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Science

How To Prove Someone Is Female? 1091

Posted by kdawson
from the who-can-replace-a-man dept.
krou writes "Caster Semenya won the 800m at the World Athletics Championship in blistering style, leaving her competitors in the dust, but she has been thrown into the midst of a scandal amidst claims that she's not really a woman. According to the many press reports, she's believed to shave, is flat chested, has a very masculine physique, previously preferred playing physical games with boys, and shunned traditional female activities and clothing. Questions about her gender have dogged her entire career. Previously, acceptance that she is a women relied on simple inspection of female genitals. But now the IAAF claim that they want to conduct further tests to see if 'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' An IAAF spokesmen noted that 'The [testing] process was started after Semenya made her startling breakthroughs — a 25-second improvement at 1500m and eight seconds at 800m, just some weeks ago.' I'm curious what the Slashdot community thinks: what can be considered proof of someone being male or female? Is it simply a case of having the right genitals, or are there other criteria that should be used? Is the IAAF right in claiming that someone should be prevented from competing because they have a rare medical or genetic advantage?"
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How To Prove Someone Is Female?

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  • Genetic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cob666 (656740) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:02PM (#29158013) Homepage
    I would think that a genetic test would prove whether or not she was.. well... a she.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:02PM (#29158019)
    As subject says. If there is a "Y" cromosome, well, you have a male then...
  • Medical advantage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:03PM (#29158025) Journal

    "she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' "

    What kind of bullshit is this? Your genetics are 80% of the winning. Personally, I was born with messed up feet so I have always known that I wouldn't be the sprinting world champion. The fact that this woman(because that's what she is) has the better genetic profile to win these kinds of races is to her advantage and the people who didn't win are to accept that or play another game.

  • Genetic Advantage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:03PM (#29158027)
    Everyone competing in IAAF competitions should be fat, lazy, nonathletic, slobs. Otherwise its unfair to all the fat, lazy, nonathletic slobs who just cant compete.
  • Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:04PM (#29158033)
    One reason I would never hope to be rich and in the spot light is stuff like this. Ask Richard Gere how long shit like this can follow you. If it its true it is a pretty personal outting.
  • Gender isn't sex. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:07PM (#29158067)

    I think slashdot should start with the correct definitions, being a technical community and all: Sex is, Gender does. Second, Slashdot of all places should know that the two are correlations, not causations. And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:

    You can't.

    Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:10PM (#29158099)

    Most people have an okay time with "male" and "female" as unproblematic concepts, because for the majority of people all the things that might go into the concepts correlate at least reasonably well. Most females are genetically XX, and have both primary and secondary sexual characteristics typical of females. Most males are XY, and have primary/secondary characteristics typical of males.

    If those things aren't all correlated nicely, though, it makes clear that there isn't really a solid definition that covers all aspects of what we mean. A genetic test for XX vs. XY? (And then what do you do about XXY?) Just an issue of primary sexual traits? (Do secondary sexual traits matter?) A combination of all the above? (And then what do you do if they don't all match up?)

    At some point the distinctions become somewhat arbitrary, and to me at least not all that interesting: there isn't actually any magical "right" answer to the question. Perhaps to get an answer that makes sense in this context we might first answer: what is the purpose of having separate male/female sporting competitions, and which definition of sex or gender would contribute towards that purpose best?

  • by SnoopJeDi (859765) <snoopjedi @ g m a i l . c om> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:12PM (#29158127)

    It's Not That Simpleâ [wikipedia.org].

    Besides, you're ignoring the point. The real issue here is highlighted by this passage:

    But now the IAAF claim that they want to conduct further tests to see if 'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.'

    In a world where people can change their identities at will (transsexualism, etc.), or otherwise [go.com], what changes need to be made to the outdated simple classifications?

    And additionally, the obnoxious notion of "fairness" further complicates the issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:14PM (#29158153)

    You realize some people with XXY chromosomes may have genetic advantages over normal XX females, right?

  • Re:Genetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:15PM (#29158165) Journal
    That.
    I would also use this occasion to state my amusement to see these sports officials embarrassed about someone having a clear advantage that can not be put on special training, drugs, equipment or techniques. At a high level, performances in sports like athletics will show differences that can have a clear genetic cause (that's okay. That is, after all, a feature of evolution, that some individual will outperform others on specific tasks) yet refuse to acknowledge it and emphasize on the training and work of athletes.

    Athletes keep talking about sports' spirit, about how it is all about fairness and balance. I am happy to see some reminders that top competitions are mostly about unfair genetic advantage. This focus on the top 1st, the gold medal, the world champion, is a bit insane. The most respectable difference I see in sport is between amateur and well-trained. Between these two levels, the difference is clear and is mostly about efforts. But it is not very convenient or spectacular to build a mediafest around.
  • by El Jynx (548908) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:16PM (#29158189)
    I disagree. Her ability to run was what got this whole discussion started in the first place :P
  • by cob666 (656740) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:23PM (#29158263) Homepage
    I somewhat agree with you but a 'rare genetic variation' is simply that, RARE. Under normal circumstances, there are genetic markers that distinguish a male from a female and if this particular athlete has a rare variation or abnormality in his/her DNA then that bridge should be crossed when it's come to.
  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:24PM (#29158277) Homepage Journal

    And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:...

    Bad girlintrainig! You never, ever, EVER presume that just because someone is smart and intelligent they should agree with you -- or that, just because someone disagrees with you, they're either not smart or not intelligent.

    I'd say it's far more scientific to brand gender and sex as immutable based on your genetics than to relegate it to subjective measurements And on that note...

    Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.,

    A female is an organism that can produce an ova to create young during its lifespan. A male is an organism that can create sperm to fertilize said Ova during its lfiespan. This is not arbitrary -- this is the scientific definition from biology. Any organism that can do neither of those two during its lifespan is neuter, and any that can do both is hemaphroditic (sic). ANY OTHER DEFINITION is cultural, subjective, non-scientific crap.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:34PM (#29158361)

    A female is an organism that can produce an ova to create young during its lifespan.

    So women who have their ovaries removed become men? Or what about women born without reproductive organs? Are they not women anymore?

    A male is an organism that can create sperm to fertilize said Ova during its lfiespan.

    So if I chop your nuts off, you become a woman? Do you forget a lifetime of experiences being male? Do you have to change the little 'M' on your driver's license to an 'F'?

    This is not arbitrary -- this is the scientific definition from biology.

    This is an abuse of science when we have clear and documented cases where your definitions are inadequate, yet you continue to insist they are correct. Your definition, your model, is in error. Scientifically speaking -- science takes all available evidence into consideration, not just the parts you agree with.

    Any organism that can do neither of those two during its lifespan is neuter, and any that can do both is hemaphroditic (sic).

    Again, your definition is in error: A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs. Nowhere in that definition is "Ova" or "sperm" included -- it is possible to have both male and female reproductive organs and have either, both, or neither, of those conditions met. Neuter is a an adjective that refers to either a lack of gender (a social construct, not physical), or the lack of reproductive organs.

    ANY OTHER DEFINITION is cultural, subjective, non-scientific crap.

    The very definition of gender is cultural, subjective, and very much not scientific. You're attempting to use science to advance your own religious or personal beliefs about how the world "should be", not how it is. Science is about how things ARE not how they SHOULD be. The moment you start saying "should", you've left the realm of science.

  • Re:This is /. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:34PM (#29158371)

    Yep.

    You know the solution is simple. Sexes compete together in the same events.

  • by Sancho (17056) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:35PM (#29158373) Homepage

    And additionally, the obnoxious notion of "fairness" further complicates the issue.

    When issues like these come up, I'm always reminded of Harrison Bergeron [westvalley.edu]

  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mewrei (1206850) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:36PM (#29158393)
    Seriously though, we live post-Genome Project, is it REALLY that difficult to just sequence her DNA to see if there exist two X Chromosomes without a freaking political scandal?
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:37PM (#29158401)

    I agree with most of that, but in:

    Sex is, Gender does. Second, Slashdot of all places should know that the two are correlations, not causations.

    I think it would be hard to argue that there isn't at least some causal effect between sex and gender. Surely it's not merely a coincidental correlation that, in animals having the XY sex-determination system [wikipedia.org] (incl. all mammals), the vast majority of individuals with XX configuration turn out to have primary and secondary sexual characteristics grouped as "female" and play "female" gender roles; and the same with XY and "male"?

  • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:39PM (#29158421)
    I think they would have to define a man as someone that is XY and a woman as someone that is XX, anything else doesn't qualify or gets removed based on medical grounds. After all people with medical conditions that require them to take drugs to stay healthy aren't allowed to compete because they are "doping" so why not someone that has a medical condition that makes them not normal as far as their genetics go. Sure athletes tend to be genetically odd a bit anyways, but I think there is a difference from having an unusually quick fast twitch response and having an extra chromosome.

    Also I think you have to define it genetically otherwise people that have a sex change could compete as the sex they want to.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:43PM (#29158473) Journal

    It's especially interesting how outraged people got at the "chauvinistic" attitudes of people "assuming" that better performance means male. They certainly didn't complain about the fact that these events are split up by gender in the first place -- if they don't want questions like this, then simply make one mixed-gender competition, problem solved.

  • by haystor (102186) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:49PM (#29158535)

    And having the genetic advantage of being male disqualifies those people from women's events. The question is how male does someone have to be in order to be disqualified?

  • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:56PM (#29158595)

    Ummm yeah! But it's not so rare. It's called being a GUY.

    It's going to be unpopular here but I'll say it. That woman is the manliest looking 15 year old female on god's good earth. She walks like a man, talks like a man, has muscles like a man, and the general countenance of a man.

    People here are treating her case as if she were clearly a female and so are giving her a lot of leeway to be whatever gender she wants. But they are going to be crying foul play if she turns up a man and she is going to be cast a villain for it.

    What a difference gender makes, right folks?

    Own up to the gender favoritism, kids. When we think someone is a woman, we make psychological concessions, and any big bad man who suspects she might be male is unfair.

    None of the crusaders for her cause to be any gender she desires is thinking of her competitors or of the general concept of fairness.

    If she has such spectacular genetics, let her compete with the men.

  • by INT_QRK (1043164) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:57PM (#29158603)
    Why obsess over it in the first place? What, in the grad scheme of things, difference does it make? So, what if one or two hermaphrodites, or for that matter impostors, do get away with it? It's just freaking sports. I'd recommend standard diligence and then take any later revelations as and if they come.
  • by tsm_sf (545316) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:57PM (#29158609) Journal
    You know, from my point of view, all of these world-class athletes are genetic abnormalities. It's a little rich for them to point to the best of themselves and yell "SHE'S the freak!"
  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minozake (1227554) <ltdonny@gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:58PM (#29158615) Journal
    Even criminals have rights.

    If one wants to compete, they have to take a test. If they don't consent, they don't compete. This is not a violation of rights because there is no necessity or right to compete.
  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mewrei (1206850) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:02PM (#29158651)
    And as much as I hate defending government, a DNA sequence is probably a heck of a lot less invasive and humiliating than what she's probably going through right now.
  • Re:Genetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:07PM (#29158689)

    Genetic variants? By many accounts, China outright fabricated passports for some of their prepubescent gymnasts in the last olympics. After an initial hand flapping, that got ignored. But some poor girl who (apparently through no fault of her own) has some natural advantage is being punished. That is simply crazy.

  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:13PM (#29158743)
    Here's the problem: while she might be genetically female, and have female genitalia, I think there is a very strong likelihood she has some kind of severe hormone imbalance that is pumping extreme amounts of testosterone into her system. This would account for her physique, total lack of breasts, deep voice, facial hair, etc. Most likely she has some kind of tumor on her adrenal glands.

    And therein lies the issue. If her body is producing much more testosterone than it should be, it's ultimately no different than if she were taking steroids -- it gives her an unfair advantage over the competition that have normal levels of testosterone.

    I also understand there is a fine line to be drawn here. It's easy to say "well this is the way she was born, it's not like she's using illegal drugs", but the end result is the same. But it could be a slippery slope. We know that, for example, certain body types are better at swimming than others (tall and lanky, long arms and feet -- basically Michael Phelps). Do we then disqualify athletes that have a "genetic" advantage? Of course that's not right either.

    I think it has to come down to whether a deviation is grossly abnormal or within what would be considered as normal. Michael Phelps, although physically advantaged to swimming, still has normal body proportions. If his arms or feet were grossly and abnormally long, would it still be considered fair?
  • by maxume (22995) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:13PM (#29158747)

    The professional athletes in basketball thing is no longer the case (the USA has fielded teams composed of NBA players since 1992), and it wasn't necessarily the Olympics making the decision (looking it up, they apparently delegated the decision to FIBA).

    In any case, that was more about sportsmanship than it was about fairness.

  • by SupremoMan (912191) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:14PM (#29158757)

    So she has a rare genetic makeup, doesn't every world class athlete have a rare genetic makeup? I consider myself ordinary male and I can't do most of the stuff even a female Olympic athlete can.

  • by El Jynx (548908) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:16PM (#29158773)

    From an evolutionary standpoint, it would be wise to banish gender differences altogether, allow doping, and reward the winners with a show to find 20 women willing to bear their children. It would cause plenty of havoc along the way, but that seems to be the way it works.

    From a more pragmatic standpoint, I think you have to define male and female and discuss each exception separately. There's an inherent problem in questions like this: how far until you cross the line? Each person has an average of 200 mutations compared to the next person, and sometimes they stack; this creates our losers and junkies, athletes and geniuses, average joes, idiot savants and much more. The ultimate problem is that in a universe where everything is unique, you just can't work with laws. And I have no idea of how to tackle THAT problem. ;)

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jerralb (44562) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:20PM (#29158807)

    Athletes, the Track & Field ones, are already required to piss in a cup for drug testing. The results of which will eventually be published for a positive test. DNA testing is just an extrapolation of an existing process. From the IAAF's perspective participants have no right to hide their sexual identity. Don't like the rules? go form your own organization. Vince McMahon will tell you that's a dumb idea (re: XFL with no drug tests). You want to talk about privacy invasion, try looking at the list of drugs which aren't allowed in an athlete's system and see how many you may have in your medicine cabinet. The majority of cough medicines are verboten. The right question isn't so much about privacy as much as it is how a governing organization should go about sanctioning a fair competition.

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:21PM (#29158817)

    So women who have their ovaries removed become men?

    He already said that someone who couldn't produce either is a neuter.

    So if I chop your nuts off, you become a woman?

    He already said that someone who couldn't produce either is a neuter.

    I realise you don't buy into that definition, which is fine, but it is a waste of time asking a stupid question that has nothing to do with what he was saying.

    And even if you were genuinely curious about his answer to those two questions, you'd still need to clarify - after all, when we cut the nuts off a male dog, we say it's been neutered. And at what point is this surgery done? At birth before any eggs or sperm have been produced? Are they adult? You don't care about the answers (neither do I) - you're just engaging in a really silly argument.

    His statement is essentially nine plus nine equals eighteen. And you're arguing that this is incorrect because it's not true if we're using base eight in which neither nine or eighteen exists.

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan.gmail@com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:26PM (#29158861)
    Who said it's the government? It amazes me how many "libertarians" equate business with government.
  • by Frater 219 (1455) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:29PM (#29158879) Journal

    I think they would have to define a man as someone that is XY and a woman as someone that is XX, anything else doesn't qualify or gets removed based on medical grounds.

    Go read about androgen insensitivity syndrome [wikipedia.org]. A person with complete androgen insensitivity has the external appearance (including external genitals) of a normal female, and usually has been raised with a female identity, and so identifies as a girl or woman. But she has no menstrual period because she has no ovaries or uterus -- she has an XY genotype and undescended internal testes. Androgens (male hormones) create the male external appearance; in the absence of androgens, a fetus develops a female appearance -- and parents and society assign a female identity.

    It seems to me that a reasonable approach to dealing fairly with intersexed people in sports would be to replace sex separation with weight-class separation. Human sex and gender turn out to be complex and fraught with both social and technical problems, and it is unreasonable to deny an athlete the chance to compete just because their genetic curiosity happens to be on the 23rd chromosome.

  • by meburke (736645) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:29PM (#29158885)

    A slightly different topic from "gender determination" would be "normalizing characteristics". Since each person has a different but similar physiology, maybe we should test for things like normal hinge points (tendon attachments) and chromosome/hormone levels and then determine the probable advantage/disadvantage for each sport adjusted from the median. We could then create a handicap rating so that the only important variables are training and motivation. Everyone starts out even.

  • Re:Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fatalwall (873645) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:32PM (#29158919)

    well you could just get rid of the men woman divisions and do it by physical aspects such as strengt

    its the only real way to be fair about the process and not risk issues with genetic testing and all.

  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:33PM (#29158921)

    Shouldn't these track and field events be a place where we humans can come together and show how far we're able to push our natural limitations without body modification?

    Without body modification, I mean without introducing drugs or mechanical advantages into our bodies. To show how far we can go "naturally".

    Rules are rules, and the sport has their own governing authority deciding what is and isn't okay.

    1. Logically, if she had a sex change, this would be a modification to her body. How is this any different from doping?

    2. Logically, if she was born that way, without any drug inducements, the question is, is she considered male or female?

    As someone pointed out, males tend to be thought of producing sperm, and females producing ova. But, where does that leave those who don't fit that definition?

    Look at one's chromosomes, and whether one's body is producing the hormones that tend to make one male or female. Is she an underdeveloped male, or is she an underveloped female? This may be an oversimplification, but don't males have more testosterone that estrogen, and females more estrogen than testosterone?

    All in all, it comes down to how the governing authority of the sport defines it.

  • by tgatliff (311583) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:37PM (#29158969)

    I think a better way of looking at this is what is the advantage that a male has.... That is rather obvious.... Anabolic hormones. Meaning, check to see why she is so muscular. It is highly unlikely that high levels of anabolic compounds are coming from her adrenals as they do in some women.

    Meaning, instead of focusing on the genetics, why not focus on why she is beating her female peers.... Chances are they will either find some "extra" glands somewhere or they will find that she is using something she should not be using. My guess is the former...

  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:39PM (#29158991)

    Ok for crying out loud...

    why do we still have rules that tell sports teams that they have to be all male or all female?

    I mean, for some sports I can understand that the team might want all male, rugby or gridiron come to mind.

    But cricket? Baseball? pffft.

    It should be up to the coach who they field, man woman or whatever. At the end of the day it should be their call and on their heads does it fall if the team loses because of it.

    Its as bad as paying a woman less than a man for doing the same job.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:49PM (#29159073) Homepage Journal

    Gender is largely determined by our genes. But there are a number of articles on the web which demonstrate that hormones present in the womb can alter the initial determination of gender. Short of outright hermaphroditism, a female may have a lot of masculine characteristics, and a male can have a lot of feminine characteristics. Actually, it didn't require a lot of research to figure this out - people everywhere exhibit varying degrees of both masculine and feminine characteristics.

    "Prove you're a girl"??? WTF??? PROVE IT??? Give us all a break. Are we going to start demanding DNA and ultrasound analysis of every little leaguer? The kid either grows up thinking that he's a he, or that she's a she. That's good enough for almost anything. And, it should be good enough for the olympics. One shouldn't have to submit to what amounts to sexual molestation. Maybe a blood test. But, the blood test will be little more conclusive than looking at a person. He/she has hormone levels that are outside the norm? Big fucking deal.

    This world is getting to damned demanding. No one has a right to demand that I prove my sexuality - NO ONE. Not even if I'm competing on the world stage. This young lady has been researched to death. Her Mama and her Daddy vouch for her, and her birth certificate says "Female".

    Drop it, everyone.

    The only people who will ever have a legitimate interest in her genitalia are those who find her attractive enough to want to share her bed. And, those people will keep those details private unless they are total jerks.

  • Re:Genetic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pinkj (521155) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:50PM (#29159079)
    We need:

    The Hormonally Abnormal Olympics
    The Clone Olympics (identical twins, triplets, etc.)
    The Trans Olympics
    The Hermaphrodite Olympics
  • by xwizbt (513040) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:54PM (#29159115) Homepage

    Perhaps as technology allows us to modify our bodies further, even down to a genetic level, such views will be considered as narrow, and even the idea of splitting athletic achievements into such primitive divisions as 'male' or 'female' will start to look silly.

    Some questions: Can men race against women? Are effeminate men allowed to race against burly men's men? What about butch women, with gruff voices and hairy legs - can they compete against delicate, perfumed counterparts? Can homosexuals race alongside straight men, and would they both refuse to try to out-race a bisexual? Does skin colour affect your ability to jump, and is it really possible to be pretty fly for a white guy? Why, finally getting to the point, do some of those questions seem ridiculous, but others don't?

  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:00PM (#29159147) Homepage Journal

    That wont work because it would completely eliminate women from being competitive in a wide range of sports.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:12PM (#29159205)

    In case people hadn't noticed, this thread is full of gossip about a very personal, very intimate part of a person's life. A real, living, breathing person.

    This woman has had her entire life, her entire identity turned in to an international freak show. How would you feel if this was you? Your Mom? Your sister?

    - somebody who has been there

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:15PM (#29159223)

    Oh, that's right. I forgot there's only two options and no possibility of deviation from those options AT ALL.

    Fucking moron.

    Since in the vast majority of cases, it really is one of those two options - it seems like the logical first step, given that invasive testing is apparently already the norm for track and field anymore. If Caster's test shows XX or XY, either way the case is closed. Arguing that a remote possibility of a different genetic state exists means you can't first test for the heavily dominant typical state is, quite frankly, silly. That's like arguing that a doctor shouldn't do an influenza test on a patient with flu-like symptoms because there's a remote possibility it's Brucellosis.

  • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:23PM (#29159269) Journal
    If your body, for whatever reason, allows you to outperform others without the interference of artificial performance-enhancing substances, congratulations. You win.

    What this whole argument has thus far ignored is the fact that athletes need at least as much if not more mental strength and inherent talent than physical strength. What she has accomplished has at least as much to do with her mind as her body.
  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:24PM (#29159283)
    It's becoming increasingly hard for me to tell the difference.
  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hojima (1228978) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:25PM (#29159291)

    One of the most surefire way is to see if her gametes can play their respective roll. If they can manage to form a viable embryo from her egg, case closed. If not, some more testing would be needed. Also, a genetic advantage is the reason most athletes get the gold. If she has a rare/new trait, what are you going to do when a larger percentage of the population has it in the future? It's just as discriminatory to ban them now as it would be later. Especially if it's a naturally acquired trait.

  • by Tekoneiric (590239) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:30PM (#29159357) Journal
    The thing is that there isn't a clear line between female and male. Being Female or male isn't an absolute thing, it's extreme opposite ends of human sexuality with subtle variations in between. Many people don't realize but there are many people that are in between but it's generally hushed up by the doctors, their family and society in general. Not only are there physical ambiguities of the genitalia and body but also various hormone and neurological variations, all caused by chromosomal, genetic and developmental conditions that would put someone in between the gender extremes. Being physically intersexed, transsexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, dynamically gendered (changing gender expression with moods), transgendered, a butch straight woman, a feminine straight man, etc are really just part of being in between the gender extremes.

    Just like boxing weight divisions break up by weight, I think a better choice is to break up the people based on size, performance and endurance tests. Have high performers compete in one category, mid-range and low range in others. I've seen women that could beat most men in a physical competition, men that wouldn't have a chance when physically competing with other men and many women. If you say one person had a genetic advantage over others why not have them compete with people at their same level of performance. Hell, why not take it a step farther. If people want to use safe forms of performance enhancing drugs, let them as long as they do it against people with their same level of performance. The drug companies could sponsor them.
  • by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:32PM (#29159377)

    Yeah... There are very few sports where women would be competitive. The record difference in the 100m dash between men and women is almost a second, that's a _long_ time in the 100m dash. Any kind of boxing/weightlifting would be a joke. You'd have to go back to the 50's to find a time when the best female marathon runner of today could be the best man. Seriously I said "very few", but is there _any_ sport requiring strength, agility, or endurance where women are competitive with men?

    Sports are segregated for a reason.

  • by tuxedobob (582913) <tuxedobob @ m a c.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:47PM (#29159491)

    If I believe I am a turtle, does that make me a turtle?

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @08:51PM (#29159539) Journal

    If we start going down the road of trying to regulate how a athletes body works, there is really no point to sports anymore.

    News flash - these "sporting events" miss the entire point of sports - which is to get your obese butt off the couch and have some fun doing something more physical than popping the top off a King Can. Sports shouldn't be a "spectator sport". Just like boxing shouldn't be a sport, period - not when the goal is to beat the other person senseless. Then again, most people can't even be arsed to spend more than 15 minutes a day doing anything more strenuous than walking to the fridge.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @09:27PM (#29159783) Journal

    I mean, even if she does have a rare disorder that gives her an advantage in female competition, she's still at a disadvantage in "everyone" i.e. male competition. So where should she compete? Why do we have to make this so complicated?

    What's the point of "women's leagues" anyway, if not to give non-men a chance in athletic competitions?

    Or have we decided that what we really want are the "everybody" league, where athletic excellence is all that matters and a "porny" league, where everyone has to have a score of 8.5 or better on hotornot

  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @09:28PM (#29159795)

    Divisions in sport are totally arbitrary and the point of them is to match individuals or teams of nearly equal ability so that the outcomes of their contests are maximally uncertain and therefore, entertaining for both the observers and the participants. Nobody wants to watch a game where they already know who will win. Likewise, the athletes don't want to compete in a contest they're sure to lose.

    Even if this "female" turns out to be an actual chick, it doesn't matter. If she's "too good" for her arbitrary division (which in this case happens to be by gender), then she will be excluded from it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @09:31PM (#29159823)

    Don't flatter yourself, I expect the ordinary male cant do ANY of the stuff female Olympic athletes can.

  • by radtea (464814) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @09:38PM (#29159887)

    So genetics is really not the issue here.

    Huh?

    For people who don't take hormones, where do you think they come from?

    That's right: our genes tell our cells to manufacture them! Some women manufacture more testosterone than others (so do some men) as well as other hormones, and these genetic differences in hormone production are a significant factor in athletic performance.

    All top-ranked athletes are genetic freaks. This one is just more-so, and to arbitrarily rule her out of competition is silly.

    All categories are artificial, the result of lines we draw between similar things to allow us to think easily about concepts rather than individuals. However, all the lines we draw are created for a given purpose, and they may not be adequate for other purposes. This is a case when a line-of-convenience has been drawn between men and women that happens to lump together things like developed breasts, lack of facial hair, and female genitalia. She hast the last characteristic, but not the former two, so the line breaks down.

    The solution to this kind of extremely common problem is to create a new category that covers the intermediate region. For example, we have areas of the Earth that are covered by deep water, and we call them "oceans". We have areas of the Earth that are pretty much dry, and we call them "land". But we also have areas in between that we call "beaches" that contain pretty much arbitrary mixes of land and water at different times.

    Only a flaming idiot would suggest either that "land" and "water" aren't useful categories because there are regions that can't be adequately put into one or the other, and only a flaming idiot would suggest that "beach" isn't a valid category because "land" and "water" are "real" categories and "beach" is some kind of weird made-up thing that falls in between them. All categories are made up--the only question is, "Are they useful or not?" (note that the way the world actually is puts significant constraints on what categories are useful, but does not in any way determine them uniquely, which frustrates innumerate philosophers.)

    In the present case, we only have one instance of the potential new category, which isn't an adequate basis for creating it, and the rough, crude and approximate division into "male" and "female" has a whole lot of social machinery of sport built around it, so adding a new category for this person isn't an option.

    What is an option is to let her compete in the category she most closely resembles: genetically freakish women of the kind who make great athletes, which is happily the company she finds herself in if she is permitted to compete as a woman.

  • by innerweb (721995) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @10:26PM (#29160129)

    Close, but just let men and women compete equally. head to head, no men's leagues or women's leagues. Then all of this silliness just goes away.

    InnerWeb

  • by localman (111171) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @10:32PM (#29160167) Homepage

    People are born with ambiguous genitals quite often. People can have a complete mismatch between their apparent gender and their chromosomal gender. Even if those match, there can be gender identity conflict with appearance, chromosomes, or both. Heck, some people even get romantically and sexually attracted to their own sex. Oh the humanity.

    Though it is true that the vast majority of people fall very close to the ends of the gender spectrum, the fact is, that gender is not strictly binary. We've built a world that revolves largely around this notion, but we're seeing more and more signs of ambiguity as we become a more open society.

    Personally I don't find it scary at all. No more so than when I learned a person doesn't have to be black or white, but can in fact be a mix of both. People like to be able to make distinct categories. Gray areas bother most folks, but they exist and you eventually have to get used to them or spend your life being very frustrated. Gender ambiguity seems to be the one that bothers people the most on a visceral level, though. It'll be a while before we start dealing with it in a healthy way as a society.

    As to this runner -- I don't know if she's male or female or something in between. But whatever the case, they're a damn good runner.

    Cheers.

  • by localman (111171) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @10:42PM (#29160215) Homepage

    I agree that there are certainly enough ambiguous gender cases to make the whole male/female sports separation to be a poor idea.

    I don't know enough about male/female performance and sports to know if weight classes would be fair enough? Is it true that generally speaking women and men of similar weight perform similarly? Is the only advantage men have the ability to grow more muscle tissue? Or is it more complex than that? If the weight thing would allow world class women (and intersexed people) to compete fairly against others in their weight class, that seems like the ideal and inevitable solution to this kind of thing.

    Cheers.

  • by Wooky_linuxer (685371) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:05PM (#29160345)
    Says who? Then all men who perform worse than (pro-)women should compete in women's competitions? Should short and weaker men be allowed in women's baskteball? The rules said that the division is based on genre. There will be people who perform exceptionally well, and sometimes genetics will play a part. Having exceptions is normal. Should we forbid every baskteball player taller than a certain amount over the average to compete since their genetics give them an unfair advantage? That's just nuts.
  • by StreetStealth (980200) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:25PM (#29160441) Journal

    Over the course of this young century, the case you make will become all the more apparent to everyone else. I don't know what will happen in the middle of it, but by the end of the century, the Olympics, if they are still practiced, will be more akin to F1 racing than Hellenistic sport -- there will be a single human who pilots her body, but that body will bear the labor of a whole team of skilled engineers.

  • Genetic Advantage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aceofspades1217 (1267996) <aceofspades1217NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:54PM (#29160585) Homepage Journal

    Don't most athletes who are at the Olympic level have some sort of athletic advantage. Obviously it's about determination and perseverance in training but its also about have really good genes. An average joe/jane will never ever be able to go to the Olympics no matter how hard they train.

  • by BetterSense (1398915) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @12:52AM (#29160907)
    Mod parent up. Those with a natural genetic advantage should be allowed to compete and excel...this includes Shaq, Phelps, or anyone else with a natural genetic advantage.

    Of course, this is going to be pretty hard on the women, since they get the short end of the genetic stick regarding certain physical traits. But there are many, many MEN that cannot compete with either the men or the women in certain sports. Statistically, there are nearly as many men that cannot compete with the best male athletes as there are females that cannot compete with the best male athletes. And as an average man I know I would have no chance against many female athletes.

    I understand that the idea of a female league/sport/category for sports is something that a lot of people want, but things like TFA's quandary are just rule quibbles. There's nothing like "Oh, she was faster, but she's not really a she so it doesn't count". If she was faster, she was fucking faster, just like all the male athletes that are faster and you exclude from your league to give it a reason to exist.
  • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:01AM (#29160945) Homepage Journal

    News flash - these "sporting events" miss the entire point of sports - which is to get your obese butt off the couch and have some fun doing something more physical than popping the top off a King Can. Sports shouldn't be a "spectator sport". Just like boxing shouldn't be a sport, period - not when the goal is to beat the other person senseless. Then again, most people can't even be arsed to spend more than 15 minutes a day doing anything more strenuous than walking to the fridge.

    I would say that's a bit close-minded. Sure, the points of you participating in sports is to do something fun that is physical. The point of spectator sports is that some humans, not all, can achieve a level of performance that the majority of us can't (regardless of how much we were to train). It can be very enjoyable to watch a competition between the absolute best of our race in a particular event.

    As for boxing, the goal isn't simply to beat the other person senseless. It's to avoid letting the other person beat you senseless. If you participate, you accept to take on the same risks as your opponent. You know what those risks are and you're willing to take them on. I believe consenting adults can do whatever the hell they want, and it doesn't cease to be a sport just because it seems tasteless to you. That's fine, and it's great that you value human life to that extent, but all that it means is that it's not a sport you're interested in participating or spectating. That's fine and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not a problem with the sport itself, it's just your personal preference due to your personal beliefs.

  • woman = !man (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @01:55AM (#29161219)
    I find this whole matter and how it is dealt with by IAAF utterly discomforting. Apparently the issue isn't whether ms. Semenya is or isn't a woman but whether she's got unfair advantages. Resolving the gender question is easy and boils down to whether ms. Semenya ever has been a man or not. I take that's fairly easy to test.

    But the unfair advantages isn't. What if ms. Semenya has a different hormone levels than found in most women? Would that make her an IAAF man? Or would she have to compete in the paralympics? And what about Usain Bolt? If you dig long enough you'll find that he has very clear advantages over other competitors. But marking these as unfair simply would simply be a step towards mediocrity, where the middle field is allowed to compete and the rest not.

    Hell, if the medics would go about my body I'm sure they would find that I have unfair disadvantages and that therefor -inevitably- I'm a girl and should be allowed to compete against women. And loose nevertheless, but that's beside the point.
  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cas2000 (148703) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:09AM (#29161271)

    That said, it's not fair for a woman with a genetic abnormality that gives her to the build of a man and allows her to set records that are unbeatable by women without the abnormality.

    yeah, that's unfair. almost as unfair as freaks with the genetic abnormality of being able to run fast or be good at weight-lifting or great hand-eye co-ordination winning all the damn time.

    freaks (or to use the politically-correct euphemism "winners") shouldn't be allowed to compete against normal people. it's not fair that they're good at something.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:10AM (#29161281)

    Have you even looked at female athletes, especially swimmers and weight-lifters? They have no breasts. They lack body fat, and hence lack breasts. On top of that, they actually work out so much their hormones are out of whack. If they stop working out, things go back to normal, but while they're training, they're physically a lot like men, with the exception of the genitals.

    If her body is producing an abnormal amount of testosterone, that's perfectly fine. It's not artificial. It's not unnatural. It's genetically superior. Which is, in a way, what competitions are about. It's seven parts training, and three parts genetic. If you weren't born a runner, you're not going to even come close to Usain Bolt. If you're not born a swimmer, you won't come close to Michael Phelps. That's just how it is. Things are no different just because their sex doesn't give them a head start.

    Don't ever mistake that just because somebody is born genetically superior, that they'll automatically win. Nobody can sit on their ass 364 days a year and still be superior enough to be a world-class athlete. Genetic superiority just means that given the same amount of training, the person with better genes will more likely win. But that means both competitors have to train equally as hard. And believe you me, if you knew your genetics weren't ideal for what you're competing in, you'll train extra hard to make up for the difference. And in order for your genetically superior opponent to beat you, that person would have to train just as hard as you.

  • by Myria (562655) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @02:57AM (#29161507)

    Even more important: unlike trannies (no offense intended to any TG folk reading this), we intersexed people do not choose to be in the situation we are in.

    I have persistent thoughts of hoping I die because I feel very strongly that I need to be a woman. I shy away from mirrors in self-disgust. I have to avoid seeing women in general or I will start to get jealous of them. I hate my life.

    Why would i choose this?

  • by adrenaline_junky (243428) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:14AM (#29161591)

    To answer the question of whether or not she should be allowed to compete as a female if she is not 100% female, one must first consider the question of whether women should be competing in a separate class at all.

    Let's avoid the underlying moral and philosophical issues and just stick with the practical reason for setting things up so women compete separately: approximately 50% of the population is female, so it is a political necessity. You can argue all sorts of other reasons, but when it really comes down to it, that is the crux of it.

    And if you really think about it, we don't actually have women competing against women in one group and men competing against men in another group. What we REALLY have is women competing against women in one group, and EVERYONE ELSE competing in another group. Men are not set up as a protected class, it is only women who are set up as a protected class. If a sufficiently gifted female runner wanted to compete against men, I very much suspect that she'd be allowed to do so.

    Once you realize the reality that female sports are basically a protected class based on a political reality, the answer to the other question becomes pretty simple: anyone who is not 100% female is not part of the "protected class" and should therefore compete in the "everyone else" category.

    Is it fair? Maybe not. But how is having women compete separately "fair" in the first place? It is just for political expediency, and personally I don't see anything wrong with it if it keeps 50% of the population happier and more fulfilled than they otherwise would be without causing any undue hardship on a significant part of the population.

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:18AM (#29161613) Homepage

    But if the condition is congenital, it may be an advantage, but not an unnatural one.

  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zemran (3101) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:56AM (#29161801) Homepage Journal

    Although I generally accept your points I do feel that without other categories she can only be male or female. Unless another category is introduced she must be one of those. I can accept the rare examples that make selection difficult but really it seems that she is just a really ugly girl and is being treated unfairly. If it turns out that she has cheated, i.e. born a boy and had an operation then the fuss is justified but otherwise it is just extremely insensitive.

    Sport is the domain of genetically abnormal people. A good runner is likely to have longer legs than normal etc.. I do not bitch about being unfairly treated because my short fat fingers make me a crap pianist and try and say that the average good pianist with long thin finger is a cheat. O.K., so this girl might be a bit more different but unless it is her fault then I do not see the arguement.

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@@@got...net> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:58AM (#29161807) Journal

    As a number of folks here have already made it abundantly clear that sex is bugger-all hard to define. There's genetic sex (of which there are nearly a dozen), there's congenital development (we all start out female and then it's pretty much a crap shoot), there're even a fair number of folks without any secondary sexual characteristics at all.

    Even if the young lady does or does not have perfectly normal genes, there are dozens of both natural and artificial processes that could give her an unfair advantage. The cost of eliminating all possible ways of cheating (including the unintentional cheating of atypical sexual development) would be prohibitive, and in of itself a form of unfair pandering to vested interests and religious bigots. If you think about it, the extraordinary athlete is often gifted with unusual physical traits (several of the best swimmers had unusual knee joints allowing them to hyper-extend at the knee and get a larger swing in their kicks, and a basketball player under 6 feet is for all intents unheard of.)

    I would simply leave it at, if the person lives as their declared sex, functions socially as that sex, and isn't engaging in the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs... get over it.

  • Re:Easy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ZeRu (1486391) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:27AM (#29162145)
    Dude, I was trying to be funny...apparently I didn't worked.
  • by antdah (1057288) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:33AM (#29162343)

    ...previously preferred playing physical games with boys, and shunned traditional female activities and clothing...

    If my wife has pants, does that make her a man?
    And furthermore, does that make me a homosexual?

    If so, does it work the other way around as well?
    Would a man dressed in womens' clothing qualify as a woman?
    Would that in turn make gay couples were one part dress in womens' clothing heterosexual?

    Sigh, if only Douglas Adams were still around to sort out the logic behind all this...

  • by Plunky (929104) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:31AM (#29162543)

    Yes, we need have a Male, Female and lastly a anything goes category. If people want to push themselves to death then so be. If for entertainment and scientific purpose then even better!

    There is a problem with this. Back when East Germany took young children to athletics camps and raised them on cocktails of steroids so they would grow up better it was wrong, and in the modern world when "some other regime" who cares more for their country winning than the effects on the athletes does the same thing with genetic selection or genetic engineering it will still be wrong

    Do you suppose that already there is not some party official who has seen Usain Bolts leg measurements and thought to check the leg measurements of all the young children in order to select future winners for special training? What about when that official sees that yes indeed, longer legs means faster sprinters and orders tests done to find an undetectable method of increasing leg lengths while the child is growing? Sure, some will grow too much and live a life of misery (or just get put in the meat grinder with the other failures) but the ones who come out perfect will be winners and nobody will ever know.

    The problem is that it is not "people" that want to push themselves to death, it is "people" who want to push others to their deaths and that is not something I want to sponsor. How do we protect against it when we clearly can't detect the causes? The only way is to have a range of norms and only allow those inside that range to compete.

    Unfortunatley for her, it seems that Caster does in fact fall outside of the range of normal (just look at the pictures, she is not normal even when compared to other female runners), and for me the question is not whether we allow her to compete or not but what will happen if we do? I assert that that party official will be trawling orphanages immediately looking for other genetic deformities that can be exploited similarly. Won't somebody please think of the children?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:09AM (#29162697)

    In the Little League, sure, but on the international stage it is not soccer moms who are pushing their little sweeties to success. You need to get out more..

  • by Moryath (553296) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @12:38PM (#29164271)

    Olympic cheating is a sport of its own.

    The Russians and East Germans sent more bearded "ladies" through the system than I care to count.

    Greek weightlifters managed to get to Beijing despite 11 of their 14-man team being caught on steroids.

    The Chinese out-and-out lied and presented forged documents to the Olympic committee and IFG about the age of their gymnast girls and got away with it scot-free. North Korea wasn't so lucky since their star girl was still losing her baby teeth [yahoo.com] at the time.

    Marion Jones.

    And on and on... try a basic google search on Olympic Cheating [google.com].

    It used to be that people went to the Olympics as true amateurs to represent their countries and sports. Now? Let's face it, the Olympics have outlived their usefulness. Countries themselves compete, not just athletes. Professional athletes play in half the sports. And the two-year schedule has robbed the games of their scarcity, so much so that 90% of people don't even notice they are happening.

    The "Olympics" have become a joke, nothing more.

  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snowgirl (978879) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:40PM (#29167057) Journal

    Oh, that's right. I forgot there's only two options and no possibility of deviation from those options AT ALL.

    Fucking moron.

    Since in the vast majority of cases, it really is one of those two options - it seems like the logical first step, given that invasive testing is apparently already the norm for track and field anymore. If Caster's test shows XX or XY, either way the case is closed. Arguing that a remote possibility of a different genetic state exists means you can't first test for the heavily dominant typical state is, quite frankly, silly. That's like arguing that a doctor shouldn't do an influenza test on a patient with flu-like symptoms because there's a remote possibility it's Brucellosis.

    They believe that she has congenital adrenal hyperplasia... if she does have that, then she's most likely XX. The problem is that there is no belief that she has an abnormal genotype or abnormal genitalia. They believe she has something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

    This is a hormone imbalance, specifically in that it causes the adrenal glands to produce too much androgens/steroids. She's naturally doped up the same as a man would be. That does not necessarily however make her a "man", any more than an XX genotype make her a "woman".

    Considering that a hormone panel takes less time and is less invasive than a genetic screening, I think that should be the FIRST and FOREMOST test upon women competing... you know, while you're testing for those artificial steroids, why not look at the natural levels of them as well?!

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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