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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When gender is enforced

Not only was Caster Semenya subjected to gender testing, now she's had a makeover.

Because people find a strong athletic woman somehow threatening if she's somehow too masculine, an 18-year-old woman has been subjected to testing to prove her gender (the idea of which I can't get my head around, since gender is an identity), and has just had a makeover done in an attempt to perform the femininity she's been accused of lacking.  Question: how the fuck does this woman wearing lipstick and jewelry affect her running?

As Ariel says on Feministing:
Athleticism is stereotyped as a strictly male trait. The public's discomfort with female masculinity led to the expectation that as a woman, Semenya must compensate for her threatening athleticism with femininity.
[...]
"You" magazine simply changed Semenya to fit the dichotomy. And at the end of the day, women must express femininity as seen on a magazine cover to gain true acceptance.
Ugh.  I just can't believe we're subjecting a young woman to this.  It's fucking ridiculous.

3 comments:

Craig Brimm said...

This is inane. The term "threatening athleticism" makes my mind expand a bit more. I love learning stuff like this. Sometimes as a black man you want absorb all of your own issues and sometimes ignore everyone else's. Not that I truly do that, but there is a tendency.

FilthyGrandeur said...

that is why i try to read a variety of blogs, since my issues are only as a woman. i realize i have white, cisgender, straight, able-bodied privilege, so i read about other people's struggles to confront that privilege. it's sometimes easier to ignore what other people go through, but i have to remind myself that the easier path accomplishes nothing.

oh man, i turned this into a lecture. lol. sorry.

Maud said...

Your title When Gender is Enforced is spot on. And popular magazines are a key component of the Gender Role Enforcement Police, constantly telling us what we must look like, act like, desire and be interested in in order to be accepted as Real Women, and therefore deserving of taking up space on the planet. Clearly, if Semenya had only known her place, i.e., worn the right girly clothes, make-up and hair styles, said the right girly things, acted the right girly way, she would have been permitted to participate in sports with the other girls-who-have-sufficiently-proven-their-girlishness by their deference to the proper standards, and none of this unpleasantness need have occurred. Naturally, as a black woman, she is expected to try even harder to meet the standard or Real Womanhood, since it is based on what a white woman "should" look, act, dress like, and as for the rest of you - well, if you think you can manage it, being as we are a broad-minded bunch here at the GREP, we will allow you to attempt it.

I hope Ms. Semenya, as she grows into adulthood, is able to find whatever styles of expression truly suit her and make her happy and comfortable with herself without regard to all these forces that aren't interested in her personal well-being, but only in enforcing The Way Things Ought To Be.