Respect Caster Semenya’s Disruption Of Conservative Sport In South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

28 Nov

Caster Semenya slayed in a bowtie as she attended her honouring as South Africa’s ‘Sportswoman of The Year’  at the 2016 SA sport Awards in Bloemfontein. She walked confidently and proudly, as the black woman in love that she is with herself and her black woman partner.

This is a black woman’s fierceness and power at the top of her game. This is a champion proud black sportswoman determined to be in the game on her terms; her blackness, sexuality, her body image and being, her rural identity and her phenomenal sports prowess.

I love how Caster Semenya disrupts and cracks open South Africa’s conservative, hetero-normative, male-dominated sports network. She has waited for no one to define or design her being or set the rules of how ‘she should act and behave’.

This is the human she wants to be and is going to be. There’s no hiding who she is, so she chooses to dress in androgynous style, never hiding her woman partner, never screaming out how gay and queer she is and, with all of this, participates in world athletics in devastating winning style.        

Undoubtedly not only South Africa’s queer black woman sports champion, Caster Semenya is also a significant disruptor of conservative sport. Her athletics prowess says it all, but it’s her ownership of the being that is Caster Semenya which makes her the champion black woman that she has become.

Caster Semenya has transitioned from champion teenage black sports girls to fierce, self-owned, self styled, confident, happy and proud black sportswoman champion.

And, in getting to this stage of her life, she has fabulously empowered millions of black girls and women to believe and know that they, too can achieve, despite the harshness of a life where white supremacy thrives and male hegemony reigns.

Most importantly, she has delivered the potent message that we have to stand by who we are, who we w ant to be and how we want to be in a male-hegemonic, heterosexual-dominated society that will attempt all it can to break down black women who dare to be otherwise and to own their beings.      

In an era in South African sport where black women are struggling and battling challenges, and adversities, known only to and faced by black women because they are black, Caster Semenya keeps the spotlight firmly on black women by saying ‘we have the sports talent, we are existing and we can achieve’.

Given the negatives written and said about her body, the ridicule thrown at her being and the male-dominated, heterosexual sports world she competes in, Olympic champion Caster Semenya has refused to be any other than the human she wants to be. There’s no ways she’s fitting into anyone’s shoes as defined or suggested by those who control and dominate.

The Caster Semenya terrain is about being black and queer with prolific athletics talent.

And this terrain is powerful, not only for Caster Semenya the person, but also for black women in sport who find they are not being supported and encouraged enough in the SA sports pyramid. Black men get themselves sorted out with positions and lucrative payments for services in sport but black women are almost invisible in national leadership, captaincy positions and national team membership.

Caster Semenya’s athletics feats remind us that black sports girls and sportswomen are talented  and must be supported; not forgotten about and left to help themselves

Caster Semenya has it written all over her; her individual being displaying it over and over about being the black woman you choose to be, on your terms. She has single-handedly daringly laid the groundwork for black women in sport to never stop believing in themselves and to consistently challenge those who are forever strangling black women in sport and keeping black women down.

There’ll come a time when Caster Semenya won’t be the champion, when the media spotlight will move away from her, when the adoring fans will forget to acknowledge her sports feats and achievements. However, we must never allow Caster Semenya’s sole disruption of the conservative heterosexual, male-controlled sports paradigm to be forgotten, ignored or buried. The Caster Semenya monuments must be built now with our fierce resistance to all those in power and with power who maintain black women’s subordination in the sports network.

Get this! Caster Semenya is the black woman’s power we been waiting for in sport. Caster Semenya is the disruptor of conservative sport.



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South Africa’s Olympic Champion, Caster Semenya (photograph by Cheryl Roberts)

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