Sporting Culture

In Jennifer Doyle’s “Why police the border between men’s and women’s sports?” she states that the borders between men and women sports should be more porous. She believes that it is possible to play across these borders and for men and women to play together as equals. I do not agree with her, I believe there need to be borders between men and women in sports. Men and women have different sex characteristics, they are physically and biologically different. It is a known fact that women can not compete at the same level that men do. Track and field is one example of this. If men and women were held to the same standards women would never be able to hold the best time or the highest award. In track and field VO2 maxes are something that is incredibly important. A VO2 max is the ability for a person to use a certain amount of oxygen per minute. Men have a higher VO2 max than women and therefore are able to run faster, it is not a physical difference but rather a biological difference. This is just one example of the biological difference between men and women that unfortunately will never allow a man and women to compete at the same level.

In Payoshni Mitra’s article “Male/Female or Other” she talks about the gender-verification test, throughout her article she mentions several athletes that have undergone such testing. For all four athletes the gender testing was humiliating and questioned their sexual identity, and only female athletes were subjected to such testing. There gender was put into question because they performed better than in the past and it was believed that a women could not perform at that level. Instead of questioning if they were on some sort of enhancing drug their gender was put into question. This is unfair and needs to be changed, gender-verification testing is sexist and fails basic human rights for these athletes. It is an issue that needs to be resolved because these organizations are forcing these athletes into the boxes that society has created and not allowing them to identify in the way that they feel.

This is not to say that intersex and transgendered people do not deserve to have the ability to compete in sports at a higher level. There should be a way for them to participate, they should not be left out or excluded for the fact that they are different. Unfortunately though this is a complicated issue and therefore requires more than just a simple change in rules. I believe it is something that needs to change but will take awhile before we see any real changes.

Sporting Cultures and Issues of Gender

We live in a society that loves to feel comfortable and, sadly, that level of comfort is typically tied to a closed-minded set of standards that people understand, encourage, and perpetuate. The infiltration of a strict gender binary is one of those severely outdated systems that our world revels in. I don’t believe everyone is inherently prejudice and hateful towards the “gray areas” of society, I think they just scramble to try and make sense of things in a set in stone way; one of those ways is by creating molds that everyone must fit into, such as male or female (especially in the world of athletics.) In her article, “Why Police the Border Between Men’s and Women’s Sports?,” Jennifer Doyle highlights the ideology behind this nonsensical notion, “[people believe] the difference between men and women’s football must be clear because the difference between men and women themselves must be absolute.” However, when it comes to gender this system fails horribly because gender is not that black and white. The fluidity of gender is evident in the examples of intersex and trans individuals. Since these individuals threaten to challenge the systems and beliefs of the more simple-minded (oops, sorry, I went there…) groups in society, they anger people, they make them feel uncomfortable, and ultimately, they encourage society to crack down harder and fight to keep the binary alive and inhibit others from expressing anything that doesn’t fit said “mold.”

In Payo Shrimitra’s “Male/Female or Other,” she outlines how this gender gap is desperately being perpetuated in the world of professional sports. Through the use of bogus gender-verification tests (hormone and DNA exams) the IAAF and IOC has persistently sought to maintain a rigid border between men and women in order to keep the sport “fair.” However, not only are these tests invalid, this notion is sexist , by nature, as it assumes that any woman capable of performing at the same level or better as a man, must not actually be a woman: such was in the case of Santhi Soundarajan. Soundarajan was subjected to gender verification testing and threatened to have her medals and titles revoked simply on the suspicion that she looked “too masculine.” Shrimitra’s argument is that the IAAF and IOC’s implication of these regulations is greatly hindering the culture of sports as they often speculate against and punish females for their talent as opposed to celebrating and rewarding it. At the end of the day, the spirit of athletics should be to do something you are passionate and good at and to represent your nation, not your gender! Sports, even at the professional level, should be based solely on ability and a focus on gender should be left out entirely, as the two are unrelated.

Male Vs. Female Sport!

     In sports, there are always differences between male and female athletes based on their masculinity and femininity. Male and female have different body structure; therefore they were not able to do the same competitions. Male body structurally more masculine than female, so they can do more athletic activity than female. But this is not true; there should not be any gender separation in sports. Since ninetieth century, modern sports took their place until present day, it has been required by the organization that they must maintain their position good in sports. Male has dominated sports, the organization more focuses to get male athletes rather female athletes. Therefore, women in sports fight for their right from many years.

     In Caster Semenya’s story, she was not accepted by the audience when she beat her competitor, even she was insulted by them saying she is not a female rather a male. She was not treated properly; they did not prefer her talent and ability. In today’s society, people just see others outside appearance to judge their identity. Also in Norng Tum story, from his childhood he knew he is a girl. Eventually he gets involved in boxing to support his poor family. He tried so hard to be a good boxer. He wanted transplant his gender to be fully a girl. He becomes popular after showing his talent of boxer in several competitions.

     Stephane Rennesons in his “Queer Bangkok” titled book mention about several things about sporting culture in queer society. Specially the chapter of “competing cultures of Masculinity”, he stated that the factors have led to the national success of a number of male to female transvestite kathoey Muay Thai boxers in Thailand. Norng tum is one of them.

     By reading Jennifer Doyle post, I like how she was talking about male and female separation in playing sports is not necessary. People accept female player by observing their ability and talent at athletic field. She point out “if they were not separated in the first place then there would not be a gender test.”

     Both the Caster and Norng cases say about trans and intersex athletes female to male and male to female transition. It does not even matter what were their gender is and what they ware by born. Women also can do athletic performance if they have talent.

Gender Questioning & Policing

A recent issue in sports media is something that may be shocking to many: questioning the “true” gender of many athletes. With the gender binary becoming less and less concrete, more people are transitioning into their preferred state of being. This is absolutely amazing for all those who wish to do this, but it has caused a lot of controversy for competing athletes. I think the problem that confuses many is the fact that sex is a physical characteristic that does have an affect over athletic ability.

In Jennifer Doyle’s article, “Why Police the Boarder Between Men and Women’s Sports?”, she argues that there should be no boarders between men and women in sports. I, however, disagree. There does need to be some sort of divide between men and women, because the fact of the matter is that women cannot physically preform as well as men in certain categories. In a perfect world men and women would have equal bodies, and I am sure some women are well-rounded better athletes, but on average that is not the reality.

Payoshni Mitra’s article, “Male/Female or Other”, she raises issues with the gender-verification test. These so-called “scientific” tests are always forced upon women, not men. This is a problem because women are always put under more scrutiny than men. Within the article, it tells the story of Pinki Pramanik, who was a former Indian track athlete. Her story is a perfect example of why these tests are so gender-biased and demeaning to women. After wrongfully being accused of rape she was forced to have her sex tested/determined. Her gender was in question once the test results came back. They showed that she had high levels of testosterone in her system. The problem with this was that she had been cheating, and she was not actually male. But, it was determined that she was male. After a long battle her gender was officially marked as female, but it was completely unfair what she had to go through. When men take testosterone and other male-enhancements, there is no question of their gender. But women are automatically accused of being men instead of cheating.

Although I strongly agree with the separation of males and females in certain areas of sports, there is still the question of where intersex people fit in. There is still a very apparent gender binary within sports culture, and intersex people are left in the dark. There needs to be something done to fix this and help these people, but it is hard to come up with the perfect solution.

The Issue of Gender Identity in a Fiercely Heteronormative Culture of Sports

The issue of differentiation between men and women has come under scrutiny in recent years. As gender identity becomes more fluid and different identities are accepted due to women and queer rights movements, the binaries of male and female have become less or not at all accepted by some while simultaneously reinforced by others. Caster Semenya, a world championed runner from South Africa, is one of the victims of those trying to reinforce gender binaries.

Jennifer Doyle discusses Semenya in From a Left Wing. She discusses how Semenya “grew up playing football with the boys, being teased for being a ‘tomboy,’” while “her family and friends [defend] she is a woman.” The issue grew to be so great, that Semenya was eventually forced to undergo very publicized and frankly embarrassing gender verification tests in an effort to appease those who were claiming that she must not be a woman. Doyle goes on to explain that these gender verification tests are often only conducted on women and have been declared unreliable and unnecessary by geneticists and endocrinologists due to the variability that is possible when determining gender.

Stephane Rennesson also discusses issues of masculinity, femininity, and gender identity in sports. Her publishing, “Competing Cultures of Masculinity; When Thai Transgender Bodies Go Through Muay Thai” looks specifically at transgendered males to females in Thai kickboxing. She explains that “Muay Thai can be defined as a truly gendered activity that places a strong emphasis on masculine behaviour,” raising an interesting paradox when considering that male to female transgendered have such success. This is an identity that significantly queers heteronormatives, taking a male who is ideally masculine and successful at a traditionally masculine sport who actually desires to be a woman, to whichever degree of femininity they choose.

All of this begs the question, why is it that the media is desperate to maintain and portray only these binaries of male and female? I think the answer is very complicated. It lies within the deep roots of heteronormative society, that there can only be straight males and females. There is also an underlying theme of sexism, the implication that women are considered so inferior to men that if a woman such as Semenya is so successful, then how could she be a woman? In the future, we must accept that there are species between male and female that have an equal place in sports.

Masculinity VS Femininity

The struggle for to find equality between masculinity and femininity is never ending. It’s like people cannot accept that a woman can beat a man in a sport-let alone a sport that is depicted as “very masculine.” When thinking of the sporting culture, I related much of it to Norng Tum’s case. He had become very big and famous in the Muay Thai community and as soon as he displayed any form of femininity, he was ridiculed. No matter how many times he won in the ring, people still criticized him.

The whole debacle over masculinity and femininity in sports prevents athletes of any sexuality to play to the best of their abilities. Sure, we could argue that the organizers of these sports are simply doing this to ensure that sports are being played fairly; but we all know that this cannot be the only reason. The fact that we are still separating male and females in sports says a lot about how the binary for males and females is still here. After watching the Beautiful Boxer, I saw that people accepted Norng Tum to an extent. People all around the world were astounded with Norng Tum’s ability to beat out many people in the ring, and the more he showed his feminine side people were not as accepting. It was very interesting to see how far the people would go in letting him fight as he became more and more feminine. In Rennesson’s piece, Competing Cultures of Masculinity, he cites two different types of boxers which I believe Norng embodies both. As an artistic boxer, he mastered many techniques of Muay Thai, and expressed himself as a woman. However, as an attacker, he trained very hard and intensely in order to win each fight he fought. This shows how even in Muay Thai where the rules may seem quite strict in its masculinity, Norng defies that.

Women have especially struggled in the world of sports, and even within their own gender. Specifically in Mitra’s piece, once Santhi Soundarajan showed an ounce of masculinity she was questioned about her sex. This was very shocking to me because why should there even be any suspicion or questioning about Santhi’s sexuality if she considered herself female, competing in a female race? What would have happened if officials were wrong about Santhi? Would they still have questioned her ability as an athlete?

Power and the Unknown

Sports is supposed to be fun, an entertainment and pass-time. However, as society advances, these principles begin to fade and gender, sexuality and masculinity/femininity become more prevalent.

I think that questioning a person’s sexuality and gender in sports has become a major issue due to history of how our society was created. In my BIO 358 class at Stony Brook, it has been proven that women are often found under male control because of their inability to give the time to become warriors. The dividing line did not come from physical characteristics, but the cost of reproduction. Using this information, I would like to apply it to the sporting culture. Women like Caster Semenya were only interrogated after she won the World Championship. People often thought Semenya’s physique was not typical of a female, but she was an athlete and “playing with boys…is totally ordinary” (Doyle 2009). Doyle speaks about when not in a competitive setting women playing sports with men is natural, but when the women receive recognition that is when problems arise. Semenya winning medals and being successful can be seen as a source of power. I believe that when individuals like Semenya gain success, people become insecure. She who blurred the lines of female and male, further challenging standards society created, leading people to then question their place in society.

Furthermore, gaining success in the sporting world can also help one move up on the social ladder. Stephane Rennsson speaks about Muay Thai boxing and how Nong-Tum initially entered the sport for money. A way for her to provide for her family. Referring back power, Rennsson exclaims that when Nong-Tum was being weighed, “his heartbreaking crying finally persuaded officials to accept his special request, and this became the basis of his fame” (Rennesson 52). People were unwilling to allow Nong-Tum be weighed differently than the others because by taking off her underpants, to them it was a validation of her sex, making them feel comfortable they knew the ‘truth.’ However, when she cries, she showed vulnerability, society no longer feared her. In this situation I think that her crying, gave the audience justification that Nong-Tum was not a threat any longer.

The struggle of power and the fear of the unknown may be a reason why masculinity/femininity is an issue in sports.