The Curious Case of Caster Semenya

Conant Masocha@Esquirec_Contributor IAugust 24, 2009

There are men who look like women. Everyone knows that. Everyone.  Ask the countless boys and girls who have been so cruelly teased by their playmates for having deep, throaty voices and pretty, effeminate looks.

Ask Oscar Wilde, who a little over a century ago witnessed Dorian Gray charm the pants off both ladies and men with his effeminate looks and "sensuous lips." 

Or ask South African Jacob Semenya, whose daughter Caster has been 
been relentlessly pursued this week by the Australian and British press with the hope that the 18-year-old may actually turn out to be a man.

Indeed, the scrutiny all week has been unrelenting, the girl’s mind thrashed into an Inquisition and her battered body dragged around the walls of Troy as carrion birds gathered around for leftovers.

But why the apoplexy in the British and Australian press this past week over a girl who, by all intents and purposes, only possesses a more than healthy pair of calves, immense biceps, and absolutely no breasts to speak of?

Why this need to find fault by media and rival athletes over what, according to The Science of Athletics, may yet turn out to be no more than a simple case of two female chromosomes XX, being dominated in the womb by one male chromosome Y? 

And why has the world so soon forgotten of a similar case just across the border—Samukeliso Moyo of Zimbabwe only a few years ago—to realize the condition is not so rare and abnormal as it would have us believe?

The Australian and British media and to an extent the Americans, would normally be so sensible except where their sensibilities—religious blackmail, the war in Iraq, Zimbabwe, and so forth—are offended.

But this week, all concerned came out sounding like constipated middle-class tabloids, replete with snooty jibes and grubby footnotes to what in due course will prove to be an athletic phenomenon.   

An Australian journalist was first to hit stride, duly proclaiming the muscular Caster’s body redoubtable.

Not to be outdone, the Times of London joined in. "She is only 18," they declared, pretending to reason, but only managing  to join the ranks of the ignorant, "so talent that good would almost certainly have plenty of opportunities to stake her claim to greatness once the gender verification process has been completed.

“If, of course, it cleared her," the tabloid concluded, displaying a curious cynicism.

Often, what one perceives to be warped or malicious or eroding leaves one speechless: Not having the insight of a philosopher or the wit and vocabulary of a poet, to shout bloody murder and condemn in the strongest terms or expound in eloquent language, I was left flapping; beached like a carp by the sheer nerve of the bastards.

It was enraging, to be sure, this cynical, preemptive judgment; a medieval insult of pig swill and cow tonsils being thrown out of the castle walls for the rest of the world to consume. God, what breathtaking arrogance.

What astonishing emptiness that a journalist can presume to judge when best for a girl, one from an impoverished background, to race on the grounds of only her age.

And what righteous, old testament anger from the South African media this week, as they formed a laager around “their golden girl.”

“Jealousy makes you nasty," crowed one headline. The Ashes, rugby, and sport in general, it seems, are the only things that can divide the opinions of these otherwise similar media of three middle class societies.

And so the insults—for that’s what it was deemed to be by the ANC Youth League, eagerly chucking their two pence worth—allegations, obsufication, and denials abide, but it was Athletics South Africa boss Leonard Chuene who summed up the nation's mood best: "She was conceived by a man and a woman, no one can dispute this. Children are not taken to laboratories to determine their gender. We look at one place and we know it." 

Case closed.