Thoughts on women athletes

This morning, two stories about women’s athletics got my feminist fires burning. 

The first was a piece on CBC Sunday Magazine, an interview with the Olympic and world champion runner at 800 m, Caster Semenya. She has a new memoir out, entitled “The Race to Be Myself”. I won’t go into her story; it can be looked up. It’s the larger issue of how Black women are disproportionately targeted for “high” testosterone (T) levels, and being accused of not being female. As someone who knows something about reproductive hormones, I ask: how is the range of “acceptable” T levels in women determined? What is the reference standard? Was it determined in primarily white female athletes (who, by the way, have higher T levels than the general population)? And this targeting happens not only at the level of the IOC, but among white female athletes. In Caster’s words, “It shows that the leadership in world athletics have done well to separate women from women….to make sure that we, as women, hate one another”. And that’s the patriarchy operating. Caster has done so much to smash the patriarchy by simply embracing who she is and finding inner peace by running like the wind. To watch her run is to witness raw power and speed. It’s beautiful. 

The second was a Facebook comment from a friend of mine in response to a man who was denigrating the new Women’s Professional Hockey League. So my comment back to her was as follows; “There are men out there who are simply unable to appreciate and take joy in women’s athleticism. Strong, powerful, loud women who take up space are a threat to them and this is how they react. So you continue to be strong, powerful, and loud and smash that damn patriarchy”. 

Let’s be kind to all the women athletes. Let’s recognize their humanity. Let’s celebrate all of the diversity in our strong, powerful, beautiful bodies, and lift each other up. 

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