Sexposed: Olympic Double Standards for Black Women

By Megan Izen Aug 21, 2009

Sex and gender have been making headlines. Last month on a flight to California, I saw a segment of Larry King Live discussing trans issues with Alexis Arquette, sister to the well-known Patricia and David, and Isis, former contestant on America’s Next Top Model, getting into it over how to identify as a transperson. Fastforward a few weeks and the International Association of Athletics Federations (I.A.A.F.) is in the midst of redefining who can call themselves men or women. Because new-to-the-scene gold medalist Caster Semanya got fast real quick without the use of drugs, the IAAF has decided clearly this woman can’t REALLY be a woman. Semanya is being subjected to weeks of tests to determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether she is, in fact, a woman. The response from the I.A.A.F. and her fellow competitors has been dehumanizing at best, appalling and racist at worst. A spokesperson for I.A.A.F. referred to her as ‘the athlete’ rather than her name in regard to allowing her to run in the race while they knew they were going to conduct this ‘investigation.’ An Italian competitor said she didn’t think she should have to run with ‘these kind of people.’ In the Beijing Olympics, when Michael Phelps broke record after record and won race after race, the world became fixated on how his biology had made him the perfect swimmer, even comparing him to a dolphin. So when a white man excels beyond expectation it’s a natural phenomenon but when a Black woman does the same she must be a man?