Thursday, September 10, 2009

Caster Semenya femmes it up (for critics)

What was so great about Caster Semenya's response at the World Championships to the controversy over her gender presentation was that she did not change a thing--and she won the gold medal. She was completely unapologetic about not meeting the standards of femininity set by all around her.

Something changed. Perhaps as the weeks have gone by she became more aware of the severity of the controversy. A South African coach (not her personal one) resigned because he was part of keeping Semenya somewhat in the dark about the nature of the testing--he initially told her she was being tested for doping. Other high-ups in the South Africa have come out publicly condemning the tests.

Perhaps she realized the ripple effects of this situation and felt the need to quell criticisms. Because this is what her latest response is.

I don't usually publish pics from other sites but this one seemed important.

The blogger at the above link does a good job parsing out the situation and has a similar take as my own. She should be able to dress and present however she wants, but if this is really what she wants, that's a little curious given her previous presentation and response to the controversy.

In a TIME article though, the picture of her seems to be more in keeping with her presentation and attitude of yore. The article follows her back to her home in South Africa after the Worlds. This piece is a little different than the above blog post. First the writer think he is being clever or something when he notes that Semenya's village (villages are named after planets in her region of the country) is named after both Mars and Venus. Because that must explain everything.
But it also lifts the veil on the support Semenya has received throughout the controversy. She may be getting it from coaches and officials but other competitors--not so much. I have already heard the remarks of an American runner (linked in the initial post on the issue) but an Italian runner who finished 6th in the 800 said "For me, she's not a woman. She's a man." Quite unequivocal--wonder what she (thinks she) knows and how she knows it.
This excerpt was a little problematic:
at a homecoming in Polokwane, Limpopo's main city — Semenya's appearance was just as startling as it was on the track. At first, she rode high in an open-topped car, blushing and waving like a prom queen. A few minutes later, it was a burly-looking Semenya who rolled up to a microphone, baseball cap on backward, and thanked the crowd in a cracked baritone.
Especially because it was followed by this:
Science recognizes androgyny.
Too bad society doesn't. And too bad that anything androgynous or gender atypical (like waving like a prom queen and having a deep voice) is a) deemed atypical and b) attributed to an anomaly of nature.
Well I am off to play tennis now--in a skirt--with unshaven legs. Hope I don't get stopped by the gender police!

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