Target: International Association of Athletics Federations
Goal: Stop rigid gender policing of female athletes.
Olympic officials have been subjecting female athletes who seem masculine to ‘gender policing’ since the 1960s. In recent years, debates about gender and how to classify transgender and intersex athletes has intensified. For example, Caster Semenya, a South African runner, was banned from competition for 11 months while officials investigated her sex to determine if she was qualified to compete with other women, since her perceived masculinity may have offered her unfair advantages. Now, after several psychological, gynecological, and endocrine tests, she has returned to competitions. Those tests caused her to lose one year of her career.
The International Association of Athletes Federations (IAAF) currently has rules that state women can only compete with other women if their testosterone levels do not exceed a male threshold. Since hormone levels naturally vary from person to person, there has been lively debate about how to define a male testosterone level in the first place.
To contrast, male athletes are not tested for hormone levels, chromosomes, DNA, etc in order to determine their sex. If a man has an unusually high testosterone level, he can still compete with other men. Since the burden of this extensive testing has a disparate impact on women, it fits the definition of discrimination. Female athletes should not have to put their careers on hold for a battery of tests to authenticate their gender. Hormones and muscles are not the only major factors of successful performance—training, knowledge of the sport, a positive attitude, and a strong support network are just as crucial.
Of course competitions must be regulated, but the process must be streamlined and equalized. As it stands, the IAAF is essentially saying that if you are too good of an athlete, you must be manly. This equates skill and strength with masculinity, which perpetuates outdated stereotypes about women. The length of time involved in the testing procedures also has the potential to damage female athletes’ careers.
Sign the petition below to ask the IAAF to implement simpler tests over a shorter period of time for all men and women athletes, or advocate athletic divisions on the basis of performance rather than gender.
Dear International Association of Athletics Federations,
The tests masculine-looking female athletes are subjected to in order to determine their gender is discriminatory. It disparately affects women, since no men are tested in similar ways for similar reasons, and it can damage female athletes’ careers by preventing them from competing for the lengthy amount of time testing requires. Furthermore, it promotes gender stereotypes—skill and strength are associated with men, not with women.
Of course regulation is always going to be part of athletic competitions, but the current procedures regulating gender are unsuitable. Please test all female and male competitors for shorter periods of time with less invasive tests instead of placing all scrutiny on women.
Or, advocate the revision of competition divisions so that they are organized by skill and performance level rather than gender. This would actually be much more fair, given that hormones, musculature, stamina, and skill vary widely from athlete to athlete, regardless of gender.
[Your Name Here]