OK I got some feedback about my blog on the IOC’s new policy for testing female athletes hormone level. This person was looking for me to say something solid about it and take a stand; versus reciting the article and asking what you thought about it. So here goes!
- If this were a ‘man’s’ issue would it be an issue? We would not be having this conversation.
- Lets look at this from the psychological perspective. Women started off marginalized in sports. Lets look at some research.
- For centuries women didn’t participate in sports due to medical fears of sterility.
- Boys played aggressively to learn how to be successful in a competitive world and women learned how to become more graceful.
- Girls participate in sport in smaller numbers, with less intensity and for a shorter period of time than boys which partially stems from girls having less positive role models, supportive peers, or supportive families.
- The research has shown that girls exhibit lower expectancies than boys because mothers exhibit different achievement behaviors and have lower achievement expectancies than the father.
- Since media is one of the biggest ways that men use their privilege (men’s athletic events are given greater airtime, quality commentary and production), this has a big impact on society as a whole but more importantly how women athletes are looked at in society.
- Commentators frequently frame female athletes’ accomplishments in terms of traditional notions of femininity through the use of negative condescending and ambivalent descriptors. Women are referred to as girls while men are referred to as men. Women are not seen as athletic competitors. Commentators focused more on the physical appearance of women than their performance. The images portrayed reflect and shape attitudes about the women performing and those of us watching. The bias built into society is then reinforced.
- The research on femininity, competition and socialization states that as an athlete and a woman, you have been indirectly and directly taught throughout your socialization process to avoid competition of any kind in favor of tactics that diffuse conflict and preserve interpersonal harmony.
- When competition is inevitable, you more than likely have a tendency to use apologies and excuses to mitigate your behavior to unconsciously preserve your socialized femininity and your relationships.
With title IX and so many other positive things happening in the world of women’s sports, women have been excelling. Are women excelling too much which is why the IOC wants to send them back to the late 19th century/early 20th century:
- Sports labeled as feminine are those sports considered appropriate for you to participate in. These sports allow you to participate and remain true to the stereotyped expectations of femininity (such as being graceful, nonaggressive and noncompetitive) and provide for beauty and aesthetic pleasure. Sports that seek to provide these things are thereby not only acceptable for you to participate in but well in line with stereotyped expectations of femininity.
Haven’t women been humiliated enough? Women have fought long and hard to be sports competitors. I work with female Olympian’s. They spend their life training for their sport. They give up time with family and friends. If some of my athletes didn’t make it the Olympics because they weren’t good enough, they’d be crushed but they’d fight back. If they didn’t make the cut because of this test, I’d be crushed for them. They give everything to be Olympian’s at the top of their game and now this? My stand is this: nice try but this is not OK! Have you read the very sad article about Caster Semenya? This particular articles also talks about how early in her career, Senena Williams was consider a ‘shemale’ alongside tennis great Martina Navratilova.
The the above article: even supporters of the new policy acknowledge that it is falls far short of perfect. “It is a social-imposed categorization which sports authorities have always struggled to comply with,” says Dr. Eric Vilain, a professor of human genetics at UCLA who advised the IOC in Lausanne. The reason so many methods have been adopted and then abandoned is because there is no single indicator that can be used to definitively distinguishes between the sexes—not chromosomes, nor hormones, nor secondary characteristics, nor external appearance.
Is this any better? I would love to hear from some female Olympian’s. How do you feel about this?
Photo credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images