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Monday, April 19, 2010

Dr. Sloop's Presentation - Caster Semenya and Women's Bodybuilding

Dr. Sloop’s lecture on Caster Semenya and the notion of gender was a topic filled with much insight and understanding. As an avid sports fan, I found this topic particularly interesting as it provided a look into sports that I was previously unfamiliar with. Currently studying the discourse surrounding Caster Semenya, Dr. Sloop labeled this time as a “moment in time where gender is being done and undone.” For some reason, this struck me with great interest and stuck with me throughout his lecture. Dr. Sloop is a discourse analysis, where in Semenya’s case, looks at the communication that is created by winning a certain track and field medal. But in looking at this discourse, I feel that Dr. Sloop missed one American sport worthy of similar discussion. Women’s professional bodybuilding is something that I am quite unfamiliar with. But having listened to Dr. Sloop both in class and during the lecture, I could not help but draw simple comparisons. At face value, we have women here in America trying to create a physique like that of a man. On the contrary, Caster Semenya has had to fight to defend her sexuality as a woman on all fronts. When looking at Semenya, Dr. Sloop studied three specific discourses: sex and gender, hermaphrodite, and masculinity. Each piece of discourse placed Semenya in a specific category through interpretations of specific signifiers. Still, as researched by Dr. Sloop, these signifiers remained somewhat consistent in examining Caster’s tall-boyish physique, her deep voice, and overall manly appearance. However, it is these exact signifiers that I feel apply directly to professional women bodybuilders. For instance, in the magazine photo of Semenya, she clearly defines herself as a female. Still, despite her dress and beautification, many critics challenge this by examining her physical stature and physique. But I would like to ask these critics to look at the latest muscle magazine that shows the physique of any professional women’s bodybuilder. In both cases we have women challenging stereotypical roles of gender, however, for professional bodybuilders they consciously choose to do so. While for Caster, she must suffer from biological imperfections. So I guess my question for Dr. Sloop would be to ask, why not first look on a domestic level for similar scenarios? The women’s sport of professional bodybuilding seems to encompass many of the same themes found within the discourse surrounding Semenya. Personally, I feel like there is a lack of discourse surrounding women’s bodybuilding and that something could be said for this. Why is it socially acceptable for American women to challenge roles of gender, while Semenya and others must face the scrutiny of cultures worldwide?

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