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I’ve been struggling with writing this post for some time now. On the one hand there are things I feel need to be said about the treatment of Caster Semenya (especially in light of the news that she has been placed under a suicide watch), on the other hand I don’t want to add to the ridiculous, offensive, dehumanizing treatment that she’s been receiving to date. There is this sick undercurrent to the coverage reminiscent of the treatment of Saartjie Baartman (better known as the Hottentot Venus) particularly with the framing of the discussions of her body. There has been a rush to compare Caster to “real” women with pundits pointing to the size of her breasts, her shoulders, even the shape of her jaw as “proof that she is a he and should be disqualified” because somehow there’s a specific concrete metric for “normal” femininity.

And if you’re deemed to be outside the range of “normal” all the basic rules we were taught as children about polite behavior and common courtesy fly out the window. If the press coverage is any indication many people feel entitled to poke and prod and discuss her body like she’s specifically on display to satisfy their curiosity. After all it’s not like she’s human or anything, what with her having the temerity to (maybe) be born intersexed. Instead she’s a freak with no feelings, no right to privacy, and above all no right to her own body. Right? If you’re staring at your screen right now and contemplating asking if I have lost my everloving mind? I totally understand that reaction. Because it’s how I’ve felt every single time I’ve read an article about Caster’s “condition” or seen someone expounding at length on her body without once pausing to consider that her humanity is being questioned along with her gender. Looking at the descriptions of the treatment of Sara Baartman I’m sure a modern reaction would include an acknowledgment that the way Sara was treated was abominable.

Of course it was abominable and shameful and disgusting. So is what’s happening right now to Caster. And it’s not just about the treatment of Caster Semenya. Yesterday I got into a long protracted discussion about someone wanting trans people to explain the workings of their sexual organs so that they could include a sex scene in a story they were writing. And I explained over and over again that no one should feel entitled to such intimate information, especially to satisfy what amounted to prurient curiosity. And all the basic arguments from the bingo card were laid out (including my favorite “Well how else are people supposed to know if they don’t ask?”) because apparently for a lot of people it has never occurred to them that they don’t have a right to someone else’s body or to their experience. It has literally never occurred to them that people who are not like them have boundaries. Because they’re curious about the “freaks” and their curiosity trumps any delusions of humanity or equality.

Between the misogyny and the racism and the privilege and the sheer entitlement on display this is one of those areas where intersectionality cuts to the bone and then beyond. Being human isn’t about fitting into a box designed by someone else. It’s not something other people get to define for you. And if you think that the way Caster has been treated makes sense because she’s a public figure, or you think you have a right to treat people like an exhibit to satisfy your interest in their experience? You’re directly using your privilege (whatever it may be) to oppress someone. This idea that examining and inspecting and discussing someone else’s body is acceptable behavior because they are “different” is so reprehensible. But, it is also an idea that permeates our culture. That’s the point of tabloids and gossip and fatphobia and every other ‘ism I can think of right now. That’s why a friend just posted about having to tell someone repeatedly that they were not going to be allowed to touch her hair only to be met with questions about why she was refusing. As though she owed this person access to her body.

Curiously enough I think we can all agree that we expect our boundaries to be respected. That we expect people to have some sense of manners and decorum and not stare or point or generally treat us poorly. So then, why are we as a culture so comfortable deciding that the Other (as defined by us) is supposed to accept our intrusion? What is this idea that that they should explain their experience to the world at large? It’s always framed in terms of normal and different, but other than being a member of the majority what gives us the right to define normal? The oppression inherent in turning the public’s gaze to someone and demanding that they explain themselves is often waved away as just a part of life. Because somehow the public’s desire to know has become the public’s right to know. And the idea that knowledge is power has been turned on its head to give the “normal” the power over those that they deem to be Other. It’s unacceptable behavior no matter how you frame it and we should all be ashamed of ourselves.

55 comments to Race, Gender, and the Oppressive Public Gaze…

  • Thank you for posting at length, Karnythia. I had not thought of the analogy to Saartjie Baartman, but it is not only valid, it is an indication of how far we have not progressed in a century.

    It is shocking that an 18-year-old woman would be treated this way — shocking for the effect on her, and for the effect on other young athletes. This kind of treatment is certainly going to intimidate young women from seriously competing in sports.

    The treatment started with the IAAF, and they should do what they can to contain the damage, both to Ms. Semenya and to other young athletes.

  • No, you haven’t lost your mind. You’re right on target. I am so unhappy to learn that she’s on suicide watch.

  • Yikes — two centuries since Saartjie Baartman.

  • Tressie

    Tell it on the mountain, chick. I had the same thoughts as I saw this story unfold. I, too, thought of Saartjie Baartman. It just goes to show the persistence of human nature…good and bad, I’m afraid.

  • I’m not exactly surprised that the MSM fails utterly when it comes to anything about gender. I am somewhat dismayed at the bigoted comments that get through moderation on supposedly liberal blogs (not linking because ugh).

  • Ico

    Yes, agreed to everything here. It’s so tragic and utterly appalling how this poor young woman has been treated. And the fact that she’s on suicide watch now–oh my God, the poor woman.

    I wonder if there is any way we can get supportive words to her. A letter writing campaign, or a website with messages of support and comments from people. To let her know she’s a hero and we’re cheering for her medal, and that she is beautiful.

  • Momsomniac

    This poor child! Of course this has effected her in awful ways; how could anyone have imagined it wouldn’t? Well, you’re right – they didn’t imagine her as human at all….

    I sometimes wish I could embed the John Trudell song “Somebody’s Kid” into some folks’ brains.

  • Thanks for this. You’ve put into words what I was struggling to say with regard to this odious “gender testing” that Ms. Semenya has been enduring:

    “…because apparently for a lot of people it has never occurred to them that they don’t have a right to someone else’s body or to their experience. It has literally never occurred to them that people who are not like them have boundaries. Because they’re curious about the “freaks” and their curiosity trumps any delusions of humanity or equality.”

    That’s it. That’s what I’ve been trying to say. Thank you. And thank you for posting this.

  • especially in light of the news that she has been placed under a suicide watch

    Oh no.

  • Rob Hansen

    I have several transwomen friends, all of whom I’ve known for at least a decade. At no point has it ever occurred to me to ask any of them the status of their genitals, any more than I’d ask anyone else because it’s bad manners and you just don’t do that. What you have between your legs is between you, your doctor, and your lovers and is no one else’s damn business. Whatever happened to manners, anyway?

  • The famous Navaho weaver and ceremonial “singer” Hosteen Klah, was born intersexed back in the early part of the 20th Century, and greatly honored for it while he lived as his people traditionally considered his condition a secular and spiritual “plus” not a minus. The white world knows of him because he helped serious researchers, art collectors and museum folk understand the complexities of Navajo religion.
    One wonders how Klah might have fared had his skills and interests included competitive international sports.

  • Leslie

    As for asking rude questions about intersex sex, the writers should *use their imagination.* Heavens to Betsy — what do they teach children in schools these days?

  • ‘Coverage’ is the real indecency. It is part and parcel of an ongoing campaign to alienate people from each other by lying about their thoughts and positions. Not that such is new : it has been going on for a good long time.
    I was startled by a piece reported by Needlenose some years ago and by another article at Daily Kos. When I noticed the author of Last Left Turn Before Hooterville – Alicia Morgan – had gone so far as to start writing a book about ‘framing’ ‘debate’ and perverting ‘public conversation’, I started to collect examples.
    I know your appetite for things SF. I read fanzines years ago and quip with people ready to consider more outrageous ideas online to day. It’s with that sort of attitude of open skepticism I found these
    http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2009/07/perception-alteration.html

  • Momsomniac

    “…because apparently for a lot of people it has never occurred to them that they don’t have a right to someone else’s body or to their experience. It has literally never occurred to them that people who are not like them have boundaries. Because they’re curious about the “freaks” and their curiosity trumps any delusions of humanity or equality.”

    This applies to so many things. Years ago, my husband and I were friends with a couple who often asked us to meet them for breakfast out. This couple was comprised of 2 lovely, beautiful, smart young women (who sadly split after > 10 years). They LOVED my husband, and when I asked why he was so special to them, they told me it was because he never asked them how they had sex, that it was relief to be around a man who saw them simply as “another couple.” How sad that this is a RELIEF for anyone – to be treated like….people.

  • Mary O'Grady

    Caster Semenye’s parents think she is a girl. She has been raised as a girl. The cruelty she has been subjected to by the public and the sports pooh-bahs is appalling. How many of us could survive having such a basic fact of our identity called into question?
    May she soon get all the help she needs to continue her life happily.

  • Excellent post. Thank you for writing it.

  • Pazi

    Putting it up front here: White, trans woman who observed the argument in question. And who mostly agrees with what you’re saying here, but has a little but of trouble with one thing about how that conversation went down:

    When someone from the privileged end wants to respectfully and accurately depict someone who’s not, certainly nobody owes them an explanation and they should not expect randomly-selected members of that demographic are there to explain it to them. But…speaking as a trans person, isn’t it to my benefit that people other than trans people are trying to take that experience seriously and depict it in a respectful manner, without Othering or out of prurient interest? Isn’t it to the benefit of trans people if they succeed?

    I’m not saying that translates into any kind of obligation to help them out, but…I am wondering if them asking such questions in a space for general queries isn’t maybe a little bit different than just selecting a space designated for trans people to gather, and asking it of people there?

    (I don’t pretend to know the answer to that, and I’m curious if that makes a difference in your eyes.)

    • karnythia

      I think (given the responses in that post and others on the subject) that everyone has their own boundaries and if you want to reach past someone’s boundaries you have to expect that not everyone will react well. When I posted this on my LJ it sparked some dissent between various readers on this topic. All I can liken it to is the hair thing. Just because some black woman somewhere is okay with random strangers touching her Afro, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with other black women telling people to keep their hands to themselves. It’s not a great comparison I know, but it’s late and I’m trying to come up with decent analogies that don’t revolve around food or booze.

  • Elly

    I’ll readily admit I don’t subscribe to the Puritanical norm that I ought to be ashamed of my body and hide it. I don’t have any compunctions talking publicly about my sex life and my kinks. If we want to be Puritanical and insist bodies are shameful and sex education is evil, then you have a point.

    If we feel it’s okay for little boys to be curious about girl bodies, and to learn about them during sex ed? Then why would you insist on Othering trans people, casting a veil of Exotic Mystery over them, to say that no one is allowed to express curiousity about trans bodies as well?

    • karnythia

      So I’m othering transpeople by suggesting that random strangers wanting to know the ins and outs of their bodies in a way that (for the record) is nothing like basic sex ed is rude? Just because you want to discuss your sex life and kinks with the world at large does not mean that someone who does not wish to do so is Puritanical or saying that they are ashamed of their body. Boundaries are a good thing regardless of their spacing and you don’t get to decide that someone else’s are a bad thing because you don’t like them.

      • Elly

        The question was asked on a forum open to the public, not to an individual trans person and not to a trans forum.

        I would suggest that if you prefer not to answer, you could have simply ignored the question.

        Having boundaries is perfectly reasonable, but *your* boundaries should not be dictating *my* relationships.

    • Lauren

      There is quite a difference between sex-ed (and I do think that letting students know that not all people fit into the construct of sexual binary would be a good idea, if it were done right and not with the intent of putting these people up as “abnormal”) and asking a private person about their body, their sexuality.

      Would you go up to a POC and ask them to get naked so that you can satisfy your curiosity about what they look like down there compared to you? Would you blame them for telling you to leave them the hell alone?

      Asking people questions might be ok, depending on how well you know them and whether they have ever expressed a willingness to talk about these things. If it is done in a respectful manner, not a desire to satisfy some sansationalist need for “freakishness”, if the questions come from a place of wanting to be able to be the best ally one can be, than maybe, asking questions might be ok. But whether or not it is acceptable is always up to the one who is being asked. And if the person you want to ask does not appear to want to talk about these things? Then don’t ask. Most likely, zheir lives are already complicated enough without being expected satisfy the curiosity of those who don’t know what their lives are like.

      Demanding answers out of a belive that, because you want to know something you have a right to that information? That is not acceptable. Just because you may have no problem sharing intimate details of your life with others, doesn’t mean that others are obligated to do the same. And there are hundreds of possible reasons for not wanting to share them, none of which are for others to judge.

      And you have no right to call people prudes for insisting that their boundaries be respected. Personal boundaries are one of the most important self-protections a human being can have, and respecting them is paramount. It is a question of basic human decency.

      • Elly

        My understanding is that the portion of the post I’m replying to was directly related to the debacle over here: http://community.livejournal.com/little_details/2422680.html

        Specifically, an individual was not asked. A group was. A person asked a group “hey, is there anyone who’d be willing to answer this?”

        As it happens, I’m quite willing to answer that, and I know friends who would have no qualms answering that. Thus, the post served it’s purpose of getting people who are OK answering together with people who are curious to learn.

        Why is that wrong? Why are people not allowed to seek out people like me, who are okay with answering?

        • karnythia

          Because there are tons of people reading that post that were not okay with the question? If you want to create a comm for asking such an intrusive question on LJ feel free. If you want to put up a post offering to answer such questions that’s on you. Personally I’d suggest examining why you have the need to be a walking resource library.

          • Elly

            Um, what? That LJ community is explicitly for asking exactly this sort of question. Absolutely *no one* is contesting that the post was inappropriate to the *stated purpose* of the LJ group.

            There were also numerous quite respectful answers given, by people who felt that the question was in an appropriate place, and not rude at all.

            Would you seriously be this up in arms if he’d asked advice for writing any other sort of sex scene? Is there something about little_details that suggests it’s an inappropriate place to ask adult “over 18 only” questions?

            • karnythia

              Several things IMO actually make it an inappropriate place for questions like this one. Not least being the number of people who found the question invasive and disrespectful. As for being up in arms? That seems to be your role in this conversation. You’re the one flooding my inbox today.

          • Elly

            “people found the question invasive and disrespectful.”

            Because I don’t have a reply tag on that specific post ^.^

            There are job adverts posted for “nude models” all the time. There are plenty of people who, themselves, do not want to be nude models, or would be offended to be asked personally.

            An advert for a nude model is in no way “intrusive” – you can simply skip over it. It’s only offensive if your *personal* morals have a problem with nudity.

            You’re suggesting that because some people have moral objections to nudity, we ought to have to create a special section of the classified ads, just for that?

            (Also, seriously, “invasive”? If I ask you personally what brand of toothpaste you use, that might be invasive. Having a poll in the mall asking the same question is a regular part of society. No one is trying to pry in to YOUR personal life here! They’re just curious to learn about the people who DO want to talk!)

            • karnythia

              I’m not sure how many more ways to explain it. Just because you were okay with it doesn’t make the people who were not okay with it wrong or Puritanical or ashamed. If you want to make a post advertising your willingness to answer all such questions have at it.

          • Elly

            “As for being up in arms? That seems to be your role in this conversation.”

            Um… what?

            Ad-hominem much?

            “You’re the one flooding my inbox today.”

            … I’m replying to what you said. It’s called a conversation….

            • karnythia

              So it’s not an ad hominem when you say it? Interesting. And if you look at the thread, you’re replying to yourself. I just happen to get all the comments.

          • Elly

            “I’m not sure how many more ways to explain it. ”

            I’d suggest starting with answering the questions I had vis-a-vis the nude model analogy?

            You know, explaining how offending trans people who don’t want “their” bodies discussed in public is Completely Different from offending puritanical people who don’t want “their” bodies discussed in public?

            • karnythia

              It’s been explained several times. Including in response to your nude model analogy. You seem determined to ignore any and all possibilities that other people have valid feelings on the topic, because that (somehow) makes them puritanical and ashamed. You wish to let people ask you these questions? Fine. But accept that there are people who think it’s rude, invasive, and the height of othering to be enter a comm and find a question about their genitalia so that someone can write a sex scene. For the record I’d feel the same way if (and this has happened) someone wanted to know the color of a WOC nipples or pubic hair texture. There are plenty of ways (including porn!) to satisfy that curiosity without discomfiting people in a community like little_details.

          • Elly

            “And if you look at the thread, you’re replying to yourself. I just happen to get all the comments.”

            I have no clue why that would be, weird.

            Is it making you hard to follow the thread? Should I be doing something different than hitting “reply” on your posts to make it work? I’m not used to blogs that have threading to begin with, I will admit. You certain seem to be following the conversation fine despite it :)

          • Elly

            “It’s been explained several times. Including in response to your nude model analogy.”

            Um… we are clearly looking at two very different blog posts. I checked and I’m not seeing a single reply to that analogy I made.

            So, well, either this blog thread is seriously malfunctioning, or you’re lying.

            As for being offended? This is a community that explicitly states, in it’s own profile, as an example question,
            “Can guys have freckles on their penises?”

            I’d suggest that if you’re offended by mention of genitalia, just maybe you should avoid communities that are explicitly okay discussing them. It’s really that simple.

            Take some responsibility for YOUR boundaries and sensibilities, and stop trying to censor the entirety of human discourse just to make yourself comfortable.

            If you want to complain about someone invading a trans community like “ftm”, you’d have a damned valid point. If little_details wasn’t explicitly an adult community open to these sorts of questions, you’d have a valid point. If the poster had suggested that you personally *must* respond, or been offended when you’d politely declined? You’d have a point.

            NO OF THAT happened. You choose to go on an adult community, got offended when genitalia “surprisingly” got mentioned, and then ranted about the community being an inappropriate place for this, despite this being explicitly such a community!

            If it’s not Othering when people ask about the freckles on cis penises, then why in the world would you consider it Othering to ask about trans bodies?

            If you are not only going to refuse to answer questions, but roundly condemn any dialogue that DOES answer questions, then you’ve forced people to either ignore trans bodies, or to misrepresent them, because you’ve cut them off from any legitimate information.

            That, right there? That results in the worst sort of Othering. It doesn’t matter what your intent is, it’s a simple and inevitable natural consequence of what you’re doing. If you provide no information, you will not get represented accurately!

            Maybe you have some fetish for being mysterious and misrepresented, but *I* don’t. I want people to *stop* Othering me. I want people to actually learn about me and accept me as normal. And you? You want to stop that from happening.

            You are the worst sort of hypocrite. You’ve appropriated the language of anti-oppression, and you’re using it to oppress. You’re weilding critiques like weapons, and your intent is nothing more than a petty 12 year old’s power game of “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

            You stopped actually responding to a single valid point I raised a while ago in this thread. You just started attacking me. You obviously have the energy for the thread, if you’re still attacking me. So, the only explanation I can come up with is that you don’t actually *have* any reasons.

            You, personally, got hurt by something and you think the whole world has a responsibility to cater to you just because you’re trans. You don’t give a damn about actual equality, you just want privilege.

            Grow up and learn to take responsibility for your life. If you’re offended by genitalia, don’t join adult communities. If you’re offended by people treating trans people the same as they’d treat cis people… well then I really seriously wish you’d get the hell out of public discourse all together, because I’m sick of seeing *other trans people* trying to Other me like that. It’s bad enough when the cis people do it out of ignorance, I don’t need the maliciousness of people who ought to be my allies.

            • karnythia

              A. I haven’t attacked you once. Look at your end of this dialogue for personal attacks.

              B. As has been said repeatedly you are not the voice of all trans people. You’re not. And given the “Puritanical shame” argument you first put forth? I’d say your issue here isn’t me or people who agree with me. It’s your own internal baggage that you want to project all over the discourse because you’re uncomfortable with the fact that other people have different boundaries and approaches to this issue. There is nothing I can say that you will find acceptable because you’re determined to derail the conversation and make it all about your comfort level.

    • Delux

      Sorry, I missed how having boundaries with strangers about discussing your body is just like Puritanical shame of a body.

      How about this, the next time someone wanders up and wants to touch my hair, I can send them straight on to you?

      • Elly

        See previous replies of mine – my understanding is that the individual was asking a group “hey, is there anyone’s hair I could play with for a few minutes? It’s for a story I’m writing, and I want to get it right.”

        • karnythia

          And people would be well within their rights to say (as they did) “No, and here’s why” instead of acquiescing to someone seeking to treat them like a zoo exhibit.

          • Elly

            Erm… what? That’s not what got said. That’s not even near what got said.

            Someone asked “Is there anyone here whose hair I can play with?”

            There were TWO groups of responses: Those that said, “yes, mine!” and those that said “how dare you ask that?”

            You’ll notice “No for me personally – I’d have to decline, as I feel uncomfortable discussing my own body in public” wasn’t on that list.

            Anyone who said “No, there is no one willing to do that” would have obviously been lying, so I’m assuming that’s not what you meant….

  • Zahra

    This post is awesome.

    I too would love to hear about a website or other method to send messages of support to Ms. Semanya.

  • On my drive to work in the morning it seems that Caster Semenya is constantly in the news. The Media constantly blame ASA (Athletics South Africa) and the IAAF for how they have handled things. Yet the Media see nothing wrong with their relentless reporting of the issue. And if you asked the Media why the constant reporting, they would tell you the Public want to know.

    I am the Public, I don’t want to know.

    As a south african I am swelling with pride at her awesome performace on the track. That is all I ever wanted to know about.

    I don’t have a right, or desire, to know anything else about Caster Semenya unless she herself wants to tell me about it.

    Possibly the saddest thing I’ve heard, apart of her being on suicide watch, is a radio station who quoted her but said she refused to be recorded because critics would just use her deep voice as another weapon. And I wondered at the radio station’s motives for sharing that bit of information with me.

    It has been beyond me on how to write or comment about this, thank you for writing and saying what I just didn’t know how to say.

  • M.A.

    I totally understand this post.

    People need to think before they ask questions why do they really need or want to know this information.

    I don’t consider myself intersexed, all though I am missing a chromosome. And while there are times when I think more awareness of my condition would be a great thing, there are other times where I hope questions don’t come up that would reveal it. See I hate lying and I try to answer questions honestly because I feel there is nothing to be ashamed of. But I also don’t want the only thing people are thinking about to be what I just answered. I mean, what if it’s your boss or coworker, and now they know personal medical stuff about me. I don’t want someone I’m working with to feel sorry for me, or be thinking about me in a less respectful way than the others because I’ve answered questions I don’t think they’d dare ask others. And just because someone doesn’t want to answer a question about their genetalia doesn’t make them a prude, just like me not answering a question doesn’t make me ashamed of having a medical condition.

    I think the livejournal thing isn’t the big picture. To me, it’s just that one person was representative of what’s going on in the larger world, with Caster Semenya and many others. No one owes you information. People are talking like she owes it to people to explain everything, and she doesn’t. She chose to be a runner, but some are expecting her to be a social issue spokesperson, others are expecting her to be cool with people she doesn’t even know discussing highly personal stuff in the media. I think the reason the LJ thing is being reacted to is that people sense this same “someone owes it to me to answer” kind of attitude that we feel is fueling the Caster Semenya story as well.

  • What is adult discussion ? Some seem to think that putting another ‘on the spot’ is perfectly o.k. ; others that it is impolite.
    Frankly, I don’t care if somebody has freckles in ‘interesting’ places. I do think that it is adult to say ‘Not your concern, is it?’
    That sort of comfort in keeping privacy private when in public is rare.
    Too bad Bill Clinton didn’t have it, for instance.

  • tina johns

    If you are talking about the athlete who is trying to compete in a woman’s event, but may not be a fair match up b/c she is half he, then cry me a river. It is no one biz if you are born with bilateral sex attributes UNLESS you try to gain advantage over other women by having more testosterone, say, or the greater muscle mass of a male. That is why men are not allowed to compete against women in most organized sports–not a fair biological match up. This person did the worst thing possible. She/he cheated other women out of a fair chance!

    • Lauren

      You didn’t read any of the articles posted here over the last couple of days, did you?
      Bullet points:
      -Being intersex does not mean one is half man/ half woman. Saying so is incredibly prejudiced, hatefull, ignorant and meanspirited.
      -Being intersex (if she is)does not mean that Caster Semenya is not a woman.
      -There are a lot of intersex women who’s bodies do not react to testosterone the way other people do, so it is questionable if there would be any advantage at all.
      -There are plenty of men with comparable testosterone levels who are nowhere near as good at sports as Caster. Testosterone alone does not turn someone into a better runner.
      -Even if she did gain an advantage over the other competing women, why should this disqualify her. Other people are born with longer legs, a better metabolism, better lung capacities…why should the was she was born disqualify Caster when these other people are not disqualified for how they were born?
      -Disqualifying intersex people from sport events is clearly discrimination. Writing about these things is therefore absolutely on topic for this site.
      -One’s identity, sexuality, body and soul are private. Dragging them into the open, for people like you to dissect and use as a excuse to belittle an amazing woman was absolutely wrong of everybody involved.

      Not that you will actualy read any of this, since it is apparent you only commented to show of your own ignorance.

  • tina johns

    then you have an uphill battle. sports are segregated by sex. sorry that is the fact of the matter be it Olympics or ball games. her/his performance was so clearly enhanced by her/his male characteristics that makes it an unfair advantage. this person should never have used her/his unfair advantage over women. if this person had jumped into the match up with male competitors then I’d be thrilled but to try to cheat out women with all sorts of biological pluses is just plain old cheating.

    • Lauren

      Stop the his/her bullshit. Caster Semanya is a woman. An intersex woman, maybe, but a woman. The way you are talking about her shows how little you know about intersex people.And obviousely you don’t care to learn, as that would force you to give up your prejudice and stop being judgmental.

      Yes, sports are segregated. But given that there is no simple gender binary, that intersex people exist, and that there are a multidue of differences even between those who do fit into the “definitly female/ male” category, we will have to find a way to let them take part in sports events if they want to.Anything else is discrimination.

      Leaving aside that Caster Semenya did not know about her supposed intersex status, and therefore was not cheating (cheating means knowingly breaking rules to achieve an advantage), did you even read anything I wrote? There is no proof that Caster Semenya gained any advantages specifically from her being intersex. You are assuming she did, but that does not prove anything. And if she did, the argument that others gain advantages from their genetics still stands.

      You talk about her “male characteristics”. Do you mean the fact that she is muscular? or other phisical features? Because for every feature you refer to, there are a lot of women who share these features, women who are not intersex. Do you think those should be excluded from sport events as well? For not fitting the beauty-ideal that society wants us to strive for? Because if “muscular” is a disqualifier, there won’t be any people left to compete.

      I don’t want to get into what else about Caster Semenya you could mean, because it would be dangerousley close to the speculations that this post condemns (and rightfully so). But nothing about her body is wrong. For you to say that, because she doesn’t fit the mold, she is not a woman, is ignorant, prejudiced and hatfull.

      Caster Semenya is a woman who achieved great things in a sport competition. She was not drugged, she did not cheat. She just trained hard and then won.

      Other women (who are not intersex) have done the same, and they will continue to do so in the future. They will make use of everything their bodies have to offer to get better in their chosen sport. What exactly do you suggest? A body-measurements standart for all sports competitions? Specific arm- and leg length, specific lung volume, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, stress resistance? Make sure every body functions exactly the same, so that everyone has the same chance to win?

      And the ones who don’t fit the mold will just have to be excluded?

      Because otherwise, I don’t see how “physical equality” in a competition could ever be possible. Just picking one or two characteristics at random – in this case, being intersex and hormone levels- and saying that these are disqualifiers, but every other genetic physical advantage is allowed,that is a picture perfect example of discrimination.

      Maybe next thing, you will ask for seggregated cometitions, bacause after all the poc-women clearly have an unfair genetic advantage if you look at the statistics. /end sarcasm.

      What is really saddening about your posts is that, as a woman, you seem convinced that the only way for Caster Semenya to have achieved what she did is to be “part man”. Do you really think that badly of other women and their abilities?

    • Tina, you’ve received a warning and I’m reinforcing that warning. Stop with the offensive bullshit or you get to be on moderation.

  • One more bullet point:

    -Caster Semenya is not undefeated. “Normal” women have beaten her time before and probably could do it again. I assume she has been competing for several years, and there was never any controversy until recently.

  • Tina, are you aware that this young woman did not know she was transgendered? She was not trying to cheat anyone. She was simply doing what she did best, and took joy in doing.

    Excuse me for being frank, but you sound very angry. Perhaps someone has taken the joy out of your life as well. You may have more in common with Ms. Semenya than you suspect.

  • I have been trying to avoid all media related to this because it just hurts so much and is so demoralizing. Whenever I’ve tried discussing how Black female bodies are considered public domain , I stop myself because it’s just not worth the hassle. But I am so glad you wrote this post. I have nothing to add, except to say, thank you so much.

  • tina johns

    did not know, yah sure. and i’ve got a bridge in brooklyn to sell to you:-)
    The coach has said tests were done at home prior to race.
    angry? maybe. I am a black woman who is tired of seeing black men take advantage of women every chance they get. this her/his combo didn’t take to the field where he/she might loose. no he/she took the easy route to victory, scamming women.

  • Tina, you may have reason to be angry, and sometimes it is helpful to get mad. Perhaps when you are past your anger, you will realize that this young woman from rural South Africa did nothing to hurt you.

    She was raised as a girl. I don’t believe there is anywhere in the world where that is considered taking the easy route to vistory.

  • karnythia

    Tina, I just checked in and I see you’ve broken this blog’s rules. Bigotry is not welcome here.