Runner Caster Semenya: gender, sex and discrimination

Posted on August 26, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, adolescents, culture, health, human rights, media, stereotypes, women, men and more.

Open letter by South African gender activists

Courtesy of Zapiro, Mail & Guardian

Courtesy of Zapiro, Mail & Guardian

Some of those championing Caster Semenya’s cause accuse those wanting to sex-test Caster of imperialism and racism (as well as sexism). Others plead to wait before reaching a verdict, arguing that the realities of sex testing are enormously complex

Firstly to address the issue of terminology, over which there seems to be confusion. Gender is the dominant society’s views on how women and men should look, behave, what roles they should play in society, how they should perform and frequently what rewards they receive – hence gender inequity. This has usually led to lower status and discrimination against girls/women but has increasingly been seen as limiting the options and potentially harming boys/men too.

Gender is not a politically correct term for sex. Sex testing would be just that - establishing whether a person is biologically female or male. So gender testing is not the term that should be used this case, but sex testing. (more…)

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Taboo word out in the open

Posted on July 27, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, adolescents, culture, human rights, women, men and more.

Sometime in this century, a taboo word crept out of the dark, dusty basement of journalists’ lexicon and acquired legitimacy and visibility, both as a word and an issue: menstruation.

Bring it into the open: it's our right. By M. Sayagues

Now we can talk about it.

Neither impurity necessitating reclusion nor social blunder, our monthly cycle is now recognized as part of women’s sexual and reproductive needs and an issue of hygiene and dignity.

(…and I wrote “our cycle” on the third edit, it´s still not that easy to be public about it…)

Something similar happened with cancer. As philosopher Susan Sontag noted in her classic essay “Illness as a Metaphor” of 1977, the standard euphemism used in obits was that someone had died after a long illness. Ten years later, she noted “a new candor”, the word cancer uttered more freely.

Regarding menstruation, surprisingly, TV ads did not shy away from comparing pad brands. But the press lagged behind the ad agencies.

(more…)

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