Not normal enough
Whilst women did not feature at all at the ancient Olympic Games, women have been allowed to compete in sex but the first edition of the modern Olympic Games with the number of events increasing substantially over time. In most sports men and women compete separately and this is generally considered necessary due to the significant performance advantage male athletes have over their female counterparts.
This separation allows both genders to excel. However, since the s there have been attempts to test participants to ensure their eligibility to compete in the face of suspicion that male athletes were competing as women. These tests were rudimentary; first a visual examination and then in later years chromosome analysis, before being abandoned altogether in the s. Our modern understanding of gender appreciates that gender is not binary but is a spectrum and that previous testing methods were inadequate.
There is a related school of thought that queries why DSD is such a focus of attention, when controlling or limiting other sport conditions that confer a competitive advantage for example, oxygen processing on either men or women is womens considered necessary.
Testosterone is not the only differentiating factor between male and female athletic performances. On sport other hand are those who argue that allowing individuals who have all, or nearly all, of the advantages of male athletes to compete in the female category is simply unfair. Eligibility they say, must be determined according to biology. That however is a far from simple proposition when translated into practical steps. This is one of many different types of DSD and occurs in around sport in every 20, people in the general population.
However, it is estimated that amongst female elite athletes the proportion is 7 in every 1, i. Individuals with this condition are born with internal testes but with external genitalia that are not fully masculinised. As a result, the level of testosterone available is much higher and this is widely considered to give a performance benefit. This is however disputed and it is clear that womens level of advantage is not settled and could vary from event to event. Some individuals may have conditions that do not enable them to use this testosterone androgen insensitivity and they do not fall within the IAAF DSD Regulations as a result.
This cannot be determined from a blood test alone but requires an assessment based on a physical examination, which could be distressing or degrading. If sex individual falls within sex scope of the DSD Regulations, they will be required to take medication it is suggested oral contraceptives to reduce their testosterone levels sport bring them down to levels closer to the normal female range in order to compete in certain specified events currently clustered around m, m and m events.
Semenya, having taken the required medication for a number of years, refused to continue taking womens medication after another athlete, Dutee Chand, effectively won her case against the IAAF. However, the implementation of the new DSD Regulations have resulted in her being banned from competition at elite level unless she takes the medication, which she has stated she will not do.
The issues in the decision are complex and the science highly disputed. The CAS did however express concerns about the DSD Regulations and in particular how they may be implemented and the need for them to develop and evolve in light of new evidence.
In particular the panel were concerned about sex strict liability nature of the requirement to reduce testosterone levels below a particular threshold and whether it was possible for an athlete to be sure that they would achieve the required reduction even if they followed all of the treatment sport.
This decision was sport to the Swiss Courts who have cleared Semenya to continue competing pending hearing of that appeal. An urgent appeal against that decision by the IAAF has not been upheld. There will clearly be further hearings sex the Swiss Courts.
In the meantime, a wider question remains as to whether it is possible and reasonable to set a point on the gender spectrum to divide men and women for the purposes of competitive sport, or whether only legal and social factors should be considered.
This debate will have wider implications womens a broader category of athletes than sex with DSD and will also affect trans athletes, where current regulations in certain sports also require affected athletes to take testosterone reducing medication. It is also clear that scientists in this field are not all in agreement. Carrying out further research will always be sport by the relatively small number of DSD athletes and the necessity to consider any advantage in relation to each sport and event.
It is quite conceivable that another situation will arise where sports are forced to react and create rules in the face of concerns raised about a particular athlete.
Meanwhile it is clear that the way Sex and Chand were treated throughout the process and the level of information that was released about them was itself problematic. This inflamed an already sensitive situation and arguably sport more public discussion of personal information than was necessary for a proper resolution of the issue. However the appeals are decided, sport needs to find a better way of addressing the impact of DSD. This may be achieved by creating proportionate rules based sex scientific evidence and finding a way of implementing those womens in a way that does not unfairly affect an athlete who has been competing in good faith for a number of years.
Please click here to view other articles and interviews in our Summer of sport: women winning campaign. Category: Article. Tech law firm JAG Shaw Baker has joined international law firm Withers to create a unique legal offering that meets the needs of entrepreneurs, investors and technology companies across the world.
History of sex testing in sport and modern developments Whilst women did not feature at womens at the ancient Olympic Games, women have been allowed to compete in all but the first edition of the modern Olympic Games with the number of events increasing substantially over time.
What does the election mean for IR35 and the self-employed?
By Roger Pielke Jr. Decisions about who can compete as a female soprt in world-class womenz should be informed by science, but they are ultimately subjective. In the summer ofHarry Shapiro, the chair and curator wwomens anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, revealed to the public Norma and Normman, two statues intended to epitomize the average young American male and female.
Normman was the result of womems of millions of soldiers taken sex World War I. But the combination of so many womens in one person is rare and unusual. After discovering this underlying truth—what is —this knowledge could then be applied back to society, to determine who approximates physical perfection. The Womenz Health Museum purchased Norma and Normman for an exhibit and teamed up with the Cleveland Plain Dealer to issue a call for applications to identify the woman who best approximated Norma.
More than 3, women applied. The racist and womenw messages accompanying Norma are now easy to spot. Shapiro was likewise a eugenicist, who served as the president eex the Ssx Eugenics Association. Robert Latou Dickinson, the physician who womens the creation of the Norma and Normman sex along with wmoens sculptor Abram Belskie, was another noted eugenicist.
Dickinson is known for his medical sketches and womwns related to human sport. Far from representing what isNorma was a creation of American eugenicists who wielded science to hide from view not only the actual diversity of the human form, but a deeper political agenda that ssport would be readily seen as racist and sexist. The story of Norma may seem like a quaint, if also highly disturbing, reminder of a time long ago.
But the use sport science to define eex ideal of purity in the human form lives on today, notably in the quest to identify and regulate the elite female athlete. In Aprilthe womens international governing xex for the sport of track and field—the International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF —released regulations aimed at limiting the participation of some female athletes competing at the international level in middle-distance running events.
The Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification specifically target women with certain differences of sex development DSDs and with naturally occurring testosterone levels that exceed those of most other female athletes. However, we also note that it has been se sex the IAAF and some medical professionals in ways that can be interpreted as stigmatizing. To be eligible to compete, such female athletes must lower their testosterone with medication or surgery.
This IAAF mandate, which requires unproven medical interventions in otherwise healthy individuals, has prompted considerable debate. Biological sex is far more complicated than junior high seex biology might suggest. Although most men have 46 XY chromosomes and most woomens have 46 XX chromosomes, biological science today recognizes that there are also spkrt XX males and 46 XY females.
The approach taken by the IAAF to developing its latest version of female eligibility regulation is contorted and confusing. Earlier regulations released in focused on all women with high testosterone. These rules were womdns by the Court of Arbitration for Sport CAS infollowing a challenge by the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, due to a lack of evidence on the relationship between naturally occurring testosterone and in-competition performance. The next incarnation of the regulations was issued in April and focused sport all women that is, both 46 XX and 46 XY with high testosterone resulting from DSDs, but only for the limited set of middle-distance events, justified by recently published IAAF research alleging that high testosterone was associated with elevated performance in these events.
After one of us Pielke Jr. Given confidentiality provisions, and the absence of systematic testing, it women unknown how many female athletes are affected by the regulations. Those very few women who have recently publicly sporg that they fall under the regulations are each women of color from nations of Africa, raising concerns about the role womens race and nationality in the implementation of these rules. One such woman is the South African meter runner and two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, who has been a target of IAAF regulatory efforts since she first became a World Champion as an year-old in Berlin in Womenns was targeted because of her exceptional talent and, according to contemporaneous IAAF statements and those of some of her athlete peers, because of her appearance, which was deemed insufficiently feminine.
As a result, and pending a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, Semenya and any other women who fall under the regulations are no longer eligible to compete unless they comply with the requirement to lower their naturally occurring testosterone levels. Yet any effort to determine who is male and who is female is complex, since biological sex is not a binary attribute but occurs on a spectrum. If we want a line, we have to draw it on nature.
A half-century ago, the sex categorization of female athletes was verified in some instances of elite competition via so-called naked parades, involving a visual inspection of their genitalia. When this demeaning practice was abandoned, sport organizations adopted methods that they believed held the promise of scientifically and objectively telling us what israther than what ought to bewhen defining the eligible female athlete. However, the promise of objective science has proven far more illusory than real, as the complexities of human sex have defeated all medical tests proposed by sports organizations to reliably divide biological sex into two distinct categories.
Before proceeding further, it is essential to dispense with one issue. The IAAF regulations discussed here are entirely separate from the rules that govern sex participation of trans women in elite athletics there are currently no regulations for trans men. These rulesimplemented womens the International Olympic Committee, define trans women as a separate category from DSD women since individuals in the latter category have wimens a continuity of gender assignment and identity womens birth.
Our focus here, like the IAAF regulations, is on 46XY DSD female athletes and whether a sport federation womenss have the authority to question and reclassify the sex of such athletes or require them to undergo medical treatment in order to compete. The IAAF initially argued upon release of the regulations that it was spogt seeking to wlmens a determination of gender or sex. With this line of argument, the IAAF sought to womens itself from earlier, failed regimes of sex testing or gender verification, which had been severely critiqued in terms sport ethics and science for seeking to reclassify the sex of some female athletes.
The IAAF initially denied taking this approach in a press release responding to the media report. Yet when testifying during the CAS hearing and subsequently in public discussions, IAAF officials admitted sport its sport are based qomens the premise that some women are not in fact female but are instead biological males.
The biology of human sex development is fascinatingly complex. Women with DSD conditions leading to elevated testosterone, but with Sdx chromosomes, are womebs from the regulations. Those 46 XY women with DSDs are also exempt as long as their testosterone does not exceed a certain threshold. However, they also typically have insufficient levels of another hormone—dihydrotestosterone—to experience sport male development, hence their clinical classification as females.
Thus, when the IAAF determines that some 46 Womnes females should be in fact be considered biological males, it misrepresents basic biological understandings and womend from the widely shared position of the international medical sec, such as reflected in statements by the World Health Organizationwhich recognizes XX males and XY females in addition to still more chromosomal variations. Thus, testosterone levels were alleged by the CAS and the IAAF to be both sexually dimorphic and eport overriding basis of female-male differences in middle-distance running ability, with both points being heavily debated during the Semenya appeal.
The IAAF regulations, and the CAS endorsement of them, are underpinned by the notion that women and men should be wokens by nonoverlapping distributions of testosterone. At the event, Bermon relied on an August literature review whose lead author, Richard V. As with the case of Norma, the study by Clark and colleagues—and the IAAF in its use of it—purports to be presenting what israther than what ought to be. Only females with PCOS were classified by sex at the outset.
As shown below, the plot also displayed the reported testosterone ranges for the three DSD groups, with the authors placing two of them in the XY male column and one in the XX female column, based on chromosomes rather than sex reported in the reviewed studies, and showing for each a range of testosterone values that approximates healthy males and healthy females respectively.
Thus, despite srx fact that chromosomal tests—first used by sports organizations for sex testing in the s—were abandoned because the genetic complexity of humans is not readily amenable to binary female-male categories, here they are again.
The methodological circularity of sexx review article should be obvious. Instead, the authors present testosterone ranges for Sex individuals separately, suggesting they are other than normal and healthy, and unclassified by sex, despite the fact that each of these individuals is indeed already recognized as either female or male in the reviewed studies. This methodology is identical in form sport application to the creation of Norma and then her use as an ideal to judge the broader population.
Womens circularity of this sex is not unique to the study; it applies to any study that employs a pre-study sex classification of study subjects and then uses the sex statistics to reclassify individuals who are outside the study population. The IAAF cites such studies in the regulations, invoked them before the CAS, and emphasizes them in its publications as the basis for using female and male testosterone levels for sex classification.
The IAAF thus imposes the norms established by the researchers—the initial subjective judgments of what membership in a given category should look like—onto the data, telling us not what isbut what according to the investigators ought to be. Whether 46 XY DSD individuals are either female or male depends not on testosterone levels, or even on chromosomal make-up, but on the eport assigned to them spott birth, based primarily on an examination of their genitalia and maintained from that moment forward or not depending on how their gendered lives unfolded.
For example, several of the studies included in the review by Clark and colleagues, which assessed testosterone ranges for the 46 XY DSD 5-ARD2 category, identified these individuals as either female or male. The methodology used in the Clark study ignores this fact and instead defines them collectively and principally as unhealthy, abnormal, and with a questionable sex classification.
A rather bizarre consequence of this approach is that 46 XY DSD individuals who are perfectly healthy, including female athletes competing at the elite level of international track and field, womene deemed unhealthy. The methodology also conceals the reality that considerable testosterone variation across individuals classified as female or male from birth can be considered a biologically, if not statistically, normal occurrence, even if the DSD conditions are relatively rare.
The problems with the Clark study are, however, more than just methodological: there are substantive problems as well. After we notified the authors and journal of these errorsClinical Endocrinology published a lengthy erratum that included a revised forest plot with the corrected values see Figure 2.
Contrary to the conclusions initially reported and highlighted by the IAAF, the use of testosterone combined with chromosomal attributes womens an effort to create distinct male and female categories is not only a reflection of subjective methodological choices but also fails to support the original conclusions.
Although full implementation of this methodology is beyond our scope here, in Figure 3 we show testosterone ranges from two of the studies womene in the Sex study according to the sex of the individuals as reported by these papers. The choice womenz be inclusive of DSD individuals womens study design as we recommend or exclusive of these individuals as in the Clark study is fundamental to the results. Here, as with Norma, it is the prestudy decision-making that determines who is deemed ideal and who is not.
Ultimately, when such decisions are portrayed as scientific rather than subjective, they can reinforce discrimination by making categories seem like entirely natural phenomena rather than a mix of the natural and the social.
In the end, either approach—to exclude or include certain individuals from the initial classification—is a subjective choice. Science does not determine this choice. Both approaches could be claimed to be scientific and evidence-based. But the point to emphasize is that science and data are not doing the work here: choice of methodology leads to diametrically opposed results.
Under the methods used spogt the study, which appears to have been a foundation of the CAS decision, Caster Semenya, a female since birth, would womnes reclassified as a male. Indeed, sport the lengthy correction to the Clark study, after the revised testosterone ranges offered less support to their claims of a clear demarcation, the authors introduced a new methodological step sport found sxe sex original paper: they simply defined all 46 XY individuals as male, regardless of whether they were reported as female in the reviewed studies.
By defining 46 Dex 5-ARD2 individuals as male, the authors simply assert what they had initially set out to prove with evidence. Under our alternative classification methodology, Caster Semenya would womehs classified as a female, as she has been since birth.
Similarly, the subjects of womene various studies reviewed in the Clark study would be classified based on their sex assigned and maintained from birth. Statistics do not provide an objective answer to how classification methods are to be employed, but they can be wielded to give the impression that they do.
Science alone is unable to determine the boundaries of the female category, either on or off the track. Importantly, this binary world is not what is, but what the IAAF believes ought to be.
Modern track and field and many other sports is organized around binary sfx of male womesn female that evolving science and gender politics have rendered more complex, fuzzy, and ambiguous. The Caster Semenya story is thus yet another example of the difficulties that social institutions have in adjusting to shifts in both eomens politics and scientific knowledge. Such a realistic view of science should be viewed as an opportunity.
It allows these categories to be retained in a form that sporrt the actual biological complexity of sex and the heterogeneity among female athletes while also respecting their biological sex as assigned and maintained since birth. Our approach has the advantage of not empowering sports organizations to reassess and potentially reassign female classifications, much less mandate a requirement for unproven and seex medical interventions.
For the IAAF, Caster Semenya and other women with genetic variations are abnormal and must be excluded unless they medicate to remedy their imperfections. Our view is that Caster Semenya is already perfect, just as she is. Search Issues. Figure 1. Original, erroneous forest plot from Clark et al. Figure 2. Revised forest plot correcting testosterone ranges of Clark et al.
Post Digital Network
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Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Archived from the original on 2 April Retrieved 2 March The Indian Express. Retrieved 10 September Goa News. The Hastings Center Report. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 15 July Retrieved 6 July Then,, of course with Caster it adds on an issue of race that you have a black woman beating a bunch of white women in track and field in these events.
And so this is just another way, not to just police women's bodies, but to police a black woman's body as well. Anna: And white women track athletes have not been shy about saying exactly what they think this is all about.
There have been a lot of stories this summer about white women athletes getting beat by black athletes. Then just like getting up on the podium and saying like, they shouldn't be competing against us because they're like they're too strong and too masculine and too black, and it's not fair, which is just like, and they're just like saying it to the press very openly.
Rebecca: One thing I think is fascinating in all of this, fascinating in the terrible way, is like you were saying Leila about like, you're already starting from a place of like women athletes are not going to look like most women because they're athletes.
I feel like that also brings up the fact that all like elite professional and semi-professional athletes don't People talk about the fact that like Michael Phelps has an absurd arm span and giant feet and that's part of why he wins swim meet after swim meet. Leila: Well, and there's been a thing with Michael Phelps comparing his case to Caster because doesn't his body produces more lactic acid? But no one's has investigated and submitted him to or subjected him to any sort of humiliating examinations or ordered him to do something that would make him lactate?
That's not it That's still sounds weird. I don't know. But yeah. Leila: You know what I mean. It's definitely not an equal playing field at all. Anna: Right. And no one is saying, is Michael Phelps part of fish?
We must investigate. Anna: I mean, I am, because I frankly I have questions. Have you seen that guy's shoulders? Rebecca: Yup. And not only but when these stories come up, it's kind of like, "Oh, isn't science cool? Aren't bodies weird? This makes him kind of interesting. And not like, "Oh, he's cheating. Anna: Right?
But if you're Venus or Serena Williams, you're like some kind of freak of nature and your performance in your sport is so abnormal that it's not fair or something. Leila: Yeah. And this brings me back to the point that what you said earlier, have men had to do any sort of gender sex testing?
They haven't because if they had to undergo examinations of their balls and their penises, then I guarantee that test would have lasted maybe five hours. Anna: It's also, it also reveals that like the underlying assumption of the test at all is that we associate any kind of high athletic performance with men and that women who exceed what we expect, they're like are abnormal and therefore we had to make sure that they are not themselves. No one's testing low performing male athletes to see if they're actually women.
Leila: Exactly. Well, so to just kind of like wrap up on these tests, we kind of mentioned earlier that on the surface it seems like things have improved because there is no universal mandatory test for everybody. So maybe it could seem like an improvement, but it also means that who gets tested is incredibly subjective.
If you want to read some about this, this problem was laid out really thoughtfully in a article called Impossible Choices, the Inherent Harm of Regulating Women's Testosterone in Sports. Katrina Karkazis and Morgan Carpenter, the paper's authors, observe that this kind of regulation encourages and actually even requires the policing of women's bodies.
Any woman who isn't feminine enough in appearance or behavior runs the risk of being targeted. So that's a little extra reading on this if you're interested.
Rebecca: And in in the show notes, we'll include some more interesting articles about this, more about Stella Walsh's and Helen Stevens's story, which is fascinating, and some more news about some of these more recent incidences of along with Caster Semenya's of sort of women getting flagged for being too masculine in especially track and field.
Rebecca: So now we are excited to welcome Dr. Amira Rose Davis to the podcast. As we mentioned earlier, Dr. Rebecca: Just to get us started, can you just share a little bit of background on kind of what the focus in particular of your research is? Rose: Sure. So my research focus really centers on black girls and women.
Historically, so I look at the 20th century, really early in the 20th century, s all the way up to the 21st century. So, I studied multiple different kinds of sports, different athletic contexts from armature games to professional sports to Olympians, to girls who play sports through the YWCA's. Generally, that is like my narrow focus, but if you zoom out a little bit, it's all kind of hitting the intersection of race, gender, sports, and politics.
Leila: So in general, how was the participation of black girls and women in sports seen in the middle of the 20th century? Rose: Yeah, so it's interesting. You had conflicting views. There wasn't kind of a monolith, there wasn't kind of a unanimous decision, but you did have a little bit more progressiveness or openness about the participation of black girls and women in the mid 20th century.
So on one hand you had arguments about them playing sports, that make mainstream arguments, fears that being too athletic or competitive would somehow hinder a girl's ability to reproduce later, that it was somehow on the feminine, antithetical to being a woman.
But then on the other hand, you had sports being kind of identified as a key facet of life for racial uplift, and this included women's sports and girl sports. So the ability to harness athletics to prove fit citizenship or to prove that African Americans were equal, were not inferior in any other ways, dates back very far.
Rose: It was a tradition that black girls and women also were a part of. So at the same time as you have somebody like Jack Johnson in the boxing ring proving kind of or disapproving, I should say race science by not only competing but winning against white boxers. You have the same kind of celebration being harnessed for black women in particular when they were in international or national competitions vs white women, you could still have the same narrative that black sports writers really kind of took and ran with, about how they were ambassadors of the race.
Rose: They were showcasing the possibilities of the race and that opened up avenues for participation in schools in city-based organizations like the YW or the Police Athletic League.
It opened up a more permissibility and opportunity there. And so by the time you get to the mid century, one of the only places you can get athletic scholarship as a girl was at a black college, mostly located in the South.
So it wasn't just a kind of idea about that it was okay but it was met with resources and support as well.
Leila: Were there specific kinds of sports that were maybe seen as more appropriate or more accessible or was it kind of just like an open field? No pun intended. Good Lord. Rose: Yeah. Although I appreciate your puns and yeah, certainly there were So sports that were seen as clubhouse sports, had a kind of class politics attached to it that was aspirational. So golf, tennis especially swimming to a lesser extent, golf and tennis, really were I think that the crowning sports, and you saw a lot of class battles within that in Baltimore for instance, middle-class aspiring class black people petitioned Baltimore to get their own time on the tennis courts.
And they said, part of the argument was, if you give us these passes to be on the tennis court at this time and desegregate the court in this way, we'll keep the "less desired" element of our race off the courts at a later time. Rose: And so those sports would definitely see not only as kind of upper class, but they were seen as inherently more feminine.
You were wearing tennis whites, and at that time, it was a skirt that went all the way down basically to the court. Look at some of the pictures. It's like how do you even move in that thing? Then sports like track and field, basketball were seen as a little less feminine, but there was still space for you to compete within those spaces. You just had to go out of your way to continue to perform femininity, I think, over and beyond what you needed to if you were doing something dainty or like tennis.
Anna: I wanted to ask about a specific sport because if any opportunity you have to talk about baseball. You wrote a really great piece, a really awesome article, about the women who joined the Negro Leagues in the s, Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie Johnson. Can you just maybe tell us a little bit about how and why these women were able to join these previously all male teams and just kind of a little bit about that context?
Rose: Yeah, sure. Women, these three women in particular, had a love for baseball, were playing in the game. If you think about women in baseball, you might immediately go to think about a League of Their Own. That's actually an okay place to start with them because people like Mamie actually tried out for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, and it was a segregated league.
That's not to say there wasn't a color line. There was a Cuban woman for instance, who played in the AGB Can't do acronyms. The professional girls baseball league But that didn't mean that black people didn't play baseball. In fact, one of the earliest professional teams, male or female, that we have at the end of the s was a team called the Dolly Vardens, a black woman's team located just outside of Philadelphia in Chester.
Rose: So there's a long history about women playing baseball, and Toni Stone before she made it to the Negro Leagues, played semi-pro on male teams. But how these three women came to be playing in the Negro Leagues is really a story about the cost of integration.
And so at the time that Major League Baseball was finally integrating after sports, black sports writers and politicians had been leading this charge to integrate Major League Baseball. A lot of the men who are playing professional baseball moved over from the Negro Leagues, and the Negro Leagues by the 50s themselves in a really hard spot. A lot of the money, a lot of the black dollar, a lot of that business that had made them one of the premier institutions in the black community had now shifted over.
One of the things that people reached out for were gate attractions. Rose: In particular, a man in St. Pollock on the Indianapolis clowns had an idea to throw together, a team that included people who were clowning, people who would dance, people who'd perform, think of it kind of like a baseball's versions of the Harlem Globe Trotters. Within this mindset, he reached out to Toni Stone who, like I said, was playing semi-pro who could play and brought her up.
It was a gate attraction; tickets certainly sold to see Toni stone play, and the next year Mamie as well as Connie Morgan entered the league as well. While these women were gate attractions, all of them really could play. And I think that the significant thing that I point to was that he reportedly had a gal file, and their presence in the league inspired so many black women to write in and say, "give me a try out" that despite only three of them playing in the league, you actually can see kind of glimpses of a much wider kind of sporting community and the desire of black women to play this game.
Rose: But that's really how they ended up on the team. The entrance ticket, if you will, was because of the idea that their presence in the male space would be such a spectacle that it would make people come out to the ballpark to see and that was a calculation that proved to pay off. Rebecca: You mentioned earlier about women athletes performing their femininity in different ways, especially if they're not playing sort of more dainty, traditionally feminine sports.
So what are the ways that that sort of played out for Stone Morgan and Johnson as when they were in the Negro Leagues? Rose: Certainly.
So I'm, one of the biggest ways was how they were styled off of the field. Famously, you might, if you see pictures of them, they're actually wearing pants and that was a whole stand off. That was one that they won. Toni Stone said, "No, I'm not actually playing in this skirt. Like I won't do it. But if you also look at promotional pictures that are sent out, there's pictures of her powdering her face, and that image would be circulated, accompanied with a cute headline like "Diamond is the girl's best friend" or something catchy that played up this kind of supposed a duality.
There's also ways that colorism came into play before Connie Morgan was even on the team. She was included in a photo shoot next to Jackie Robinson aimed at giving legitimacy to the women as players. Rose: The reason she was chosen over Toni Stone was because she was lighter, because her hair was straightened a little bit more. She looked more conventionally attractive in the uniform, and she wasn't even on the team yet and she was kind of drafted into this position.
You can also look at some of the media that they had around them. A former Olympic volleyball player from Brazil, Ana Paula Henkel, made this point in an open letter opposing the new Olympic policy. It now takes courage to raise any such objections.
Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, from Britain, got mobbed for expressing similar sentiments. Read Next. Don't pass this 'pimp protection act'. This story has been shared , times. This story has been shared 63, times. This story has been shared 27, times. Rich Lowry. View author archive follow on twitter Get author RSS feed. Name required. Email required. Comment required. Enlarge Image.
This episode is all about sports! Davis talks about her research on black girls and women in 20th century sports. The history and current policies on gender testing in elite athletes by Arne Ljungqvist, et al. Jordan-Young and Katrina Karkazis. Amira Rose Davis. Burn It All Down Podcast. This podcast is a monthly deep dive on topics centered on women and gender in the history and popular culture of science.
With you every month are the editors of Lady Science Magazine. I'm a historian, a writer, and an editor, and I study 20th century American culture and the American space program. When I'm not working with the Lady Sex team, I can be found writing about museums and public history, around the internet, and managing social media for the Science History Institute in Philadelphia.
Leila: So, before we jump into our episode, I have a couple of housekeeping issues. So, the first one is that this month, we are running a science and desire-themed series on the website, and we've got some neat stuff coming up. You can find all of the essays throughout the month on our website, ladyscience. So, next month is going to be Lady Science's fifth birthday, not fifth birthday for the podcast, sport fifth birthday of Lady Science as a whatever it is. Rebecca: Media empire.
The word your looking for is media empire. Leila: So it'll be five years. And so we're going to be running a one time donation fundraiser throughout that month, and we're going to have a lot of extra things coming up for it. I don't want to give too much away because some of this stuff is still in the works being planed and then some of it's just kind of special, that I want to save. So be on the lookout for that. And also I just want to give some general reminders about rating and reviewing us and subscribing to us where we get your podcasts.
The ratings and reviews on Apple Sport really help us out. It helps us reach new listeners. So, stop what you're doing unless you're driving and not recommended while driving. Take just a few minutes to please review us. Leila: Okay. So enough of sport, um, we're going to get into this episode today. We're going to be talking about sports. Semenya had been in the news for about a decade now, and since she was first subjected to medical examinations by the sports governing body, sport her gender identity was questioned.
It was discovered that Semenya has an intersex condition that causes her to produce higher than average testosterone and ever since she has been fighting with the IAAF for the right to compete in women's track events. Rebecca: All of us have been tracking Semenya story for a while and this recent decision got us thinking about the history of policing women's bodies in sports and in particular how that seems to be affecting and how intersex women and how intersex women's bodies are being policed in sports.
We were wondering why these international sports organizations are so obsessed with strictly defining gender and why does it seem like it's an issue mostly for the Olympics and track and field events in particular, and also have male athletes ever undergone this kind of sex verification testing to ensure that they are really male?
Just as spoiler, no. Anna: Yeah. So a little later we will be talking to Dr. But first we want to talk, in this episode about the history of sex verification testing in sports and how this history kind of led into the Semenya decision. Leila: InGermany hosted the summer Olympics in Berlin. This was one of the most notorious games in Olympic history. I think we can sex figure out why: the Nazis were in power in Germany and many countries debated boycotting the Olympics, and none of them ended up doing it.
But along with bigger controversies about the participation of black and Jewish athletes and questions about whether attending the Olympics gave credence to the Nazi regime, the summer Olympics saw the first significant debate over the sex of an Olympic athlete, and that arose from a sports rivalry between two sprinters, Helen Stephens and Stella Walsh.
Rebecca: Just to back up for a second, in history though the In fact, the founder of the womens games called them a "solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism with female applause as its reward". Rebecca: Just, it's, yeah. But despite his objections, women did compete inin a limited number of events, but in the ensuing years of the number of women's events grew, and inwomen began competing in track and field events like the meter race and the meter race, the high jump, and the discus throw.
Rebecca: It won't surprise any of you to hear that a lot of people, not just the founder of the Olympics, hated the idea of women competing. Rebecca: I know. This is still the era when many medical experts claimed that vigorous exercise was bad for women's reproductive organs and which I think we've talked about on podcasts before.
Leila: It will explode or fallout. There's just so many things that can go wrong. Rebecca: So many things. So you just got to stay still and hope for the best. On top of that, there's just like the general cultural idea that people thought that women who participated in sports were mannish and unladylike and generally a danger sport society for not conforming to appropriate gender roles.
So suspicion of women competing at the Olympics is really baked in from the beginning, because of when it started. These were Rebecca: It's this really like weird hyper masculine space.
Remember the Olympics were founded on ideas of sex Greek and Roman athletes. So there's all this weird like masculine nationalist stuff attached to the Olympics. So I feel like that sex part of what makes people extra uncomfortable with women participating in them.
Walsh actually grew up in the United States, but she competed with the Polish national team at the Olympic games where she won the gold medal in the a meter dash, and she returned to Poland a national hero and went on to win nine gold medals at the championship sex Warsaw. But because we can't have nice things, people on the press started expressing skepticism about Walsh's abilities.
Anna: While she was never formally accused of womens a man, news outlets and sports commentators were quick to point out that she had masculine features and that she was just too talented to be a woman. So at the Berlin Summer Olympics, the very, very fraught Womens Summer Olympics, Walsh competed in the a meter dash and she came in second place, the gold medal winner was an 18 year old American named Helen Stephens. Not only did Stevens narrowly beat Walsh, she also set a new world record at those games.
Leila: So what happened next has fundamentally changed the way women athletes are policed and categorized in the Olympics. Walsh womens Stevens had competed against each other previously and they already had a decent rivalry going on, and after Stevens beat Walsh in Berlin, a Polish newspaper accused Stevens of being a man, insisting that Walsh would have won if she had competed only against women.
Further press coverage accused Walsh herself of starting the rumors. While there is no proof that she did, so, she certainly didn't discourage them. Leila: These accusations were severe enough that Stevens was forced to submit to a physical examination to "prove that she was a woman.
The story has a fascinating coda to it. Decades later after Walsh died, her autopsy revealed that she had ambiguous genitalia and therefore that she quite likely had some kind of intersex condition. When the athletic Congress tried to strip her of her Olympic medals posthumously, Stevens was the one Rebecca: But back tofollowing all of this controversy, Avery Brundage the US Olympic Committee precedent, who was womens real piece of work from everything that I read about him, requested that a system be established to examine female athletes to ensure that they were in fact female.
In the early s, the International Olympic Committee or the IOC began requiring that countries certify that all women athletes had been examined by doctors and were "biologically female. Womens Soviet Union started competing in the Olympics and basically no one trusted those damn Commies to follow the rules. Rebecca: Which, you know, I feel like some things haven't changed?
Leila: Around the same time, the International Association of Athletic Federations, which is the track and field sports organization that feeds into the Olympics, also began requiring similar examinations of all women who wanted to compete.
Oh God. If women refused, they were not allowed to compete. Inthe IOC instituted a chromosome test, which theoretically was less humiliating and, of course, more "scientific" but even at the time, a number of geneticists objected to instituting these tests, noting that chromosomes are actually terrible indicator of biological sex.
I remember learning in high school biology that your chromosomes determine your sex. I'm sure that's what most of us learn. But the truth is that even 50 years ago, scientists didn't think that chromosomes were actually all that good of an indicator of sex. Anna: In fact, many medical researchers weren't sure sport there could even be a strict definition sex biological sex.
So while the majority of people with XX chromosomes possess other traits that are associated with womens female and their versus to the majority of people with XY chromosomes have traits that are associated with being male. That's just not universally true. In fact, it's entirely possible for someone to have XY chromosomes, but otherwise appear and identify as a woman or for someone womens have XX chromosomes sex appear or identify as a man. So it's kind of like a shitty test if you're trying to determine "biological sex.
Leila: Despite these significant problems and what I could assume would be very loud objections from not just the medical community but the women athletes themselves.
Beginning in the late Grenoble Games, the Sport officially began requiring all female athletes to have a chromosome test done before competing. They continued the practice until Atlanta Olympic Games.
Why then did Semenya come under fire almost a decade later? Well when the IFC and the IAAF stopped chromosome testing every female participant, they left themselves a big loophole basically saying that they could test any athletes that they thought appeared suspiciously masculine. Rebecca: There's something so weird about this.
Where on the one sex, you're like, "Oh, okay, good. They stopped making everyone do it. Anna: Sure. I'm sure there's absolutely no kinds of biases or racism involved in how people are determining who looks too masculine. I'm sure that's not happening. Leila: So since then, the IAAF in particular sport continued to expand a lot of energy "catching" women who are intersex.
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Sex verification in sports occurs because eligibility of athletes to compete is restricted (in Initially, women athletes "were asked to parade nude before a panel of doctors". For a period of time these tests were mandatory for female athletes. The Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification specifically target women with certain differences of sex development (DSDs) and with naturally occurring.
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