Olympics

Elizabeth's picture

Run like a girl

"You run like a girl." It was an insult aimed at boys. Being "like a girl" was clearly a bad thing for a boy to be if he wanted to be an athlete. Not being enough "like a girl" on the other hand, is devastating for women.

It was not so long ago that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) used to require all women athletes to be tested to discover whether they were 'truly women' or not. [Bracket, please, for a moment the question of what a 'true woman' might be. We'll come back to it. I promise.] Now such tests are only performed, according to the story in today's New York Times, when a woman athlete's sex is questioned. [Bracket for a moment why this never, apparently, comes up in men's sports.] What would cause her sex to be questioned? The Times does not present a list of specific suspicious indicators, but does say that it has come up in the context of doping tests. What is so striking about this is that it represents an insistence that women be held to a biological standard of womanhood. Consider the variations among women. What does it mean to set aside some group of women and say they are too powerful to be 'real women'? Consider how this makes even less sense when we are talking about women who represent the strongest, fastest, most agile, most physically powerful women in the world.

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