It's about our community and our spirituality!

Caster Semenya Deserves Better


Eighteen year old South African runner Caster Semenya bolted to the world’s attention when she shattered records on the track.  At the African Junior Championships in Mauritius she posted the fastest 800-meter run of the year at the time with a 1:56:72.  When she competed in her first senior championship at the world track and field championships in Berlin just a few days ago, she clocked another record for the year of 1:55.45 and finished two seconds ahead of the defending world champion.

cas595The wide margin of victory against elite runners of the world added to the speculation that Ms. Semenya could be a male.  Officials from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field’s governing body for the world, will be conducting a gender testing procedure that includes an endocrinologist, a gynecologist, a psychologist, and both internal and external physical examinations.  The IAAF director of communications, Nick Davies, says that the organization does not believe Ms. Semenya has been intentionally cheating but is the victim of a medical condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS).  AIS is a condition in which a person who is genetically male but is unaffected by male sex hormones known as androgens.  Some people with AIS will have a totally female body on the outside, but will lack ovaries and a uterus while others may demonstrate partial AIS and will develop more muscle mass and have more facial hair than usual.

To say that the rest of the track runners are praying for confirmation of the AIS gender malady in the test results is an understatement.  Ms. Semenya literally blows away the competition with the ability to literally walk away from the rest of the pack at will.  With respect to her opponents, Ms. Semenya does a very good impersonation of Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, who outruns his male opponents just as easily with his own record shredding performances.  As a man Mr. Bolt is immune from accusations of gender confusion.  No one is going to accuse him of running like a girl, not unless it’s the bionic woman.

1158florence-griffith-joyner-1And speaking of the bionic woman, if Ms. Semenya looked like Lindsey Wagner, who played the transistors enhanced Jaime Sommers, questions of her gender would not have been an issue.  But because she does not fall into the typical standards of beauty of keen facial features and long wavy hair, it’s easy to dismiss her as nothing more than a freak of nature undeserving of her success.  If she looked more like the Florence Griffith-Joyner and ran with a long flowing ponytail and sporting the latest in Cover Girl products or was a perky bundle of muscle like Dominique Dawes then we would simply call her the winner and stand in line to swoon all over her.

femalephysiqueInstead, we hear rumors that she might be more man than woman and suddenly point to her anatomy and ask, what gives?  Does she really have too much muscle mass to be a woman?  Some of her competitors look just as muscular.  Maybe they should have their gender checked as well.  Does she really have more hair than other women?  I know for a fact that nobody questioned Brooke Shields’ gender when she walked onto the scene with her bushy eyebrows.  But that won’t stop these fleet footed kettles from calling Ms. Semenya black.  Italian competitor Elisa Piccione said that these kinds of people should not be allowed to run with normal women.  I guess by normal she doesn’t mean slower.

Instead of being celebrated as the latest great athlete, Ms. Semenya is going to be systematically taken apart and studied  all the way down to her genetic level.  Her twenty third chromosome will be checked for the proper pairing and she’ll be put under a variety of technologically advanced microscopes so some of us can examine her every defect.  Some of the test that she’ll be subjected to will be arbitrary and based on somebody’s opinion of what it means to be male or female.  Seriously, what can a psychologist contribute to the understanding of this runner’s gender?  The only reason she’s going in for psychological testing is that she did her best to win a race.

If this woman is going through a battery of tests simply because she won a race then maybe it should become standard procedure for all women who win a race to have their gender checked and their psyche scrutinized for their every Freudian flaw.  Why stop there?  Let’s avoid embarrassing the winners and the rest of the runners altogether by checking their femininity when they sign up before they run.  But to wait until women like Caster Semenya are in the middle of experiencing their highest high, after they have put their best effort forward with astonishing results, after they have played by all the rules, while they’re steep in the middle of overwhelming emotions, to single them out for further testing simply because they won and don’t fit our expectations of how a woman should appear and act is some serious loser like behavior.

Saturday, August 22, 2009 - Posted by | Black Community, Caster Semenya, Life, Racism, Thoughts


  1. We don’t discriminate against tall women and say they shouldn’t compete because they’re too tall.
    If they have been born and raised as women and they think about themselves as women I would say let them compete as women.

    Comment by zahid92042 | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. Brotherpeacemaker, already I admire the spirit of your writing, but not yet had I seen someone write so well of the disgrace that is this treatment of our sister! When this same year I have seen many examples of how healing and powerful sports can be in oir young girls’ lives! Thank you so much, brother, for calling this what it is. Alafia! Let us be praying for Caster Semenya.

    Comment by Angela Bocage | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the feedback Angela Bocage,

    It is always wonderful to hear a compliment or two from people who read my blog. You make an interesting point with the observation that sports can be healing in young girls’ lives. And yet, we’re using sports to dismantle this girl’s life. I think it’s just a ploy to get her out of the competition and let lesser runners have an opportunity to win.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  4. Thanks for this post. I have read some of the most vile commentary about Semenya recently and I’m so glad to have read yours. I agree with you about it being a ploy to get her off her game and out of the competition. Because honestly, there are so many better, more discreet ways to figure out Semenya sex if there’s a question without embarrassing her to this extent.

    Comment by Chi-Chi | Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Reply

  5. “Seriously, what can a psychologist contribute to the understanding of this runner’s gender?”

    When I read the first mention you made of her undergoing tests by a psychologist, in this whole race for disenfranchisement, I thought the same thing. Are we going to start running psych tests on everyone to see if maybe a lesser male runner can compete in the women’s category of competition just because he thinks more like a girl than a guy, or vice versa?

    Everything that has happened since her victory has been nothing but a huge stinking pile of bullshit. You’d think the IAAF would have something better to do than this trivialization of Semenya’s efforts to be her best.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Monday, August 24, 2009 | Reply

  6. They say ms.semenya looks like a man well if that’s the case i say she looks like a fiiiine! man comparing her with 2 men who were making nasty comments on de taxi,they looked like baboons.

    Comment by Mola | Thursday, August 27, 2009 | Reply

  7. Semenya has been criticized to the extent of absurdity. Just because she’s really strong and muscular, runs really exceedingly well than her stereotype female competitors, and that she’s got more facial hair (?!), they’re making her do the test.

    Girls like her have grown up in villages we can totally understand their fitness and strength without question. We do not expect them to have flawless skin and threaded brows and delicate faces. What if for her entire life she has been training for such a moment, but it’s been taken away from her jsut like that? What if her glory could bring hope to her little village in africa? It pains me to think about how she feels now.

    I agree with you that if she had the looks of Florence Griffith-Joyner, with the similar type of body shape, she wouldnt be in this plight now.

    My prayers go out for this 18 yr old star and we all hope that discrimination will end with this episode after test results prove rumours untrue.

    Comment by Jed | Thursday, August 27, 2009 | Reply

  8. Imagine how the under 5 feet white women must have felt when they a six foot black guy at the starting line! Sorry bad joke, but if she says that shes a woman then who are we to disagree? She is a natural athlete and should be treated as such, not as some freak of genetics! Although the HUGE gap between 1st and second was almost laughable, she was on the news and she was being supported by her whole country, and yet there is still doubt? Youve gotta be 100% stuck up to think you know better than a country!

    Comment by Thin Lizzy | Tuesday, September 8, 2009 | Reply

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