Sport, gender testing, race and the policing of femininity

One of the most problematic aspects of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new gender testing policy was relegated to a single sentence in the Los Angeles Times’ article on this controversial issue.

According to the new IOC rules, the test won’t be administered to all female athletes and instead will be given only when “the chief medical officer of a national Olympic committee or a member of the IOC’s medical commission requests it.” While this may have been designed to make the process less onerous, it creates an entirely new problem that will disadvantage any woman who is perceived as not being sufficiently feminine.

The test itself will disqualify women from competing if they have testosterone levels in the range of 7 to 30 nanomoles per liter of blood, which is the range typically seen in males. However, the decision to test an athlete will be entirely subjective. There are no “objective” indicators of which women may have heightened levels of testosterone. Under the new policy, only women who raise a specter of doubt in the minds of members of the IOC will be asked to prove their gender. In practice, this means that whether a woman will have her eligibility called into account and be forced to undergo testing will be based on stereotypes about gender. If past history is any indication, this will have a devastating impact on gender-nonconforming women and will disproportionately affect women of color.

For more, go here. (Thanks, A!)

7 thoughts on “Sport, gender testing, race and the policing of femininity

  1. Yay, more women athletes competing while wearing make up and jewelry and with their hair done.

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