PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — There are female athletes who will be competing at theOlympic Games this summer after undergoing treatment to make them less masculine.
Caster Semenya and other women like her face a complex question: Does a female athlete whose body naturally produces unusually high levels of male hormones, allowing them to put on more muscle mass and recover faster, have an “unfair” advantage?
In a move critics call “policing femininity,” recent rule changes by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, state that for a woman to compete, her testosterone must not exceed the male threshold.
The tell-tale signs are illustrated graphically in the IAAF rulebook, a sliding scale on everything from sexual organs to lower back hair and breast shape.
“It’s still the old patriarchal fear, or doubt, that women can do outstanding athletic performances. If they do, they can’t be real women. It’s that clear, it’s that prejudicial,” he says.
“Personal household and national income is far more relevant to performance than hormonal makeup,” he says. The countries with the highest GDP produce the most gold medals. The richer the athlete, the higher the likelihood of a winner, says Kidd. In other words, the salaries of your parents are a more accurate success indicator than testosterone.