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The Olympic Struggle Over Sex – The Atlantic (by Alice Dreger)

July 15, 2012
Gender is an enormously nebulous creature to tackle. A year ago I had a pretty involved discussion about this topic with an articulate friend, and in follow-up this week, she sent me the link below. We struggled to define a firm line between man and woman (probably because such a thing does not exist), and to create practical statements that considered this. We argued about fundamental biological differences and their implications for society. I think we fumbled our way through using examples like “only those who can lift 200lbs should be allowed to be a fireman firewoman fireperson, regardless of gender… if they cannot lift 200lbs there is no sense in them doing the job. Creating a double-standard so that women who could not lift the minimum amount could be hired – simply for the sake of hiring women and being ‘equal’ – well, it just puts people, including that fireperson, in danger.” Not everyone would agree. Some think concessions should be made to empower women to equality, meaning, equal number of male and female firefighters.

It is hard to argue that there aren’t fundamental anatomical differences between those with bodies that are sensitive to, and have in abundant circulation, quantities of testosterone, as opposed to those who lack these characteristics. The phenotype or physical form of someone may not correspond to the gender that they identify with, but the physical traits may yet have implications for their abilities in work or sport or other endeavours.

The article is about Gender Identity and the definition of gender in sport, especially in view of the new International Olympic Committee (IOC) rule
s. The piece seems quite balanced and captures my own views quite nicely. For a sense of the flavour of it, see this excerpt:
“Because at the end of the day, no matter how little we think anatomy should matter to one’s social and political rights, surely we can’t pretend biology doesn’t matter in sports. Surely there’s a reason we don’t let adults play in the t-ball leagues, and a reason most women athletes want their own leagues. “What do you think?

Check it out: Alice Dreger – The Olympic Struggle Over Sex – The Atlantic (via Instapaper)

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