Name: Shawnie Tarczynski
Student Number: 08610177
Tutor: Julie-Anne Carroll

This document is a short clip of the press conference of the short-distance female athlete Caster Semenya, defending the accusations of gender verification in the interview following her success in the 2008 olympics.

The controversial focus of gender testing in female athletes has continuously surfaced for debate, as women athletes are forced to undergo multiple biological tests to prove that they are indeed competing within the right gender. Athlete Caster Semnya is one example of a female athlete that was questioned on her gender, with respect to her greater ability and athleticism in sport.

The video depicts the olympic champion defending a female's opportunities of athleticism as equal to that of male.

Gender verification- also identified as a birth defect known as sexual ambiguitiy, is a multidimensional pressing issue on elite athletes. More specifically, it is representative of several aspects of societal expectation's arisen establishing inequality, where by an individual's physical appearance, capability and muscularity, stereotypically set them apart.
With the development of socialisation factor within today's society, gender compliance has been established and portrayed, as it expects both males and females to fulfil specific gender roles and stereotypes, to depict a certain image of masculinity for a male or similarly femininity for a female. As stated by Kristin Wilde, "Traditionally, females have been expected to wear dresses, cook and clean, raise children, maintain a beautiful and delicate body, and remain passive, moral, and pure (Griffin, 1998; Sherrow, 1996; Woolum, 1998; Zimmerman and Reavill, 1998).
Although the controversy surrounding stereotyping has subsided, women in sport are still significantly disadvantaged, under appreciated and represented unequally that is, to the same caliber as men.

This essay will investigate the injustice of female athleticism in sport through inequality barriers of gender stereotyping. It will therefore, also highlight the importance of movement towards gender equality through the elimination of socialisation factors limiting the acceptance of women participation in masculine sports, and thus a wider perspective of a women's participation in physical activity and the implications of population health.

Throughout the past decade and onwards, the contention of female gender verification has controversially sparked extensive debate and scrutiny in women's sport. Throughout this period, significant amounts of acedemic literature have been produced, defending the prejudice and stigma placed on female athletes in elite sport. Despite this, it is clear that both social and scientific paradox notions are evident amongst the issue, as substantial literature represents gender verification as a discriminating act against females, yet they persist with the examination. Joe Simpson explains that, "the ostensible goal of gender verification is to ensure that female athletes do not unwittingly compete against men." He then goes on to state that, "In reality, gender verification tests are difficult, expensive, and potentially inaccurate" (Simpson, 2000). Despite the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) current and ever changing movements for equality, the continuous stigmatisations of female atheltes are having an immense impact of the individual at all levels, the sport and most importantly a woman's choice to freely participate without interrogation.

Barry Dickson discuss's his concerns of laboraty-based genetic testing, by highlighting the social and scientific approaches to female gender verification. In his literature he considers the practice of mandatory gender verification in women athletes, by reviewing several genetic aspects of sexual differentiation, such as disorders of chromosomal sex, gondola sex and phenotypic sex (Dickson, 2002).
Throughout the study he mentions the appropriateness of the techniques used to test abnormalities, such as the invasion of physical inspection in the late 1950's to the current intervention and evaluation of individual athletes by personnel if gender identity is questionable. Ultimately, Dickson concluded the unfairness, basis and inaccuracy of the screening. Ultimately..

"the combination of invalid screening tests, failure to understand the problems of intersex, the discriminatory singling out of women based only on laboratory results, and the stigmatization and emotional trauma experienced by individuals screened positive prompted organized objection among medical professionals toward gender verification in sports."(Dickson, 2002)

He then further went on the highlight the social implications.

"Genuine sex-impostors have not been uncovered by laboratory-based genetic testing; however, gender verification procedures have resulted in substantial harm to a number of women athletes born with relatively rare genetic abnormalities affecting gonadal development or the expression of secondary sexual characteristics" (Dickson, 2002).

Indeed, the literature suggests that gender verification is multidimensional, in that among a social context it sacrifices a woman's rights of sexual identification just on the basis of her appearance, behaviours and personality. This social theory is further evident throughout "Amezdeoz's" research on the stereotypical representation of 'gender', or more specifically how each gender is conformed to societal expectations of a 'masculine' or 'famine' stereotype. But first, to understand this portrayal it is crucial to indentify the difference between sex and gender. The World Health Organisation defines "Sex" as the "biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women and refers to "Gender"as the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women" (The World Health Organisation, 2012).


With discussing gender, the theory of socialisation is also of great importance, that is "the process by which individuals learn to modify their behaviour to conform to what is considered ‘acceptable’ in their society" (Amezdroz et al., 2004, p. 483). In the developmental stages of childhood, males and females experience a process where by the categorisation of masculine, neutral and famine sports are established. It is during these early stages in youth that gender identity is embedded upon each sex in both a social and physical environment, which therefore greatly affects the way each sex's is conformed to act throughout life.

As evidence by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the comparison of female participation to that of males indicates that both sex's are as motivated to partake in sports, it is more specifically the stigma placed of elite females athleticism that limits promotion, television and therefore much needed funding. In comparing the two sex's, the ABS suggests "Males had a higher participation rate (58.5%) than females (50.9%)" (The Australian Bureaus of Statistics, 2000). The research also suggests that the "Participation rates were highest for the 18-24 year age group (73.5%), and declined steadily with age" (The Australian Bureaus of Statistics, 2000). The rate for persons aged 65 years and over was 33.8%."

Further studies conducted in a measured comparable basis in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 ultimately suggested, "The total participation rates in those years were 59.4% and 54.7% respectively. This decrease in the participation rate occurred in all age groups" (The Australian Bureaus of Statistics, 2000). More specifically for females, "Participation rates declined with increasing age. Females aged 25 - 34 years had the highest participation rate (68.0%) while females aged 65 years and over had the lowest (41.3%)" (The Australian Sports Commission, 1999-2000).

The importance of these statistics is indicated in the decline of overall participation. The association between physical activity and better health outcomes is a greatly researched and established positive connection.

"Studies have shown that physical activity can significantly lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, depression and some forms of cancer (Pate et al., 1995; Glasgow et al., 1997). "
On another note, a scientific perspective can be discussed, that is the theory which justifies biological differences in genders evidently enable male athletes to have greater ability (Curley, 2012). The literature provides strong scientific evidence into the advantageous effects of higher testosterone levels in the performance of male athletes. The study suggests that, "While both men and women produce testosterone in their bodies, in men it produces more muscle, adding to athletic prowess" (Curley, 2012). Debate still remains as to whether heightened levels of testosterone in male athletes promote higher performance, or whether women are simply perpetuated within society to believe that this is indeed the case. As the hormone is present also in females, but in smaller amounts, it is easy to assume that females will be of lesser ability in performance. Still, this assumption is greatly affiliated with societal norms which suggest women should not possess greater levels great masculinity, great physicality and therefore a equal or greater performance. Despite biological dissimilarities both sex's can only perform to the capabilities in which societal expectations have set for each gender. Indeed, males may possess heighten levels of testosterone, however, needless to say that a women could not achieve similar performance, without being questioned on her sexual orientation.
It is important to note that much of this literature released in the past 10 years on the controversy of female gender verification has been produced by authors with methodologies based on 'emic' or ‘insider’ perspectives.

The extent and depth of the significant findings on female gender verification discussed throughout, indicate that an understanding of female gender verification is essential is contemporary public health practices. Society and culture play a fundamental role in addressing population health. This is especially clear when discussing social construction, that is societies affects on the participation of women in sport, women's sport coverage and therefore women's sport success's.IMG_0975.jpgSocial construction or constructivism is a popular perspective in sociology that argues there is, "nothing natural or normal about the world we inhabit, and that, rather, it consists of a series of conventions that are continually created by individuals who define situations and interact, albeit within broader contexts" (Forte, 2002). This is the idea that our conceptions of the world around us created and constructed through social life. "That is, nothing in our social worlds is destined to be the way that it is; rather, we create and recreate it such that we believe in it" (Lemonik, 2001). Through social constructivism males and females are ideally constrained to act as there gender respectively should. In sport this means, "Male athletes are portrayed by the popular media in terms of their physicality, muscularity, and supe- riority, while female athletes are feminized and their achievements as athletes are often trivialised" (Foulis,2012). Particularly within generation Y, gender roles are extremely influential in many individuals choices to apply themselves in activities. The current trends suggest that many young adolescents are extremely active as aforementioned in data, however, there is still great minority of adolescents opposing to activities that illustrate masculine qualities. This trend is very occurrent among both different cultures and social circumstances.
In understanding the social constructionism of gender, Feminist theorist Simone de Beauvoir adapted the theory of a "framework which explains that there is no essential, universally distinct character that is masculine or feminine - behaviours are influenced by a range of factors including class, culture, ability, religion, age, body shape and sexual preference" (Lingard et al., 2002, p.55). The feminist perspective discusses the movement towards the empowerment of women, by achieving the fair equality among both genders. It is evident that the configuration of genders roles in society has been constructed to form an image where by men are superior and should be perceived as masculine and women are inferior and famine. From a population health perspective a feminist movements that promote's gender equality and oppose the perpetuation of gender discrimination in economic, political, legal, and social structures is paramount (Walker, 2005). An example of this is feminist movement approach, an influential assiociation aiming to achieve equality on a social level, yet still facing challenges within women's sport.
In achieving greater equality a greater percentage of positive health outcomes will arise, subsequent to an increase in women's participation in sport. With greater increased participation comes a decreased risk of threatening chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension), obesity and premature death (Warburton, Nicol & Bredin, 2006).


The artefact illustrates sexism of greater female athleticism, where by greater physicality, masculinity and ability means a women must be questioned on her sexual orientation. Caster Semnya is a fine example of a female athlete scrutinised on her abilities and success at the passing olympics. As verified, Caster was obliged to undergo gender based testing and after lengthy interrogation, caster was deemed a female without question. I acknowledge that as protocol such measures should be taken, however, women are continuously undermined and questioned on there great abilities in sport. I recognise that as time has passed female gender verification has progressed and slowly the equality barrier is drawing closer, again, however, a women should not be question on her sex, just because she possess a more masculine figure, great endurance or physicality to that of a man.
Throughout my investigation and analysis of the topic, it is evident that despite the progressions in examining gender verification, the equality barriers between men and women in sport, are still yet to be improved. Unfortunately, much of this is as a consequence of the expectations of each gender and their susceptibility to the socially constructed norms of masculine and famine. It is clear that the biological differences between men and women indeed pose benefits to the athleticism of male, however, there that is not to say that any female should be questioned if receiving similar results. I believe that an imperative role in achieving future gender equality is combating the current societal expectations and constructions that are embedded among our generation. Men may be born with greater testosterone levels, but as a public health professional i have no doubt that any women can achieve equal if not greater result to that of males is they receive equal opportunities.
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