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Friday, April 23, 2010

Sloop and Semenya

One point in Dr. Sloop’s talk that I found interesting was his assessment of the behavior of Semenya’s father. Semanya’s father said that she has always acted like a boy, played like a boy, and sound like a boy on the phone, yet still claimed she was a girl because of what was not in her pants. I thought the reaction of the audience, and Sloop himself, was very interesting. They failed to wrap their minds around Semenya’s father’s reasoning. I’m guessing that the members of the audience were imposing a western view of gender on the younger Semenya, in that since she played and talked like a boy, she must be a boy. However, having the benefit of traveling to South Africa and Botswana twice and interacting with people that would have belonged to Semenya’s demographic, I saw some sense in what her father was saying. From my observations, the children who attended school wore western style uniforms, pants and shirts. Both sexes dressed very much the same way. I saw very few skirts for the females. Both sexes played soccer, as well as the other games that we played with them. The dress, attitude, and mannerisms were fairly unisex. More than once, I was made fun of for mistaking a girl for a guy, or vice versa. The issue of gender doesn’t seem to be a large issue at the village level in southern Africa, so Semenya’s father’s comments do make sense within that context.

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