Caster Semenya’s True Identity Is Up to Her

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Gotta love the ongoing coverage around Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose gender has been questioned since her victory last month at the 2009 World Championships. Not only does this issue raise questions around gender and privacy, it also shows how absolutely skewed our conceptions of beauty and femininity are.

In his piece Embattled Track Star Caster Semenya Gets New Coach, New Look, Yahoo sports writer, Chris Chase comments:

First, one of her South African coaches quit the team in shame for not telling Semenya that she was being subjected to gender tests. (Semenya had thought she was taking a doping test.) Then, Semenya appeared on the cover of South Africa’s You magazine with a complete makeover designed to silence critics who insist she is a man.

BTW in the interview Semenya says, “I see it all as a joke, it doesn’t upset me. God made me the way I am and I accept myself.”

For the shoot Semenya sported a less ambiguous hairstyle, a designer black dress, jewelry, makeup and nail polish. Despite what you think about the whole situation, it’s safe to say that this is the first time that Semenya has truly looked like an 18-year old woman.

Really, hmmm. I better rush out and get a makeover that includes nails, hair, designer dress and jewelry, cuz without ‘em I must not look like a 37-year-old woman. What have I been thinking all these years, dressing the way I want?

Carter attempts to sympathize with the makeover ambush by saying:

Let’s hope this is what she wants though.

Nothing Semenya has done in the past month has suggested that she likes to wear dresses, get manicures and let down her hair. After the controversy broke, she kept her cornrows, wore baggy clothes and pounded her chest in victory like a college football cornerback?

But if Semenya was pressured to do this to silence her critics, then this is a sad story rather than one of retribution.

Of course she was pressured to do this. I’m sure she said to herself, “Wow, now that my gender is in question I am soooo excited to get a makeover!”

So? What does a woman look like? And what are the implications of having your complete identity challenged and another one imposed onto you?

Tami over at What Tami Said makes some great points on the subject.

What do you think?

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