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Caster Semenya, a South-African woman, ran and won the women’s 800-metre race at the 2016 Rio Olympics on Saturday night. Semenya has hyperandrogenism, a condition that causes her body to produce more testosterone than the average woman. Controversy around Semenya dates back to 2009 when she was forced to undergo blood and chromosome tests and a gynecological exam to prove that she is a woman. Many have argued that her high testosterone levels give her an unfair athletic advantage and she should either take medication to bring her testosterone levels in line with those of average women or be barred from competing.
This controversy brings to light one of society’s most persistent and destructive myths — that sex is a binary concept and our deeply entrenched view of the two genders and their respective roles is to be upheld in all areas from domestic tasks to sporting competitions. Athletes like Semenya are important because her participation raises the arbitrary and exclusive nature of this falsehood and the question of what society is going to do about it on an international and high‑profile stage. Read the rest of this post