IOC Androgen Rules Unfairly Target “Manly” Female Athletes

Also cross-posted on The Feminine Miss Geek.

Caster Semenya, a track star who faced intense scrutiny in 2009 after allegations of being a man. -photo by Erik Van Leeuwen

The International Olympics Committee recently released a report titled,“IOC Regulations on Female Hyperandrogenism: Games of the XXX Olympiad in London, 2012,” which dictates that three doctors (a gynecologist ,a geneticist, and an endocrinologist) will get to decide if female athletes are actually female.

Sports is one of the very few remaining social structures where sex segregation and therefore sex testing is still generally acceptable. But the problem with these specific regulations is that they are based on faulty reasoning; there is no shortage of scientists that say testosterone levels are not the defining factor for being a woman, and there is no direct correlation between androgens and performance.

What’s more disturbing is that athletes can be singled out for additional medical testing simply for looking manly.

Via Suite 101:  

IOC Androgen Rules Unfairly Target “Manly” Female Athletes

Under this active policy, athletes legally living as women, but with naturally high testosterone, could be ineligible to compete in the Olympics. Moreover, anyone who deviates from the perceived norms of feminine characteristics could be subjected to additional medical testing as the report goes on to actively call for the National Olympic Committees to “actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics.”…

Genetic and bodily differences in sports are often obvious by sight: Gymnastics competitors have comparatively smaller frames than weightlifters. Taller women make better basketball players than short women. Michael Phelps has an unusually large torso and armspan, hypermobile joints, and is exceptionally close to the clinical levels of Marfan’s Syndrome.

There is no logically consistent reason to partition these genetic advantages from androgen levels and competitively strip a significant portion of female athletes their gender title.

The article gets more into citations from medical and ethical experts, saying the available scientific data does not back these IOC policies. If we must have two sex categories, then the process needs to be a more comprehensive process than three doctors comparing hormone levels to numbers on a chart.

And as far as I know, there are no policies for men that have “sub-male” levels testosterone. It’s a disturbingly unfair set of regulations that anyone caring about gender issues, sports, and basic fairness should complain about.

I’m not sure if this is the most direct way (comment if you have current contact info for the IOC), but the contact info for London Games-related complaints is:

“By phone
Call us on 0808 197 2012. Hours of operation are Monday to Sunday 9am–6pm.

By email
Email us at or by using the web form below.

In writing
Write to us at: Complaints, Communication and Public Affairs, The London 2012 Organising Committee, 23rd floor, 1 Churchill Place, London, E14 5LN.”

Read more at Suite101: IOC Androgen Rules Unfairly Target “Manly” Female Athletes |


Cosmo Claims Men “Lack” 12 Abilities

Cosmopolitan is at it again. Trying to mitigate their “Please him better!” terrible advice for insecure women with “But, it’s okay, you’re better than him!”

The “girl power whoo” attitude of their online article 12 Things Women Do Better Than Men annoys me because it tacitly marginalizes men without recognizing the full story. For each “fact” Cosmopolitan cites a study, because yanno, that’s the final authority on the men v. women debate. As a gender egalitarian, I say this is not helping feminism.

This junk list confirms what I’ve already known:  The average Joe and Jane columnists suck suck suck at reading and interpreting scientific studies. (In this case, it’s Christie Griffin, who lists some of her favorite things on Twitter as “dresses” and “karma.”)

I’ll give them a few of the stereotypes. Women are cleaner*, eat more diet consciously, and live longer. They statistically make better lifestyle choices that are good for general health and longevity. Sure. It still doesn’t say much about happiness or other factors about that go into quality of life. This is where Cosmo’s list falls off the boat.

We Interview Better

A study at the University of Western Ontario says that women have higher anxiety about interviews, but prep and perform better.

But there’s no objective scale for “best” interview qualities. Here’s the school’s press release about it. The study was done by a doctoral student under a couple professors, but I can’t find it published in any journals, which makes me think it was a poorly-conducted or insignificant study. I have no idea what the methodology was or if more than one person was doing the judging.

In the professors’ previous work, interviewers were asked to rate the interviewees using a Relative Percentile Method that the professors themselves wrote. Nothing says ass-kissing your professor like citing their work as a reference in your own.

We Evolve Hotter

Men like to fuck hot women? No! News to me.

We Have Stronger Immune Systems

As a BioChem major who studied under a virologist, this immediately didn’t sound right.

The study is titled “Gender differences in expression of the human caspase-12 long variant determines susceptibility to Listeria monocytogenes infection.” It looked at the expression of a single human gene transferred into mice, and then assumes that this inflammation effect would translate to humans. Does that not ignore the fact that the Caspase-12 gene is just one component of a complex immune system? Have men evovled different adaptations for other kinds of infections or even other food-borne pathogens?

Cosmo makes a broad claim for a weak conclusion.

I have a personal anecdote for this one. My fake stock account at has a 15% return because I invested in safe companies like CVS/Caremark and Blizzard Entertainment. It’s still only a 15% return.

Yes, women are more risk averse in a lot of areas, but it can also prevent them from flirting with the great rewards that those risks can grant access to.

We Graduate College More Often

Here’s the big statistic that’s tossed around all time.  It’s True.

But in the “real world” it doesn’t matter all that much because there’s still a disproportionate amount of women studying the humanities over the sciences and having trouble landing prestigious positions. We still get paid shitty, especially after age 35. The wage gap is smaller but still there for science and tech jobs.

If you want to talk about women in the workforce, those are the statsitics you want to talk about. Not gloss over the problems with Degree Pride, while ignoring the ridiculous amounts of debt caused by tuition inflation.


I’m pretty sure the reader demographics of this magazine almost entirely consist of 14-year-old girls who don’t know where their clits are. And maybe a smaller number of 14-year-old boys who don’t know where the clit is.

Some months I want to relentlessly mock the entirety of Cosmopolitan, but there’s already a blog that does it remarkably well.

*Follow-up post about cleanliness:

“Failures in Solidarity” in the Intersectionality of Feminism and Racism

My previous commentary are Slutwalk is here and here.

Racialicious blogged a post yesterday entitled “Which Women Are What Now? Slutwalk NYC and Failures in Solidarity” which features this picture from Slutwalk NYC:

The term, coined by Yoko Ono, became the eponymous title of  a song, “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” performed by John Lennon.

At first glance, the sign utterly confused me.  I hadn’t heard of the song.  The “of” was awkwardly place, making it grammatically unintelligible. It didn’t present as a coherent message, and that’s a possible explanation of why the sign’s holder faced delayed criticism.

After reading the article I believe that the theme the woman was attempting to convey here was the reappropriation of pejorative terms, by referencing what Yoko referred to as a pro-feminist song and making a analogy to the “nigger” reclamation movement to Slutwalk’s reclamation movement for word “slut.” (The analogy is flawed, anyway, since Yoko’s song wasn’t necessarily about term reclamation.)

Both the song and sign have been decried in the blogosphere as “racist.”  Slutwalk organizers have also announced their disapproval for the sign.

Racialicious posted a follow-up post,”Slutwalk, Slurs, and Why Feminism Still Has Race Issues,” in which the author included an emotional response to the comments on their previous post about solidarity in feminism:

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting.

Wait, what?  When did the argument that they do have a monopoly on a language’s cultural meaning ever make sense?  The person who wrote this post is obviously not a supporters to those who have been trying to re-appropriate the word, for cultural purposes, for decades.  Ironically enough, the first post mentioned was about lack of solidarity in movements.

If you wanted to apply this type of logic onto Slutwalk, then men who are arguably ineligible for the defamatory title would have no place in the the pro-feminist movement, which I feel would be based on obviously flawed reasoning and hurts progression.

crunktasticCollapse had one of the more articulate comments on the topic of word reappropriation:

“But the idea that it’s fine to appropriate the term nigger without critical engagement of the word and what it represents to the women who are marching with you gives me pause.” Yes. Absolutely.

But doesn’t this critique hold true for the appropriation of the word “slut” as well? It seems to me that this kind of egregious misstep was bound to happen within a movement that has as one of its central tenets the reappropriation of an offensive word. There are a few major models of this kind of reappropriation–those which come out of queer activism and disability activism, in particular. But the “sexiest,” and most provocative of these models is of course, Black folks’ attempt more or less successfully –less I would argue–to reappropriate the n-word.

I’m not going to spend time to parse why semantics evolve, and why cultural shifts of pejorative words to neutral or positive words can be a good thing.  (For those who can’t parse language properly, that means I am for the reappropriation of words such as a slut. And no, “reappropriate” is not a logical inconsistently since the “re” refers to the act of defining again, not the implication that is was once “mine.”)

But I want to pose a couple questions.  You don’t have to limit your comments as answers. Unlike some blogs, I do not like to moderate my comments, even unpalatable or off-topic ones.  Questions may or may not be flame bait:

Has the movement to reclaim “nigger” been successful?  To what degree?  How would “success” be defined?

On Feminism and Gender Egalitarianism

My post “SlutWalk NYC is pissing me off with its DSK protesting” is getting a fair number of hits from a Tumblr post that calls it, a “terrible post snarking on Slutwalk NYC organizers for protesting the dismissal of charges against DSK.” Mostly I was commenting on the accusatory rhetoric of the event’s Facebook page, which rifled my general sense of justice.

The post wasn’t all that snarky, considering snark is an intrinsic style of the blog, and my responses to the commenters were pretty tame.  I’m usually not very kind to people who don’t have their reality in the upright and locked position, but she was doing a good job of characterizing her own crazy. [edit: 2018 rhetoric check. I take back my use of the word “crazy” here. Being defensive is no excuse to not be kind to people whose intentions are in the right place.]


To preface this post’s main points, I want to note that I’m very familiar with feminism.  I attended a formerly all-women’s college soon after it went co-ed in an area with a strong sense of women’s studies, where I served as the Women’s Resource Center liaison to the Health Center.  I consider myself a strong gender egalitarian and if it wasn’t obvious from the rest of my blog, my politics are liberal and supportive of individual rights.

I also don’t want to debate the semantics of “feminism” since there have been so many differing women’s rights organizations and sub-cultures, so I just want to clarify I’m referring the general social movement that promotes gender egalitarianism under the presumption that women’s freedoms have been historically suppressed.

I do identify as a feminist, but when describing myself as such, I normally add a clarifying sentence involving the word “gender egalistarianism” after it.  And here’s why:  In feminism, as in every progressive movement, there will be extremists with whom mainstreamists will be reluctant to associate themselves.

I believe that there are feminists with reasonable expectations of society and there are also (characterization of a small minority) the belligerent misandrists who honestly feel that the collective male zeitgeist is consciously trying to impose its giant phallus on all their childhood hopes and dreams.

The best analogy I can think of for this reluctance to associate with the word “feminism,” despite its positive past, would be “animal activism.”  Certainly I feel passionately about animal rights, but some of PETA’s hypocrisy and ALF’s blatant terrorism makes me want to go all Jon Stewart and scream at the self-declared activists:   Stop, stop hurting America.

I don’t want spend a lot of time delineating what I deem “reasonable expectations” for feminism, but I think that the first step in an honest conversation about women’s rights is agreeing that the goals of First Wave feminism have largely been de jure met on paper, at least in the US and Industrialized Europe.

Yes, sexism still exists.  It should be handled seriously and on a case-by-case basis.  I believe, much to some libertarians’ chagrin, anti-discrimination laws are generally a good idea and should be enforced when violations occur.

Stereotypes also exist. Some of them are funny. Some of them contain statistical truths. Some of them create preconceptions in a society that can result in unfair treatment.  Again, stereotypes and sexist jokes are things that don’t necessarily normalize or condone societal injustice and should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

This doesn’t mean progressive movements should cease their work or that I feel that feminist is a shameful title.  But for gender egalitarianism to exist properly there needs to be an open dialogue about men’s rights, and this is something that I’ve found to be lost in [my school’s] women-oriented gender studies.

The collaborative writing project No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz, has some pretty good posts on male-centered sexism that I would recommend as good gender-issues reading.

As a feminist, I feel that the best ways I can promote gender egalitarianism are:  Vocalizing about sexism when I see it, supporting and promoting women’s reproductive rights and LGBT causes, being knowledgeable and active in political issues, and setting a strong role for myself in academics and work as an example of a confident, independent-minded women.

And to the misogynists, the misandrists, and the gynocentrists that completely ignore male issues: Stop, Stop Hurting Feminism.