strength is both beautiful and feminine.  But time and time again media present us with celebration of their physical beauty more so than their athletic skill.  Sadly the media influences young girls and I worry that this kind of damning news will deter them from seeking love of sports for fear of being labeled a man.

I wonder if Caster Semenya got DD implants, plucked her brows and wore lipstick while crossing the finish line would she suddenly be praised as the hottest female cheetah from Africa? I think so.

– Amber

 photo courtesy of Guardian.co.uk

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