Caster Semenya, Gender Verification and the Politics of Fairness in an Online Track & Field Community

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of British Columbia
  • 2 Durham University
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The sex testing of South African runner Caster Semenya in 2009 was widely discussed in media, but the most serious and significant sites of debate may have been within the cultures and institutions of track & field itself. In this article, we report findings from an analysis of an online track & field community—TrackNet Listserv—through which the Semenya case, and the politics and ethics of sex testing, were discussed. The results suggest that listserv members recognized the contestability of sex testing policies and identified with feminist struggles, but nevertheless largely argued for sex testing’s necessity in light of understandings of the biologically normative female body and the importance of maintaining fairness in and through sex-segregated sport. The implications for the sport of track & field and for sporting feminisms are discussed.

Wells is with the Kinesiology Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Darnell is with the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom.

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