Stop Questioning Caster Semenya’s Testosterone Levels By Cheryl Roberts

3 Jul

1caster semenyaThere’s no doubt that champion athlete Caster Semenya knows her athletics worth and athletics prowess. Having the sports talent she possesses, together with her body image, has catapulted Semenya into an international ‘story’, with most focus being on Semenya’s body instead of her athletics feats.

But Caster Semenya is not the first black woman athlete to have her body so ruthlessly scrutinised and examined by the world’s dominant hetero-normative global media, together with the chattering non-informed, ill-informed people and those with deficient mental capacities. The superstar black tennis sisters of Serena and Venus Williams, particularly Serena Williams, also face such ridiculous scrutiny.

Why are the hetero-normative, male-dominated media being allowed to scrutinise, villify and decide about a woman’s body image and construction?  What is it about male-controlled media that can’t accept black achievements in world sport?

South Africa’s phenomenal woman athlete, Caster Semenya has been in sensational form on the athletics track during the 2016 domestic and international season and in the run-up to the Rio Olympics. After winning her world championship gold medal, a few years ago, Semenya hasn’t known such devastating form as she has been experiencing this season. 2016 seems to be Semenya’s year for national, continental and Olympic domination.

But now, instead of a focus on Semenya’s athletics prowess as a woman athlete and support and respect for her feats on the athletics track, the murmurs and rumours are surfacing about Semenya’s body construction and of course her testosterone levels.

And, guilty of these rumours are the South African media themselves; media largely represented by men who are not feminists or gender activists and who have no record of

speaking out against gender inequalities in society and dehuminisation of  a woman’s body image.

Where are these rumours and murmurs coming from, if not from the male represented media themselves? Why are they asking these irrelevant questions when it comes to Caster Semenya. The International Athletics Federation has a ruling which must be adhered to and that is that testosterone levels with regard to the athlete Caster Semenya are all in order for IAAF regulations and are non-negotiable.

Seemingly, some media people can’t understand how SA can produce a black woman champion of the caliber and prowess boasted by Caster Semenya. Yes, SA hasn’t surfaced much black women sports champions. But that’s not because the black women can’t perform and achieve internationally. That’s because black women haven’t been supported and given the adequate and necessary opportunities to achieve and perform credibly on the international sports stages.

Most importantly, in the conservative and limited-thinking minds of media men, sportswomen have to be constructed in a particular image and that image is feminine; anything else has to be questioned and shown up as being abnormal.

We must not allow Caster Semenya’s sports prowess and athletics ability to be scrutinised by an ill-formed and non-feminist media. This also applies to the public who also surface their disgusting questions when they think some woman in sport and sportswomen don’t fit their sportswoman’s image.

The champion athlete that is Caster Semenya has grown in physical identity from a teenage girl athlete to a young woman on the athletics track. Semenya has also grown fabulously in confidence, self-love and strength. She is not allowing the rumours to get to her because she knows she is participating in athletics as a woman athlete, having not broken any ‘gender’ rules of the international sports domain and their governing structures.

I’ve watched Caster Semenya in training and competition, have spoken to her outside of her track events and have discovered a very self-assured, non-boasting/non-boastful, confident woman athlete. Semenya’s mental strength is strong, very strong. She knows that there exists those who will try to break her and that such people can be found amongst her competitors, the media, the seemingly supportive public and sports officials. She also knows and appreciates the respect given to her by all who know her athletics prowess and worth.

Caster Semenya is a phenomenal woman athlete. She is South African. Why are the performances of South Africa’s phenomenal sportsmen not scrutinised and speculated about like Caster Semenya has to undergo? Why can’t the media accept that Semenya is a rare talent?  After almost not qualifying for the 2015 world athletics championship, Semenya’s achievements this season are world class and world leading. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Coach of Caster Semenya and the athlete Caster Semenya would tell anyone asking about her achievements in 2016 they are associated with her training programme, her coach and her mental strength to be back at the top of world athletics. That is what Caster Semenya wanted, that is what she worked very hard at, and that is what she is achieving.

Now that the black woman athlete is achieving all that she set out to do and worked hard for, there are those want to question her abilities and link this to ‘higher testosterone levels’.

Just like tennis champion Serena Williams’ tennis abilities can’t be accepted by those intent on vilifying champion black sportswomen, so too is Caster Semenya subjected to horrific and ugly media questioning.

This is it about Caster Semenya. She is a woman athlete of amazing sports talent. She trains very hard and is disciplined as an athlete. She achieves on the athletics track because she works at getting the results she desires. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with her body shape, size and image. Everything that is seemingly ‘wrong’ with Caster Semenya is what is wrong in the minds of those who are doing the questioning and bouncing the rumours.

There must be no questions about Caster Semenya’s testosterone levels. No question. No murmurs. No rumours. What must be celebrated and applauded is the remarkable woman athlete that is Caster Semenya and what must be applauded are her fantastic track achievements.

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