The 5 Sexes: Why Male and Female are Not Enough August 31, 2009Posted by FCM in gender roles, health.
Tags: ann fausto sterling, athletics, caster semenya, eudy simelane, sports
the problem of gender binary, where we think of sex and gender in terms of either “male” or “female” is occasionally brought to the forefront by the world of competitive sports.
occasionally, an athlete who has been competing as either a male or female is suspected of or exposed as possessing physical, psychological, or genetic aspects of the “opposite” sex. stark, raving insanity usually ensues, illustrating how emotionally-charged and intellectually fraught are our notions of sex, and gender. so much for the notion that sex and gender are one in the same.
global comment reports on recent examples, first where a south african lesbian soccer player was gang raped and murdered:
Eudy Simelane now lays buried beneath the soil: she was brutally gang-raped and stabbed exactly twenty-five times before dying. For Eudy, the issue was not just that she was a lesbian but that her appearance and gender expression were commonly understood to be butch.
and regarding the long-distance runner who was recently suspected of being genetically male, her credibility and credentials as a female long-distance runner being called into serious question:
Caster Semenya, a long distance runner who is also from South Africa, was recently forced to undergo genetic testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IIAF) because her appearance does not conform to what is popularly understood as “classically” feminine. Her musculature and facial hair have been hotly debated, while in her defence, Semenya states that she was born as, and lives as, a woman.
but the reality is that there are actually 5 sexes, and we try to force people representing all 5 into 2 gender-identities. as ann fausto-sterling explains in her excellent article “the 5 sexes,” the 5 sexes are male; female; true hermaphrodite; and 2 kinds of pseudo-hermaphrodites. a true hermaphrodite has one male gonad and one female gonad. pseudo-herms have either male or female gonads (not both) with ambiguous or inconsistent genitalia.
clearly, the very notion of gender binary becomes problematic in the world of competitive sports which require male/female divisions. its also problematic in everyday life where the same divisions are required. the intellectual dishonesty of it all is frightening. people have always known that there are more than 2 sexes, because hermaphrodism has always existed. but why, in so many cultures (but not all) do they have only 2 options for gender identity…and then inexplicably assert that sex and gender are immutable and “naturally” instead of socially constructed?
background and analysis of the caster semenya controversy is available at “the science of sport.”