Just a few weeks ago, co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team, Megan Rapinoe was deeply antigonized by social media for her confidence in her sport—most people interpreting such attitude to being arrogant.
She was called many names by people (mostly men) on the internet, a few of them being British TV personality Piers Morgan, and U.S. President Donald Trump—describing her persona as arrogant and full of herself, as she confidently plays her sport, and is openly proud of her and her team’s skills. The issue stirred up major toxic masculinity, for the public criticized her attitude, meanwhile male athletes never had to suffer such criticisms when they appear too cocky in the field. When men exert dominance and confidence, it’s cool and hot. But when women do it, it becomes vanity and egotism.
Female athletes like Megan Rapinoe have been suffering unfair criticisms and unequal treatment for the longest time. And just recently, another incident spurred, but this time, with two-time Olympic champion runner, Caster Semenya.
Caster Semenya is a 28-year-old South African runner who gained worldwide recognition in 2009, when she won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meters event at the World Championships. She is fast, strong, and runs like no woman we have ever seen in the Olympics before. But on May 1st, the highest court in international sports controversially ruled that female track athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone must decrease the hormone to participate in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics. This means Caster will be forced to take suppressants, or she’ll be barred from competing in 800-meter races at the Olympics and other major international competitions.
Winning the 2009 gold medal for the Olympics was not only a feat for Caster, but also the beginning of her battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over her naturally occurring high-testosterone levels. The IAAF enacted a rule on restricting permitted levels of testosterone on female athletes in 2011, and was over tuned in 2015. And just last April, they again ruled that female athletes with high levels of testosterone must take necessary medications. Obviously, Caster refused to take such drugs, and challenged the ruling on her naturally occurring testosterone levels to be “discriminatory, unnecessary, unreliable and disproportionate.” And we definitely agree.
According to The Cut the idea is now being highly criticized as sexist and racist, with many pointing to the situation of men’s naturally athletic advantages, specifically directing to Michael Phelps Olympic swimmer, whose body produces an exceptionally low amount of fatigue-inducing lactic acid when compared with those of his competitors—which gives him a major advantage. And instead of being disqualified in the race like Caster, he is instead, labeled as “The man who was built to swim.”
If that isn’t unfair, then I don’t know what is.
Caster Semenya is being denied of her human rights. She could not help how she was born, why hold things against her ability? And with cases like Michael Phelps—who is both male and White—the world cannot help but think extremely sexist and racist of Caster’s situation.
After appealing to the IAAF, Caster lost her plea. And despite the criticisms that were pinning the IAAF as “discriminatory”, they argued that “such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events.”
This ruling is affecting women athletes all over the globe. Just days after the IAAF’s ruling, Kenya has jounced two of its runners from the IAAF World Relays championship over hormone tests. According to the East African Athletics director, the decision of the jousting was made because now that the most powerful authority in international sports has decreed that women with high testosterone levels cannot compete in certain events unless they take hormone suppressants, “We could not risk traveling with the two athletes,” they said.
Women in sports have been facing discrimination and inequality for as long as we can remember. Venus Williams herself had to win the match of her life just to get Wimbledon to give women prize money equal to men back in 2007. She had to fight for this to happen. And up to this day, not all women athletes are paid fairly.
It seems that no matter how much society has fought the patriarchy, there is still a very long way to go when it comes to the equality that women seek. Women like Caster Semenya is a gift to her sport. She, and every other female athlete who is prejudiced when playing—whether it be receiving sexist comments, given unfair pay, and treated less than male athletes—deserve the hard work that they exert in representing themselves and their own nations.
It is a complete shame on sports to be depriving women of their natural strengths and abilities in the playing field.
Photo courtesy of Instagram
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