12 August 2014
Increased Discrimination Through Gender Testing
In 2006, Santhi Soundarajan won the silver medal in the 800-meter race at the Asian Games while representing India. This would be a “triumphing” moment that Soundarajan would remember for the rest of her life, however in the next couple of days her life would take an unexpected turn. Soundarajans team doctor told her that she was expected to take some tests the day after her race. According to Samantha Shapiro’s ESPN article, the doctors who examined Soundarajan for 30 minutes did not speak her native language and told her to leave the games without a clear explanation. Soundarajan later learned that the reason she was dismissed from the games was because she was “not really a woman” (Shapiro). Soundarajan then states “And that was the end of my sports life” (Shapiro). Not only was that the end of Soundarajans sports life, but also it was almost the end of her life on earth when she attempted to commit suicide as a result from the humiliation following publicity from her gender testing results. Santhi Soundarajan is not the only woman who has experienced discrimination from gender testing in track; Caster Semenya joined Soundarajan in 2009. Like Soundarajan, Semenya also runs in the 800-meter race, but she competes for South Africa. Semenya finished in first place at the Berlin World Championships, but then failed the gender test given to her by the IAAF. In contrast to Soundarajan, the South African government supported Semenya and fought with her, which resulted in Semenya being cleared to compete again. Although Semenya was cleared, her performances were never as good, which was an after affect from the discrimination she faced from gender testing.
Gender testing is yet another way that women are discriminated against in sport. Female athletes are forced to live up to society’s norms of femininity, and gender testing has created even more instances where female athletes were discriminated against based on their appearance. Santhi Soundarajan and Caster Semenya are two women; both were competing in international track competitions, whose lives were changed after they were faced with discrimination and gender testing. Ever since the origins of sport and the Olympics, women have been discriminated against. According to the “History of Women in Sport Timeline”, women were not even allowed to compete in the Olympics in ancient Greece, which forced them to create their own competition called the Games of Hera. Since then women have slowly joined more sports and female athletics has become more popular, however still segregated from men. Although female athletes are very prominent in todays world, they are still expected to look and act up to what society believes are “feminine standards”. “We Can Be Athletic and Feminine, But Do We Want To? Challenging Hegemonic Femininity in Sport” is a chapter from the book “Quest”, written by Vikki Krane, and is about femininity in athletics. Krane states that, “women who appear to be heterosexually feminine are privileged over women perceived as masculine”(Krane). Krane is arguing that to be “privileged” in sport, women have to prove that they still have feminine attributes in addition to their athletic body. This is a result from the idea that sports are masculine in nature. According to Kranes sources, “engaging in active, powerful, assertive and competitive movements (i.e. those necessary to be successful in sport) is considered masculine behavior” (Krane). Because of this, “women have to go out of their way to show that they can be athletic and socially accepted” (Krane). With that statement Krane provides a quote from USA Ice hockey player, Cammi Granato, “I like to look good when I play, and makeup send the message that athletes can be feminine and still play a game aggressively”. Granato is just one example of a woman who feels that it is necessary to overcompensate for