Dr. Sloop’s lecture on Caster Semenya’s exposure of gender absolutes fascinated my curiosity on a situation widely discussed among my Wabash track & field teammates. I first heard the issue brought up not by watching her race (which I have watched on YouTube; her kick with 250 meters to go is absolutely incredible) but by one of the coaches, who said that in his many years of running/coaching track & field, he said, “She looks like a man” more than he had ever seen before. Many of the comments on YouTube videos of the race reflect my coach’s idea, although often times more demeaning than what my coach based off her visual appearance.
Dr. Sloop opened up to me what many observers—intelligent and knowledgeable in their own rights—were doing by basing their judgments of Semenya by her visual attributes: they don’t realize they attempt to define gender. When Dr. Sloop said, “We are all performing drag now,” it made me see that even in your own sweat and grit often seen on the track, with the race on most competitors and fans’ minds, judgments are made subconsciously about gender. A casual observer can note fairly quickly any difference in their perceived stereotypes of gender, especially if such differences are radical. I think that was part of Dr. Sloop’s point: identity change, whatever it is, is always radical to someone. As he said in his discussion, if the definition of male & female goes far enough, then we all can be considered unisex/intersex in some way. Semenya’s particular case involving the polarizing IAAF—done not necessarily out of malice or ill will—shows that such stereotypes reflect in many of the institutions we take for granted today.
As for Wabash as one of those institutions…I’ll let someone else write about that.