'Intersex imperialism' and the case of Caster Semenya: the unacceptable women's body

Stephen Kerry

Born on the 7th of January 1991 Mokgadi Caster Semenya is a middle-distance runner from the village of Seshego in South Africa's Limpopo province. Semenya first competed on the world stage in 2008 at the World Junior Championships (8th - 13th July, Bydgoszcz Poland) and the Commonwealth Youth Games (12th - 18th October, Pune India). In the following year she would go on to compete at the African Junior Athletic Championships (30th July - 2nd August, Bambous Mauritius) and the World Athletic Championships (15th - 23rd August, Berlin Germany). It was at the latter that she drew the attention of the world's news media. Semenya's race time of 1 minute 55.45 seconds fed rumours and gossip that had been circulating among fellow athletes and sporting commentators that "she's a man" and that she had been asked to undertake a "gender verification test". While "the facts" of this case are important what is at the centre of this paper's analysis is the way in which the incident was represented in the news media. Initially this study conducted a Google search of Semenya's name and the subsequent result of three million links was limited to international news media coverage and those articles published in United Kingdom (UK) and Australia (for a review of BBC news see Amy-Chinn 2010). A random selection of 55 articles was chosen from The Guardian in the UK (n=20) and The Australian, The Age and ABC News Online (n=35) four of which were omitted because they were identical or covered material almost identical to others. The 51 articles covered a three month period from the day she won gold on the 19th of August 2009 to the 6th of November 2009 when Athletics South Africa (ASA) President Leonard Chuene resigned after admitting he lied about whether he knew Semenya had been subjected to a "gender verification test" prior to her appearance at the World Athletic Championships. "Gender verification tests" at the international sporting level are no longer mandatory. However according to the International Association of Athletics Federations" (IAAF) Policy on Gender Verification an athlete may be asked to undergo one if there is a "challenge" from another athlete or "suspicion" is raised during an anti-doping specimen collection. The covert whisperings amongst athletes and commentators were writ large in the news media which employed descriptions of her muscular torso, facial hair and deep voice. Further solidification came from an anonymous source who leaked to the Australian news media alleged results of Semenya's "gender verification test". As will be addressed in this paper possession of "male sex organs" and lack of "womb and ovaries" among other physical attributes are enough to suggest that "she's a man", she shouldn"t compete with other women and as the anonymous source unambiguously states: "Semenya is a hermaphrodite" (cited in Hurst 2009).

The term "hermaphrodite" has largely been replaced by the more contemporary term "intersex" and phrase "disorder of sex development" (DSD) (Reis 2009) with the intension of acknowledging that humans come in far greater diversity than male, female or both. The often quoted statistic of 1-2% having some form of intersex status (Blackless et al. 2000: 161) has not gone uncontested (Sax 2002); largely because what is or is not considered intersex is controversial. The author's own research has revealed that several organisations that support people with turners syndrome (TS) or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) are adamant that their members are not "intersex". During the time Semenya was in the media spotlight no official statement was made toward her intersex status. This did not stop speculation that she is likely to be a woman with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) (Hall and Aik 2009; Stark 2009; Turner 2009). Regardless Semenya is unwittingly forced to occupy a discursively ambiguous space through the use of the term "hermaphrodite" and the phrase "she's a man". The treatment of Semenya by news media is similar to the way the news media represented another intersex woman as analysed by this author elsewhere (Kerry 2011). The parallels between the two will be referred to throughout this paper.

That analysis focused on the news media's representation of Kathleen Worrall an Australian intersex woman who murdered her sister in 2008. In that analysis the author argued firstly that the news media's representation of intersex is limited, reproducing normative medico-legal frameworks. Secondly, the news media omitted the voices of intersex individuals and failed to accurately report the depth of issues surrounding intersex proving it is incapable of addressing the lives of people who live on the gender margins of society. In the case of Semenya three principal themes have been identified and will make up the bulk of this paper. Firstly, is the familiar medico-legal discourse which renders Semenya's body "unacceptable" through biological essentialist rhetoric of being "not woman". Secondly, Semenya's family, friends and supporters argue that suggestions by Western commentators that she is "not woman" are "unacceptable", racist and imperialist because she is a woman - a South African woman. Finally, where the case of Kathleen Worrall drew neither consideration to intersex nor its implications for gender some news media articles covering Semenya gave column space to the question: "what is a woman?" In the process of this analysis the paper will draw on Michel Foucault's biopolitics, South Africa's post-colonialist and apartheid history, bell hooks theories on race and Spivak's theories of the subaltern as well as the long legacy of twentieth century theories pertaining to the social construction of gender including the work of de Beauvoir, West and Zimmerman and Butler.

Theme one: biological essentialist rhetoric

By positing bodies as subjects of institutions Michel Foucault points out to us that bodies are brought into existence through discursive practices, what he calls "biopolitics". Elsewhere the author (Kerry 2009) has drawn two links between the work of Foucault and intersex; firstly, Foucault's analysis of the life of Herculine Barbin (a nineteenth century "hermaphrodite") and secondly Foucault's work is a scaffold onto which intersex individuals can conceptualise their lived experiences. As one of the author's interview participants states: "the works of Foucault taught me that binary classifications are only one means to order the world" (cited in Kerry 2009). In this paper the author argues that intersex bodies are examples of Foucauldian biopolitics. Danaher et al defines biopolitics as "technologies ... used for analysing, controlling, regulating and defining the human body and its behaviour" (2000: 64). On the one hand medical technologies and practices (e.g. surgery and hormonal treatments) are prescribed to "correct" intersex and on the other the implication behind Foucault's biopolitics is the existence of a multifaceted process that resists simplistic geographies and templates. For Foucault "power" isn"t located in a dualistic institution/individual relationship rather it is "everywhere [...] because it comes from everywhere" (1990: 93). At birth we enter, what the author has elsewhere called the "birthing Panopticon" (Kerry 2009), a discursive space in which our genitals are exposed to not only the "gaze" of the individuals present but the power to name, to surgically "correct" and to enforce a binary gender that only expresses itself in the end-points in the room. It is in this network - that has no beginning or end - we locate the central focus of this article: an analysis of the news media representation of Semenya.

At the heart of this paper is Semenya's subjectivity, body authenticity and integrity as an athlete. Each has been overwritten by biological essentialism rhetoric of the (gendered) body by fellow athletes, sporting commentators, and sporting officials. For them biology is destiny. As intersex, a "hermaphrodite" or "a man" Semenya's body is unacceptable when competing at the international sporting level as a "woman" because she is "not woman". "Gossip" (Kessel 2009a) and a "whispering campaign" (Slot 2009) among athletes and sporting commentators predated the news media's first publication of the case on the 19th of August 2009. The covert was henceforth made overt in repeated references to her muscular frame (Geoghegan 2009b; Hunter 2009; Kessel 2009a; Smith 2009c, 2009b); deep voice (Geoghegan 2009b; Hunter 2009; Kessel 2009a; Rabothata 2009; Smith 2009c, 2009b); facial hair (Geoghegan 2009b; Hunter 2009; Rabothata 2009; Smith 2009c) and another "horrific" (Cadwalladr 2009) report indelicately refers to whether or not she has a penis (Lawson 2009). Amy-Chinn argues that as far as the UK press was concerned they had "no doubts that she was not a woman" (2010: 315). Two athletes were quoted as voicing this opinion. Italian runner Elisa Piccione, who came sixth at the World Athletics Championships, says: "These kind [sic] of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man" (Kessel 2009c; Rabothata 2009; Slot 2009; Turner 2009). Australian Olympian Raelene Boyle believes the International Olympic Committee (IOC) needs to "protect" other athletes from those who might have a chromosomal advantage (Hall and Aik 2009). This "us/them" framework reinforces a misleading hierarchy of biological differences that has been addressed at the international sporting level. But you wouldn"t necessarily know it from the news media.

According to the Olympic Charter discrimination against gender like race, religion or politics is considered "incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement". Since the history of "gender verification tests" is well documented elsewhere (Fausto-Sterling 2000; Merck 2010) it won"t be elaborated on here, but there are three points relevant to our current debate. Firstly, only women are suspected of being "really men" (A. Dreger 2000). Secondly, mandatory "gender verification" ended in the 1990s. Finally, according to section 6(a) of the Policy on Gender Verification the IAAF acknowledge that the category of woman is a diverse one and "allows" intersex and transgender women. Again these "facts" were omitted from the news media reports. Instead their focus was on Semenya's hermaphroditism and possible advantage it affords her. The case of Semenya really began with an anonymous source who was first quoted on the 11th of September 2009 in Sydney's Daily Telegraph under the headline: "Caster Semenya has male sex organs and no womb or ovaries" (Hurst 2009). In addition to reference to Semenya's predominant "male" sex characteristics the anonymous source and subsequently the news media played undue attention to the allegation that Semenya possessed testosterone levels "three times higher than normal for women" (2009d; Clayfield 2009; Geoghegan 2009b; Hall and Aik 2009; Smith 2009a). Erroneously implying (not unlike in the case of Kathleen Worrall) that testosterone is a "male hormone" (Geoghegan 2009b). Above it is noted that speculations were made that Semenya may have AIS. Women with AIS possess some of the "normal" "male" characteristics, such as "male" chromosomes (traditionally designated XY) and internalised testes which produces androgens (testosterone). AIS can be either complete (CAIS) or partial (PAIS) (Blackless et al. 2000: 153). However unlike XX women those with XY chromosomes do not respond to testosterone the same way. In short XY women are the ones disadvantaged. There is evidence to suggest that the news media is capable of addressing the complexities of the hormone issue. Andrew Sinclair asks us to consider that Semenya is an athlete and thus "will probably have naturally higher levels of testosterone" (Hall and Aik 2009). But this is a brief departure from the norm and the news media make no further claim to question the linear relationship between musculature, levels of testosterone and gender.

Theme two: gender identity

While the above criticisms are a glimpse into how biology is seen as the overriding factor in whether or not she is a "he" overwhelmingly she is considered a "she" because she and her familiars identified her that way. Ironically even Elisa Piccione refers to Semenya using feminine pronouns while denying her womanhood. Insisting that Semenya is a "girl" comes from family, friends and supporters in the South African community. The African National Congress (ANC) called her "our golden girl" (Smith 2009b) and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former first lady, said "This is our little girl and nobody's going to perform any tests on her" (Smith 2009a). The core of the issue of identity is firmly located in Semenya's gender role in the family context. The family defend her not only for her sake but for their role in her upbringing. Semenya's grandmother Maphuthi Sekgala stated "I know she's a woman. I raised her myself" (2009e; Magnay 2009). Semenya's mother Dorcus says: "I am not even worried about that because I know who and what my child is. Mokgadi Caster is a girl and no one can change that" (2009e). Her father Jacob says: "She is my little girl. I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times" (2009b). This testimony reinforces Semenya's social identity and subjectivity and tentatively offers up a separation from, but not necessarily a polar opposite to, the biological essentialist arguments. That self or social identity and gender role are viewed as a dominant discursive field in the new millennium is an important aspect to not only this case but sex and gender more broadly. Before proceeding, the use of intersex as an example of gender fluidity and/or challenging the category "woman" must be done cautiously. Intersex activist Emi Koyama advises that "others" (i.e. non-intersex people) should not "use intersex people merely to illustrate the social construction of binary sexes" (Koyama 2002). When doing so one must also talk about the lives and experiences of intersex people; it is hope that the author has honoured this request.

Germaine Greer's article titled "Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman?" (2009) is one in which the case of Semenya is directly linked to question: "what is a woman?" The category "woman" has not only been contested but it is demonstrably a contestable category. The twentieth century has seen an array of views pertaining to the social construction of gender. From Simone de Beauvoir's "one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman" (de Beauvoir 1949/1983: 295) and West and Zimmerman's ""doing" of gender" (West and Zimmerman 1987: 126) to Judith Butler's position that gender is "performative" (Butler 1990: 24) underwritten by "regulation practices" (16). This is not only accomplished by underlining "woman" as a discursive practice of becoming, doing or being but "woman" is contested through analysis of embodiment. The corporeal, the visceral experiences of women and "woman" have been re-centred in feminist theory and in doing so the lived experiences of those women who are on the margins of the category of "woman" underline some of the discussions in some transformative ways. Tauchert (2002) suggests that by engaging transgendered and intersex experiences we can perceive a female-embodied subjectivity or what she names as a "fuzzy gender". The proposition, based on Kosko's "fuzzy logic" delineates the dualism of gender theories and articulates not so much a middle ground but a greying of the intermediate space, an "excluded middle" (34) and is a means to "avoid the extremes of gender anarchy and na?ve (polar) essentialism" (37). This is timely considering that the gendered body is in a state of discursive flux.

Greer is often heralded as a spokeswoman of feminism. But when it comes to those women who live on the margins of the category of "woman" she speaks from a brand of feminism that reinforces biological, gendered essentialism and binaries. Greer is reluctant to attend to changes in gender politics and the lives of people on the gender margins a critique that has been discussed elsewhere, for example Tracie O"Keefe (1999). In her article she implies transgenderism is "a man's delusion that he is female" and refers to transgender women as a "ghastly parody" with, as Merck implies, "overtones of the ghostly, the disembodied, or, in the American racist epithet, the "spook"" (2010: 6). As an expert of gender inequalities her opinion on this particular "sex row" is understandably highly sort, but the article is lacking any informed insight into contemporary gender politics and she asks more questions than she answers. Greer suggests (in question form) that a person who is "mentally female and physically male" would have "an unfair biological advantage" over "other women athletes" - an inaccuracy that could have been avoided if there had been more research on Greer's part.

Theme Three: Intersex and category "woman"

When it comes to representation of intersex the news media lacks an ability to do so accurately. In the case of Kathleen Worrall her intersex status (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) had been confirmed early yet the news media failed to consistently refer to it and when they did they did not do it well; similarly with the case of Semenya. Of those that cited speculation regarding Semenya's AIS status (Geoghegan 2009a; Hall and Aik 2009; Stark 2009) the one which is the most inaccurate quotes Australian sports physician Peter Larkins:

In the medical world this hermaphrodite condition has been replaced with a term called intersexuality and it's neither an xx or xy chromosome [...] So externally, most hermaphrodites in the human situation look like females in terms of their genitalia but they have male characteristics in terms of muscles and athletic performance (Geoghegan 2009a).

More troubling than the misrepresentation of information regarding hormones and the failure to report that intersex people can compete in international sporting events is the repeated use of the term "hermaphrodite". Despite its inappropriateness the term "hermaphrodite" maintains cultural currency; thus its presence in news media headlines (2009c; Smith 2009d). The continued misuse of the term "hermaphrodite" illustrates mainstream society's ignorance of intersex. This is in no short way due to the twentieth century's medicalisation of intersex and the institutionalisation of silence embedded within it. Thus there is a "lack" in our language as illustrated by Elisa Piccione's reference to Semenya as "these kind of people" (Kessel 2009c; Rabothata 2009; Slot 2009; Turner 2009). Turner (2009) criticises Elisa Piccione's biological essentialist statements as "alarming" because they are based "upon a gender binary that is nothing more than a comforting illusion". Other news media reports at the very least inferred an alternative to a "two-sex model" and noted that there may be something in-between (2009a; Boseley 2009; Hall and Aik 2009; Silkstone 2009; Stark 2009; Turner 2009).

Of the three themes it is suggested that the latter two signify progress for the intersex movement. One aspect of this success is the fact that there is a direct challenge to the institutionalisation of silence through the existence of not only the consideration of alternatives and the presence of the term "intersex" but the inclusion, in the news media reports, of points of view from intersex organisations (this was a noted omission in the case of Kathleen Worrall). Two intersex "experts" were quoted: Lyn Morgain, the CEO of ALSO Foundation (Stark 2009) and Tracie O"Keefe (Geoghegan 2009a). ALSO is an Australian organisation established in 1980 which "works to enhance the lives of Victoria's diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities" and Morgain is quoted as saying in regards to gender decisions, that: "options are not closed off for individuals who ultimately have a right to determine their own identity" (cited in Stark 2009). Self-determination of identity is the crux of the argument when it comes to the "unacceptable". Rather than reproducing normative and dualistic notions of "woman" / "not woman" the intersex movement has mobilised a different architecture of gender that supports a broader collective of lived experiences. MacDonald states: "Yes, I regard myself as a woman - but I am an intersex woman [...] there is a multi-faceted complexity to my sense of self which the two labels imposed by society cannot embrace" (MacDonald 2000) and intersex activist Morgan Holmes agrees:

What is even more difficult than identifying one's self as a member of the community "woman" is attempting to define one's identity as an intersex/woman. The task requires taking back an identity which has been made illegitimate by culture and have been stolen through surgery (M. Holmes 1996: 139).

Although there was no merging or pluralising of gender identities in the case of Semenya those who supported her gender did so even though it flew in the face of traditional local standards of femininity. Smith notes that "South Africa's rural communities are typically regarded as bastions of social conservatism divided into traditional gender roles and expectations of femininity [...] they are shocked at what they perceive as the intolerance and prurience of western commentators" (Smith 2009c). In Semenya's "local" context she doesn"t possess an ambiguously gendered body and suggestions that she does from "outsiders" brings forward not only gender but also discourses of case race, nationality and her socio-economic background.

Race, Nationality and "Intersex Imperialism"

At the centre of this paper is the proposition that Semenya's body is unacceptable. On the one hand fellow athletes and sporting commentators argue that whether she is a "hermaphrodite" or "she's a man" she is "not woman" she is illegible to compete with other women. In doing so Semenya's body "becomes" a body that is unacceptable to her family, friends and supporters. According to Jacob Semenya, her father: "She is my little girl" (Smith 2009b). For many the overriding issue isn"t her gender but her race, national identity and socio-economic background. David Smith notes: "Semenya practised her running on dirt roads and poorly kept playing fields [...] and grew up without electricity or running water (Smith 2009c). What emerged in the analysis of the news media articles is a criticism from South Africa's officials and community and Semenya's family that the allegations of gender ambiguity are racist and imperialist (2009i; Kessel 2009b; Rabothata 2009; Smith 2009b). Not least of which is the claim that there will be a "third world war" (2009h; Stark 2009) if Semenya is barred from competing. President of the ASA Leonard Chuene asks: "Who are white people to question the makeup of an African girl? I say this is racism, pure and simple" (Smith 2009c). Mandy Merck notes, several commentators drew parallels between Caster Semenya and Saartjie Baartman, a slave of Dutch farmers near Cape Town who was taken to Europe to be publicly exhibited in 1810 (2010: 2). Is Semenya a twenty-first century Saartjie Baartman? To understand why Semenya and the news media's representation of her would be spoken of in this way let us employ the work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and bell hooks.

Nelson Mandela's iconic exit from prison on the 11th of February 1990 marks a moment in late twentieth century South African and world politics. Yet the subsequent open elections and end of apartheid doesn"t mean that South Africa's colonial and apartheid history would cease to influence those born into this new era; like Caster Semenya who born less than eleven months after Mandela's release. She may not have grown up under the regime but as a South African citizen, as a black South African woman Semenya occupies a multifaceted body. Not unlike the argument earlier regarding the intersex and biopolitics here Semenya's body is also inscribed with discourses of gender, colonialism and race. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak posits the term "subaltern" to locate specific geographies and architectures of oppression(s) that find no equivalency in the West. She says that "if you are poor, black, and female you get it three ways" (1988: 294) clarifying that "it is not just a question of double displacement" (original emphasis 295); what is needed is something more than theoretical positions located in Euro-American traditions. It is in this sense that, according to Spivak, the subaltern speaks from their own place. Having said this D. Holmes et al. (2003) notes that Spivak's work:

Traverses feminism and post-colonial theory in elaborating the condition of the subaltern [and] draws on post-structuralist ideas of subjectivity, to propose that individuals are placed in all kinds of contradictory positions depending on the configuration of patriarchy and neo-colonialism within a given social (84).

One of these contradictory positions is that, according to D. Holmes et al. (2003), women and other colonised peoples share a need to "articulate their oppression in the language of those that have oppressed them" (84) and this is despite the fact that subaltern women have been "excluded from the parameters of the western subject and the historical trajectory of modernity" (Butler 2004: 230). bell hooks (1981) adds that at the same time race cannot be filtered out of debates of the women's movement in the West; as she states:

From the onset of my involvement with the women's movement I was disturbed by the white women's liberationists" insistence that race and sex were two separate issues. My life experience had shown me that the two issues were inseparable (12)

There is an unavoidable relationship with the West when we speak of the subaltern and Semenya is the subaltern of which Spivak speaks. Semenya (and others) not only occupy bodies that are subordinated by dominant discourses but are in bodies that are always exposed to and acted on by diffused (bio)power as post-colonial/apartheid citizens, as women and as intersex individuals. The discursive field in which intersex South Africans exist cannot be separated from colonialism or race. Amanda Lock Swarr (2009) argues that historically South African scientific and medical discourses link black and intersex South Africans; what she refers to as "racialized understandings of intersexuality" (526). This framework in which the racialized "other" engages and at the same time resists dominant discourses of sex and gender has been the subject of debate for several decades among feminists and sexuality theorists in other parts of the world also; for example Australian aboriginal women and "gay" men in North America and Asia (to name three).

In their own ways they displace, resist or struggle to find a balance between indigenous and globalised identities, communities or concepts. Although feminism has been attempting to challenge the institutionalised oppression of women, it has simultaneously been critiqued as a white woman's movement that ignores other social dimensions such as race. Huggins (1991) states that Aboriginal women and men share a common oppression of race which overwrites any oppression of gender. In Australia "Aboriginal men and women both are fighting for the same things, regardless of gender differences" (6) and goes on to say that "black women do not see the women's movement as relevant to their own situation" (8). Steven Seidman similarly articulates the viewpoint of African-American men and women who contest "gay" as a universal identity "because it typically implies a white, middle-class standpoint" (Seidman 1997: 123). Dennis Altman observes this tension among Asian gay men who on the one hand stress "a universal gay identity, underlin[ing] a similarity with westerners [and] on the other hand, the desire to assert an "Asian" identity" (1997: 418). Altman goes on to say that "the ubiquity of western rhetoric means that many [...] use the language of the West to describe a rather different reality" (1997: 419). The subaltern speak (are speaking) their identities, subjectivities and their local-global selves into existence; acknowledging their indigenous autonomy but not ignorant to twenty-first century global powers structures and institutions such as the IAAF and IOC. The point that needs to be made is that not unlike those who claim that Semenya is "not woman" we must resist the temptation to suggest that Semenya is "intersex". If we have access to pluralised intersex identities such as "intersex/woman" there is a need to not only respect Semenya's self identity as a woman, but also as a South African woman.

Notwithstanding this, it could be argued that, regardless of race, national identity or socio-economic background when one competes in a international sporting arena one does so on an equal playing field (at least theoretically). And this is determined by internationally agreed upon standards of practice. As noted above it went unreported that Semenya's body conformed to these standards. The controversy thus is not borne from whether or not Semenya conformed to the IAAF or IOC's standards but norms as determined by fellow athletes, the news media and Australia's news media in particular. It is one thing to be at the centre of rumours and gossip and another to be thrust into the international spotlight. Not unlike in the case of Maria Patino (Fausto-Sterling 2000) the news media is largely responsible for how Semenya specifically and intersex more generally has been misrepresented. Our genitals are our most private parts; any public reference to them would distress anyone. Santhi Soundarajan attempted suicide after she "failed" a "gender test" and was stripped of her 2006 Asian games medal (A. D. Dreger 2010). Soundarajan was later diagnosed with AIS but abandoned competition (Merck 2010).

It was the Sydney's Daily Telegraph article headlined: "Caster Semenya has male sex organs and no womb or ovaries" (Hurst 2009) which drew considerable international attention (2009g, 2009f, 2009c, 2009h; Clayfield 2009; Smith 2009a). They didn"t report any official statement but "a source closely involved with the Semenya examinations [who spoke] on condition of anonymity" (Hurst 2009). It is she who reveals to the Daily Telegraph that Semenya "has no womb or ovaries [...] three times the amount of testosterone compared to that of a "normal'" female [...] internal testes [and] there is certainly evidence that Semenya is a hermaphrodite" (cited in Hurst 2009). What makes these revelations concerning for Semenya is the fact that the anonymous source is well aware of the personal and political ramifications of this "leak". She states:

The problem for us is to avoid it being an issue now which is very personal: of the organs being a hermaphrodite, of not being a "real" woman. It's very dramatic [...] basically [Athletics South African] have known for months, for years, that she's not normal. They could have set in process these kind of tests if they had been more responsible (emphasis added, cited in Hurst 2009).

To which Jacob, her father, says its: "sick [...] they are crazy [...] are they God?" (cited in Smith 2009a). Although the source concedes Semenya is "a totally innocent victim" (Hurst 2009) she doesn"t hold back from feeding the dominant biological essentialist argument and ignoring "the facts". This view is upheld by Amy-Chinn (2010) who, on several occasions notes that the news media chooses to "ignore" (317) "facts" and leave the "reader to conclude" (317) and the "public to draw" (317) their own inaccurate and inappropriate perspectives.


The intersex movement is a global phenomenon. In the author's own research of intersex Australians over the past decade it is been witnessed that the intersex movement is influenced by cultural globalisation. As Dreger speculated in the late 1990s (A. Dreger 1998: 170) this is largely attributed to the co-emergence of the intersex movement and the Internet. As an identity movement campaigning towards social change its emergence was very different to some of its antecedents; such as feminism and the Lesbian and Gay Liberation. Intersex individuals didn't come together because of oppression in the home, workplace or the streets nor did they meet in bars which were subject to police raids; they met online. As a result one significant feature of the intersex movement was the breaking down of boundaries; not only geographical and spatial boundaries but social, political, medical and legal ones. As one of the author's interview participants "Pat" noted, there is the perception in Australia of a "U.S. style intersex". When intersex individuals access the Internet seeking others like themselves and information about intersex they unwittingly and invariably come across websites containing social, political, medical and legal information of intersex in North American and assume it applies to them. In some cases this is not problematic as several key features of the intersex movement are somewhat universal for example the Intersex South Africa website states "A primary goal of Intersex South Africa is to end non-consensual, unnecessary genital surgery of all intersex people". But not all aspects of intersex traverse international borders and as individuals in the West are adopting pluralised identities such as intersex/woman this isn"t to suggest that these identities are viable in localised "third world" contexts. Not unlike an international community that should be wary of imposing western norms of sex, gender and sexuality so too must the international intersex community be wary of "intersex imperialism". Semenya is a case in point. Although women such as Semenya come under scrutiny when competing at an international sporting level they bring with them subjectivities, histories and bodies that may not necessarily fit-in the Western discursive framework. Respect must be paid to the language of the local and when the subaltern speaks. Semenya is a woman. South Africa's "golden girl" and any suggestion she is "not woman" transcends gender and brings into question racial, national, familial and sporting identities. The central project of this paper has not been to suggest an unbridgeable schism between women like Semenya and the international intersex community but to address the perception that Semenya's body is unacceptable. The rumours and gossip that preceded the news media attention, the "leaked" results from an "anonymous source" and the language used in the news media is ill-informed and grossly inaccurate. By omitting reference to international sporting rules that allow women with AIS to compete as women the news media coverage of the case of Caster Semenya, not unlike in the case of Kathleen Worrall, reinforces a normative medico-legal framework that falsely asserts "these kinds of people" possess bodies that afford them an unfair advantage. It is the news media more so than other institution that imposed a limited discursive field upon Semenya's body and the overarching suggestion that her body is unacceptable to compete against other women is itself unacceptable.


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