Episode 87: Gender and Sex in Athletics with Dr. Victoria Jackson
Recently, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that women who compete in the 400m, 800m and 1500m in athletics (track & field) may not have testosterone levels above a certain limit. This limit seemingly targets runner Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic gold medalist in the 800m, who is a woman with elevated levels of testosterone and runs these exact 3 races.
Any woman who’s been around a while knows this certainly seems like another way your gender is being kept down. So we decided to have a historian on to talk about this case and other ways gender and sex have been discriminated against throughout Olympic history. Dr. Victoria Jackson, a lecturer at the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University joins us to talk about the gender parades of the past; the line of thinking that believes extra testosterone only helps runners in these 3 races and no other track & field events; and the recent media discussions of elite athletes not being paid by sponsors when they have children.
Dr. Jackson also understands the world of athletics well, as she’s a former NCAA champion in the 10,000m and competed professionally. She still holds Arizona State’s record in the 5000m, which she set in 2006.
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Some of the articles we talk about (or don’t quite get to, but are great reading for this topic):
- “The Decadelong Humiliation of Caster Semenya” – Dr. Jackson
- “Starfish Girl” by Maureen McHugh – This is a sci-fi story about body altering in gymnastics
- “How Should Officials Decide When Cutting-Edge Medical Interventions for Athletes Cross the Line?” – Dr. Jackson’s response to this story
- “I was sore about losing to Caster Semenya. But this decision against her is wrong.” – Madeline Pape
The Caster Semenya case isn’t over though–as we drop this episode, she’s appealing the CAS decision with the Swiss Federal Tribunal. We’ll keep an eye on this.
In other Olympic news, the IOC Executive Board is going to recommend that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics should have a boxing tournament — but that the embattled, scandal-ridden AIBA not be the federation in charge of it. We’ve got the details on this ongoing saga.
Thanks, as always, to our Patreon patrons for making this episode possible. You too can become a patron and voice your support for the show!
If you liked this episode, you might also like:
- Episode 14: Ski Jumping and Lady Parts
- Episode 33: Cross-Country Skiing Olympic Gold Medalist Kikkan Randall
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Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
No uteruses were harmed in the making of this episode.