Caster Semenya is an interesting story. At age 18, the South African runner dominated the 2009 world track and field championships. She won the 800 meter by more than 2 full seconds (which is crazy for running race). After the race questions arose, including one of the runners even calling her a man. The track and field federation suspended her until she underwent testing to find out if she was actually a woman. The tests concluded that she had three times the normal amount of testosterone of a woman. With her testosterone threshold around 10 namoles, which is what is considered the lower ranks of a man’s testosterone levels, many call for her to no longer race and be stripped of her medals. The Daily News of the United Kingdom reports that “furthermore, she has no womb or ovaries, and instead, owing to a chromosomal abnormality, internal testes. As a result, her appearance is startlingly masculine: her face and physique bring to mind the likes of those East German female hammer throwers of the Sixties and Seventies, whose young bodies were irredeemably masculated by cruel state-sponsored doping programmes.” Semenya is still wrongly criticized to this day for her appearance even though there truly isn’t anything she can do about it. Even fellow runners are getting fed up with it as the New York Times caught up with Ajee Wilson who said “it is something that should be revisited.” But Wilson also said: “At this point, what I think doesn’t really matter. We’re all on the track. Whoever’s on there is racing.” She seemed to catch herself after saying something somewhat insensitive and then attempted to correct herself. There have been court cases based upon Semenya and the ability of female athletes to participate over a certain testosterone threshold level, however rulings all favored Semenya as noted in the New York Times article above.
Today in society we see this more and more; female athletes succeeding and coming into national spotlight because they are too much like men. If you google “Caster Semenya” some interesting article names pop up, some telling her story, some calling her a freak, and some condemning. This has become common place in today’s world as we see female athletes like Serena Williams, Brittney Griner, and Caster Semenya be criticized because they look like men. This is a hegemonic action because it more or less is trying to show that women should not be like this or look like this. The almost seven foot tall WNBA player Brittney Griner can certainly attest to this. If you were to go onto social media and look up Brittney Griner you would see some pretty shocking and very insensitive things about her because typically women aren’t that tall. The media portrays some women like Lindsay Vaughn and women like Caster Semenya very differently. They’re both female athletes but one is called a freak and one is glorified and taking pictures for a sports illustrated cover. The media tries to discourage women from begin overly masculine by portraying them in this light while trying to over glorify their femininity by having them take pictures like Lindsay Vaughn and even Serena Williams. Women in general, not just athletes, who do not fit the societal standards of females are often criticized as well. I once heard a few guys talking about a girl that was over 6 feet tall say “She’s a house,” or a linebacker, or wide receiver picking upon her abnormal height. It is some pretty messed up stuff, but society has made it ok for women who have abnormal physical traits such as these to be poked fun at when there is truly nothing they can do about it except take it on the chin. This is not right and the media should change the way they portray people specifically women.
*Picture from AP and the Daily Mail UK taken during the Olympics.