Caster Semenya Shuts Down Anti-Caster Noise With Black Sports Prowess By Cheryl Roberts

18 Aug

77426A4A-7DAD-444A-8148-E43BAA3C3E37The persecution has been inhumane. The Euro-centric gaze was harsh, but not defeating. The unfriendliness and shameful non-congratulatory behavior exhibited on the track by European and white women athletes towards Caster Semenya after she had won, was there for all to see. The intensity of criticism against her body, her black being and her worth was immense. It all tried to shut her down.

 But no it couldn’t succeed. Whoever has attempted to attack, force down and criticise Caster Semenya, hasn’t succeeded. If anything, all the negatives, the criticism, sarcasm, attempts at public humiliation since she hit the international athletics track as a teenage girl athlete, has inspired Caster Semenya to not only run faster, but to exist on her terms.

 The criticism about the body of Caster Semenya has been given lots of publicity in commercial media. But people’s power and justice hit back in the form of voices and those who challenge patriarchal domination and its subsequent control of women’s bodies.

Participating in international athletics for just under a decade, 27 year old Caster Semenya has now become South Africa’s greatest athlete. She has won South African, African, World and Olympic titles and gold medals. Not once, but several times. This year has seen Caster Semenya in record breaking form. She has smashed all apartheid records in the events she competes in. Today, a black woman athlete holds SA and championship records in the 400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, 1500m. As the attacks against her body surface with new international means being devised to regulate her body and control her running prowess, Caster Semenya hits back with rampant athletics running.  

 Speaking at the Essence festival in Durban, last year, Caster Semenya spoke publicly about horrendous attempts at shaming and degrading her body. She told a captivated audience of how they tried to ridicule her and insist she ‘wasn’t a girl or woman’. Caster spoke confidently and lovingly about her being and struggles against those who tried to define what her body is.

 ‘I was concerned and disturbed by all this nonsense. I asked my mother if I am not the girl she said I was and knew I was because now they are saying I am not woman’, said Caster. But I knew who I was. I knew this is how God made me and no one will tell me anything else.’

 This was the Caster Semenya, champion athlete and already a world and Olympic champion, speaking about the pain and hurt she was forced to endure. It was also the Caster Semenya revealing how she believed in herself, her body and being. It was the Caster Semenya who wasn’t going to allow any sports structure, male gaze, patriarchal and heterosexual advocates to define her body nor dominate her sexuality or thrash her athletics prowess.

 That Caster Semenya has done this on her terms, there’s no doubt.  Knowing who she is and accepting her body as ‘God-given’, Caster Semenya has hit back at those who dare to confront, criticise and attack her body and presence in sport by trying to remove her from the athletics stardom she accumulates for herself. This hitting back has been achieved by breaking long and old records, winning Diamond Leagues in incredible times, and owning national, continental, world and Olympic titles.   

 An immensely talented athlete is Caster Semenya. She trains hard; doesn’t rely only on natural prowess. With fierce determination, she sets out her goals on the athletics tracks and all that wants to achieve. And she works hard at attaining it all.

 Since they’ve been achieving and winning, black sportswomen have always had to contend with ‘that gaze’; the gaze that wants to define and control a black sportswoman’s body and a gaze that is inevitably, white and male. Champion sportswomen like iconic tennis player Serena Williams hit back with confident wins and prowess on the tennis court. Athlete Caster Semenya does the same. These black women hold it down in sport, on their terms and knowing and believing in whom they are as achieving, fierce black women do it around the world.  

 Whilst white, male-dominated international athletics looks at ways and means to introduce regulation to further attempt ‘Caster Semenya persecution’ and restrict her spectacular athletics performances, Caster Semenya gets on with her athletics life. She hears the noise being directed at her again. She doesn’t engage publicly when they at it again. She doesn’t succumb and call time on her athletics life. She gets down to training, puts in the hours, smashes the records, wins the titles and claims what she has achieved in ‘Caster Semenya style’.

 That Caster Semenya has brought infinite pride to South Africa, there’s no doubt. And South Africa, too is standing with Caster Semenya, drowning the ‘anti-Caster Semenya athletics prowess’ noise with our own black sportswoman prowess noise; calling out those who aim to throw arrows at Caster Semenya’s athletics feats and prowess by attacking her body construction. In knowing her athletics prowess, understanding her black sportswoman worth, believing in her athletics prowess, Caster Semenya is achieving it all on her terms.

Pic: Caster Semenya

pic Credit: Cheryl Roberts

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