25 May 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - Caster Into the Spotlight, Once More


In 2009 Caster Semenya became the public face - the public body, in fact - of the range and ambiguity of gender. An array of unsurprised doctors and scientists attested to a very surprised public that one of the foundational binaries of society - sex, being either male or female - is in fact unsettlingly fluid. Now, she's been thrown into the spotlight again. The question is - why?

Caster Semenya was subjected to a global gynaecological examination in 2009. Instead of being applauded for her spectacular win at the Athletics World Championships, the International Athletics Federation and the world's media inserted its cold and prurient speculum into the most intimate parts of this woman's exceptional body. Semenya was clearly born to run - anyone who has watched her fly along the track will know that, but her grace, strength and physical prowess was eclipsed by the ambiguity of that fine body. Sex, like gender, is not something one can define in the absolute terms so beloved of sexual fundamentalists.

Semenya's sex had to be assessed because, to the shock of many, being male or female is not comfortingly absolute. Semenya was subjected to a myriad of...

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