Monday, March 18, 2013

Why does gender matter in all sports? [thoughts]

I just read a very interesting article "Spelet om könet" (translated: The game of the gender) in the latest issue of the Swedish magazine Kom ut (#1, 2013). This issue is made my RFSL together with the national sports organisation.

Note: Kom ut is a magazine for members of RFSL, an organisation for LGBTQ rights (you can also subscribe to it as a non-member).

The article brings up the importance of gender in sports, how it have started to be questioned and how it affects athletes today. It bring up the question with testing to know what gender the athlete has. These gender tests now mostly measure testosterone BUT the problem is that some male athletes has normal levels for women and some female athletes has the normal levels for men - so how can you know what a "normal" testosterone level for each gender is? It also mention the fact that male weight lifters in Sweden doesn't even measure up against internationally competing female weight lifters(!).

I'm not that familiar with sports but something tells me that it's more common for female athletes to be questioned than male athletes. An example of that is Caster Semenya who was portrayed in the media as "unfairly masculine". The IAAF wanted to test her to see if she had a "rare medical condition" that could give her an unfair competitive advantage... [source]

In some sports boys and girls practice together up to a certain age and then split into the gender they have. I'm more of a culture buff than into sports so I might be wrong here but why are not more sports mixed? I remember we had football (soccer) competitions in elementary school where the groups were mixed, it was even a requirement that there had to be girls on the teams.

From the top of my head I know one sport that is mixed: horse. Sports aren't in general mixed even when it doesn't evolve strength, which usually is high up on the list of reasons to split the genders. Why is there a female and male class in ice skating, curling and table tennis though where strength isn't important? I also wonder: would it be bad to have mixed teams in football (soccer)?

It's said that the genders are split to give women more opportunities (in other words so they can win too). Sure, in some sports I can understand this, in a way, but when we have evidence that male Swedish weight lifters can't even beat internationally competing women then I start to wonder: Is it so wrong to mix genders in sports and how does the current split affect transsexual and transgender athletes?

Source: Anna-Maria Sörberg, "Spelet om könet", Kom ut, #1, March 2013, pp. 21-25

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