Gina Wilson: Sexism is the Issue with the IOC

THE issue with the IOC – International Olympic Committee – is sexism and every woman should be outraged. Why?

Physical advantage

Every gold medallist since the beginning of the modern Olympics, and most likely those in the old Olympics has a physical advantage over his competitors. The underlying prejudice in the current situation is that ‘male’ physical advantage is acceptable within the sex binary paradigm, even a delightful sign of machismo and sexual prowess, so long as the person with that advantage is thought to be a ‘man’.

Men are not subjected to tests for masculinity. They are not inspected to see if they have too many female parts.

The idea, I suppose, is that if a female can win as a male then she has achieved the ultimate that a female can achieve and that is to qualify as a man. (I give you Margaret Thatcher.)

For example, FtM transsexuals have to endure much less prejudice than MtF. The employment rate amongst FtM is near the national average while for MtF the employment rate is about 20%.

Lesbians are far more acceptable to society than gay men. Lesbianism is the number one male fetish. Gay males are represented more in hate crimes than people of colour or ethnicity. In this I propose that lesbians qualify as acceptable because they like what men like – women. Gay men do not qualify because they like what women like – men.

The point is to underline the patriarchal view that permeates society where being sex diverse is a disadvantage, where being different provokes prejudice, where being female is good (yet still provokes deeply held prejudice), where being male is ideal (as it does not provoke prejudice it is eugenically selected for in China and India).

The issue for Mokgadi Caster Semenya would not arise if she had competed as a man, even if she had won. There has never been a sex test (as far as I know) for any man competing in the Olympics.

Testosterone testing for males is only ever done as a doping test. If the individual happens to have a genetic difference that causes overproduction of testosterone then that person still qualifies, even if that genetic difference is an intersex one.

No thought of asking a male to cut one of his balls off, to even out the field a bit, would enter anyone’s head (save for mine).

Examples of genetic physical advantages that are clearly evident but not tested for and that do not disallow contestants:

  • Short stocky build for weight lifters – lifting a weight to 1.5 metres is easier than lifting to 2 metres and lifting from a wide base is easier still.
  • Large feet, long torsoes and increased lung capacity – advantageous in swimmers and are features that are selected for by swimming coaches.
  • Thin bodies with long legs – selected for in marathon running.

The IOC is only concerned when a woman posses what are considered male physical advantages.

The IOC is attempting to lay down what physicality is allowable for females.

This is reminiscent of the long-standing position on AIS women where it is deemed that they should always have their testicles removed because they might become cancerous.

This is a lie. There is little evidence to support this and what evidence relies heavily on male testicles and is induced to include XY females who are still regarded as “really being male” by a large slice of the medical fraternity.

The idea that an athlete should have their body modified to conform more exactly with sex binary expectations is repulsive.

If the IOC wins on this then what other anatomies will not qualify as female? What other parts will have to be removed to be a real woman? This is analogous to transsexuals only being allowed to change their identity documents after they have had sufficient maleness or femaleness surgically removed.

In all of IOC history only one person has ever been put forward as being a male disguised as a female.

She was Dora Ratjen. Dora Ratjen was intersex.

No physical advantage can be shown or has ever been shown of intersex over the general population beyond what is within normal variability. Mokgadi Caster Semenya did not break the world record. Will they test the world record holder for excess testosterone levels? Generally intersex have a distinct disadvantage because of their physical differences.

If Ms Semenya has AIS – Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome – or PAIS – Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome – as is sometimes supposed then her body will react less to testosterone than non-AIS females. It does not matter how much androgen is available, it will not be used by AIS bodies. On the other had if a non-AIS female takes testosterone her body will be able to metabolise it and it may confer an advantage.

My position

I disagree with sex testing in athletics. I do not accept that there is any clear boundary between being male and being female. Intersex bodies most clearly demonstrate this blurring of definitions, however all bodies are likewise unbound from absolutes.

I think that attempting to find an absolute distinction will be fraught and prejudiced by the expectations of the testers. So long as Western medicine is involved there will be a fundamental sex binary expectation projected onto any attempt to determine sex.

I understand that sex binary expectations are rooted in homophobia and the inferiority of women. Intersex are assigned male or female with the expectation that they will go on to be the penetrators or the penetrated in heteronormative relationships.

Medical professionals consider an intersex person who ends up in an apparently homosexual relationship as a failure of assignment. Where possible surgery will make men of intersex, but the main reason that more intersex are converted to women is as a result of surgical limitations. When surgery was not possible, most intersex were thought to be male – Herculine Barbin and Dora Ratjen – or male-like (they still are).

I do not support the elimination of sex segregation in the Olympics. I take this position on feminist principles.

Men have dominated women’s lives for the most part because of an advantage in physical strength and aggression. In fact, primarily because of aggression. Men are responsible for wars, most domestic and civil violence, rapes, incest and so on. This is at the heart of human dysfunction. Societally-sanctioned physical aggression keeps all of us in our place – men against men, men against women.

This is not to say that all females are physically weaker than men. Many are not and they go on to win medals at the Olympics. This is about bell curves and averages, where there are huge overlaps.

This is also about a society that raises females to be submissive, to pretend intellectual inferiority in the presence of males and to learn incompetence in areas of male expertise. Females with physical and intellectual advantages are discouraged.

We will never know how many powerful, supremely fit and able females are out there so long as such women are encouraged to  be Paris Hilton and are terrorized away from being Ms Semenya. What woman would want to be thought of as “butch”, a “man”, an “hermaphrodite”, a “cheat” and so on because they used their anatomy to its full capacity?

Segregated competition allows men to burst through and bloom in their cloud of self-congratulatory adulation while women have their own place and their own opportunities.

Women’s competition is generally considered inferior – name me one woman’s sporting event that gets the same coverage as football or cricket – however there may come a day when patriarchy is replaced with equality. Not equality at law – heaven knows there is enough of that about and it makes the same difference as drawing a line in water – but rather equality in social acceptance and expectation. There may come a day where all people are able to reach their full potential without the hindrance of one group asserting their superiority over another.

In supporting segregation I encourage all people to move away from the need for it. In supporting sex segregation I oppose absolutely the notion that intersex should be a separate sex and should have separate events. I do this for the reasons I oppose intersex as a third sex or third gender.

In supporting segregation I oppose, absolutely, sex testing and any attempt to do that. People who compete in good faith as the sex or gender they enroll in as should be treated as that and treated with respect. The IOC and their ilk should confine themselves to discovering cheats not differences. They should get out of the business of what makes a male or a female and get into the business of what makes an honest athlete.

One day in paradise there will be no need to proscribe and define sex differences. We will judge each other on the basis of our deeds, our talents, our contribution and our personal preferences.

Right now the IOC is in the same quicksand South Africa nearly drowned in thirty years ago. They are trying to decide who is black, who is white and who is coloured in the sex wars.