Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: Testosterone and the running woman

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  • JackElder,

    "Gosh Dan you're playing a little too well. You're not on steroids by any chance?"
    --
    And if he was then his Jockey ads wouldn't be very impressive.

    Photoshop.

    Specifically, the Liquify tool. Very useful for applying slight distortions such as, ahem, making things bigger or smaller.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Not that you'd know, right Jack?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    I truly hope I've been misinformed as to how invasive these tests are. If not, I don't think many big tough rugby/league players would be willing to submit to them.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 546 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    For example Kournikova sucked really badly, but could earn more in a tournament than the eventual winner just for drawing in crowds.

    She didn't suck that badly: she reached #8 in the world singles rankings and was several times #1 in doubles partnerships.

    But when she started slipping she certainly got invited to tournaments on a level that wouldn't have been justified by her skill as a player. The last time she played in Auckland she really was rubbish.

    I don't think we should begrudge anyone making money from their natural good looks any more than we should begrudge them their natural talents: just make sure we remember that Lindsay Davenport was always a better tennis player than Kournikova.

    But while we'll talking about gender boundaries, it's worth remembering Renee Richards, the post-op transexual who won a landmark decision in the New York Supreme Court allowing her to enter the US Open as a woman.

    Transsexuals' desires to be accepted as women haven't always been viewed kindly by feminists.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18665 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Transsexuals' desires to be accepted as women haven't always been viewed kindly by feminists.

    And grumpy old Germaine Greer isn't much better:

    Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women's names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn't polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man's delusion that he is female.

    And there is other examples as well as Richards:

    The Polish sprinter Ewa Klobukowska was the first Olympic athlete to be disqualified after a chromatin test, in 1967. She was stripped of her two Olympic medals and banned from all professional sports, yet later went on to get pregnant and bear a son.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Oh, and I am not begrudging anyone the opportunity to make money, I promise! And certainly, I would much rather see an athlete with a healthy body promoting things, than, say, Kate Moss or Lindsay Lohan.

    I am frustrated by the double standard though, less-attractive male superstars will still get endorsments where their female counterparts wont - or certainly not as many or as much.

    But my real complaint is when the women are asked to be attractive on the field - women golfers being asked to be more 'ladylike', the league teaching WNBA players to apply make up, that kind of thing.

    If they are good at what they do, who cares what they look like while they are doing it?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • LegBreak,

    less-attractive male superstars will still get endorsments where their female counterparts wont - or certainly not as many or as much.

    I think that’s a generalisation. Where are Brad Thorn’s endorsements? Because, as a player, he deserves one.

    It took Vettori over 10 years before he got his, and in some circular way you could argue that was the only product that would take him up.

    And I don’t think Fleming’s advertising of heat pumps is based on looks. Not dressed like that anyway.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Grace said

    My feeling is that if Semenya's physiological advantage is natural (ie. not caused by performance-enhancing drugs) then she's a legitimate champion, just as Michael Phelps is with his unusually long arms. And she sure doen't deserve the public humiliation. If she's freakishly athletic, it's hardly her fault!

    What if the only athletes capable of winning women's sprint events where those with disorders of sexual development? This would pretty much guarantee that talent scouting for females sprinters would mean thorough genetic and hormone-based screening of potential athletes.

    If a female competitor gains an advantage from abnormal testosterone levels as the result of a disorder of sexual development then I don't think she can race as a female. This is unfair, but is the result of having separate events for men and women. I don't think you can have the latter without excluding the former.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    If a female competitor gains an advantage from abnormal testosterone levels as the result of a disorder of sexual development then I don't think she can race as a female. This is unfair, but is the result of having separate events for men and women. I don't think you can have the latter without excluding the former.

    I think you're sticking to an overly restrictive definition of "female" there. For starters, define "advantage". As I said, Semenya is no Usain Bolt; she's within the range of female competitivity, easily. If they're just really good, is that unfair, more than Phelps' slightly freakish anatomy? How much better do they have to be? How do you decide that?

    Sex is a continuum, not a binary. Saying "oh, tough luck, they just can't compete" is basically demanding that anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a gender binary buggers off until we start having co-ed top-level sports (you'll be waiting a while). Athletic talent is, to a large degree, genetically mediated. This is just another form of genetic mediation.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    I am frustrated by the double standard though, less-attractive male superstars will still get endorsments where their female counterparts wont - or certainly not as many or as much.

    Are you talking about Rafeal "Chipmunk" Nadal?

    Where are Brad Thorn’s endorsements?

    That's a fair question, except that we're in New Zealand. Our markets aren't big enough for real endorsement deals. Beyond the Silver Ferns (New World, F&P, McCains) and All Blacks ads (Powerade, Coke, Weetbix) there aren't too many individual options.

    I imagine that Brad Thorn (if he is after that kind of money) will be plugging some local Canterbury caryard or building firm. Remember when Merhts was in those ads where he got in a lift with some guy?

    (I think Thorne is in the new Weetbix ad btw)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Sex is a continuum, not a binary. Saying "oh, tough luck, they just can't compete" is basically demanding that anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a gender binary buggers off until we start having co-ed top-level sports (you'll be waiting a while).

    I agree that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary. But let's say that Semenya is outside of the current parameters for female competitors, would you let her compete with the women or not? And if so, how would you explain the decision to her opposition?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • LegBreak,

    (I think Thorne is in the new Weetbix ad btw)

    You might be right there, but they all look the same to me...




    (By “they”, I mean tight forwards)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    If they are good at what they do, who cares what they look like while they are doing it?

    It seems quite possible that the women themselves do, just like ordinary non-athlete women like to look good.

    Athletes, both male and female, are often pretty good to look at. It's half the fun of the Olympics.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18665 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Hmmm ... as boundary issues often are, this is an interesting argument to look at:

    A supportive post on a fairly NSFW female muscle site, whose readers (male and female) presumably find muscles attractive.

    And a post-op trans bloggger links to quotes from Dr Renee Richards herself, who is clearly sympathetic but thinks Semenya shouldn't be allowed to compete:

    "If your body is fueled by testosterone from an early age, you're going to develop a skeleton and a muscle mass and a type of muscle that is different from that of a normal woman -- so you have this tremendous advantage. That's why they have to be very careful to have men competing with men, and women with women. If she has this body that's fueled or developed under the influence of testosterone, she has a different body than the runner she's running against."

    She says she was only allowed to compete after she'd been taking oestrogen long enough to degrade her physical advantage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18665 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    (I think Thorne is in the new Weetbix ad btw)

    You might be right there, but they all look the same to me...

    Isn't he in that "buy our water and we'll give some money to some cute children" ad too? I could quite well be wrong though.

    It seems quite possible that the women themselves do, just like ordinary non-athlete women like to look good.

    God, of course they could. And I'm not saying Flo Jo can't sport her nails, and Maria Sharapova can't wear her short skirts and her lip gloss. Having spent the better past of a week over on Up front talking about shoes, I can hardly complain about that, can I?

    Of course there's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. But isn't there something a little wrong with officials offering make up lessons to rookies? (The original news article which refences is gone, annoyingly.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    And, yeah, I know athletes are nice to look at. As I say, Richard Kahui... (Or Shane Bond, depending on the season.)

    But surely we could get past things of the "Hockey's newest hottie" sexualisation, and the expectation that women still look a certain way, even while competing, and recognise them as awesome no matter what their hair colour or body shape?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Stuff equalises the gender imbalance (yes, I kid)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    "If your body is fueled by testosterone from an early age, you're going to develop a skeleton and a muscle mass and a type of muscle that is different from that of a normal woman -..."

    Like the IAAF rules state:

    5. Reconstructive surgery and sex reassignment

    * if sex change operations as well as appropriate hormone replacement therapy are performed before puberty then the athlete is allowed to compete as a female
    * if the sex change and hormone therapy is done after puberty then the athlete has to wait two years after gonadectomy before a physical and endocrinological evaluation is conducted

    (The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    I think you're sticking to an overly restrictive definition of "female" there. For starters, define "advantage". As I said, Semenya is no Usain Bolt; she's within the range of female competitivity, easily. If they're just really good, is that unfair, more than Phelps' slightly freakish anatomy? How much better do they have to be? How do you decide that?

    Sex is a continuum, not a binary. Saying "oh, tough luck, they just can't compete" is basically demanding that anyone who doesn't fit neatly into a gender binary buggers off until we start having co-ed top-level sports (you'll be waiting a while). Athletic talent is, to a large degree, genetically mediated. This is just another form of genetic mediation.

    I don't know, but someone will and that will be the line in the sand. If there are separate events for men and women and there is a continuum between what is a man and what is a woman there pretty much has to be some cut-off point.

    With regards to this situation, I can't say for sure just how good she is. You have said her time wasn't earth-shattering but she did win by over two and a half seconds. That said, the best 800m runner in the last couple of years, Pamela Jelimo also ran a very similar time when she was 18 years old and then subsequently ran the 3rd fastest time in history (one and half seconds faster than Semenya's winning time at the World Champs).

    (Jelimo is recovering from injury and did not make the final in the World Champs)

    I agree that athletic talent is genetically mediated. As soon as Usain Bolt started rewriting the record books I reckon there were any number of elite sprinting programs who re-wrote their talent scouting guidelines to emphasise height as a more important criteria than they did before. If Semenya turns out to be a huge talent AND she has a disorder of sexual development that leads to an advantage you can bet athletic programs will be screening for those attributes.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I agree that athletic talent is genetically mediated. As soon as Usain Bolt started rewriting the record books I reckon there were any number of elite sprinting programs who re-wrote their talent scouting guidelines to emphasise height as a more important criteria than they did before. If Semenya turns out to be a huge talent AND she has a disorder of sexual development that leads to an advantage you can bet athletic programs will be screening for those attributes.

    I guess I'm just not seeing so much of a problem with that. It doesn't seem to me so much different from screening for any other sort of advantageous genetic anomaly.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    For example Kournikova sucked really badly, but could earn more in a tournament than the eventual winner just for drawing in crowds.

    She didn't suck that badly: she reached #8 in the world singles rankings and was several times #1 in doubles partnerships.

    And won two grand slams.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And won two grand slams.

    You're thinking of Sharapova.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18665 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Oh, hang on. Kournikova won two doubles grand slams.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18665 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Oh, hang on. Kournikova won two doubles grand slams.

    I'm willing to bet that Martina Hingis won two doubles grand slams and Kournikova was also there

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I'm willing to bet that Martina Hingis won two doubles grand slams and Kournikova was also there

    And if at the end of 1999 Martina Hingis had been the WTA no.1 ranked womens doubles player I might be more inclined toward this argument =)

    Kournikova has always been a doubles specialist ... why youse all hatin' on her?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2991 posts Report Reply

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