“My name is Lisolethu Dlova and I am a Pharmacy student who really interested in politics around gender and feminism so I’ll be a giving a short talk about gender and sport and soon afterwards we can maybe have discussions.
I am a part of the Gender Action Project and I am affiliated with Chapter 2.12.
The gender action project is an activism society that aims to raise awareness about gender and having spaces for people to express their gender freely without fear and discrimination. Chapter 2.12 aimed raising awareness around rape culture in our university and the way in which the justice system favours the perpetrator, moving from silencing tactics implemented by the university to the hashtag we believe you campaign.
Since gender week is upcoming, I can’t not talk about what gender actually is, the misconceptions, linkages to rape culture and how sport is a reflection of the society as a whole.
Gender is basically the roles attached to being a women or a man and the type of appearances that go with femininity and masculinity, like for example, its women’s month and all you’re going to see on tv is pink which is very cliché and not every woman likes pink but just because it is attached to femeninity. Gender identity is an individual’s expression of how they see themselves and the gender that they identify themselves with. The misconception is always around the fact that gender identity is linked with someone’s sex. Your sex is basically determined by your genitals. So we are having these conversation so that we can respect other people and not impose out own definitions of what gender is on other people because it may seem like something that is obvious to other people but its important to consider that there are people who identify with neither of those indentities which a gender non-conforming people and transgender individuals who identify themselves as a different gender that the one they were given by society at birth.
The misconception around sex and gender identity is often dangerous because it leads to gender based violence and an example of gender based violence is rape. Its called gender based violence because it is not limiting it to violence against women and children only but broadens it to violence towards a person because of how they choose to express their identities, which can be to gender non-conforming individuals, transgender individuals and to also men. The protests that took place this year are really important in sending out a message saying, there IS a cost to violating other people. We always get told the statistics of how many women get violated but there’s always a grey area when it comes to knowing where the perpetrators actually are, so you get a lot of rape victims and survivors in society but you know nothing about rapists. The protests succeeded in showing that the violators are actual people that we go to class with, even friends with, and not aliens from the bushes, or a random group of people that travel around the country violating people.
So how is this conversation tied to sport? We all know that sport plays an important role in uniting people of all colours and genders. It’s really great that today we can have mixed teams and have fun, however it is really important to have conversation about how gendered sport is and the treatment of women and gender non-conforming individuals in sport because we are the ones who face the brunt of our unfair system. Our unfair system not only gives higher wages to men compared to women but also aims to humiliate and enforce violent gender roles. The woman I want to talk about today is Caster Semenya. She has excelled and dominated in athletics for many years but throughout those years, her excellence has been questioned on the basis of her “looking like a man”. As a result Caster Semenya had to go through Gender verification tests which were made public by the International Association of Athletics Federation. This is an indication of how dominance is linked to masculinity, a man is often praised for being strong and dominant however when a woman has the show the same characteristics, it deviates from femininity and the roles of a woman and thus we become targets of abuse.
And I want to end of my talk by quoting Caster Semenya on a bbc sport interview, “”It was upsetting, you feel humiliated. You cannot control what people think. It is about yourself, controlling yourself – what is in you. But now I want to focus more on the future, I don’t want to go back there. What is done is done.”
“I am not a fake. I am natural. I am just being Caster. I don’t want to be someone I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be someone people want me to be. I just want to be me. I was born like this. I don’t want any changes.””