Monday, September 7, 2009

'Dragging' Caster Semanya through the media

Two weeks ago when the gender controversy about South Africa's 800m runner Caster Semanya was bubbling, the biggest concern out of South Africa was the humiliation that she would feel, with her gender and indeed her entire sense of self being questioned.

Numerous sources cited other examples of how this public scrutiny could damage a person's psyche - the most poignant being the recent case of Santhi Soundarajan who was stripped of her silver medal in the 800m in 2006 after failing a gender test, and later attempted suicide.

All interviews with Caster's family, friends and community at large have described her as a tomboy - a girl who favoured trousers and football to lipstick and boyfriends... They were all adamant that she is a girl, and that the world should abandon the ridiculous and judgemental notions of what a girl should look like, be like...

So it shocked me today when I was flipping through the channels on DSTV (the South African pay-TV platform that broadcasts across Africa), and came across a commercial for YOU Magazine. The woman's weekly mag was promoting their latest issue, "WOW - LOOK AT CASTER NOW! Athletics star Caster Semenya as you’ve never seen her before – transformed by YOU from powergirl to glamour girl". The photos show a glammed up Caster, looking about as uncomfortable as humanly possible.

What pathetic exploitation! You take a very masculine woman (her appearance and interests being the main aspects that brought about the questioning to begin with), and then completely take the humiliation to a new level by dressing her up in sequin dresses, dripping make up and size 13 stilettos...

I'm guessing Caster's appearance in this photo shoot is about as far from her personality and style as is possible. Whatever possessed them?

It completely makes a mockery of the athlete. The bottom line is that, in order to try to prove to the world that Caster is female, they have made her a laughable media pawn, looking more like Wesley Snipes in drag in the comedy 'To Wong Foo', than any glamour girl.

Sad. To me, it seems all they have done is perpetuated the rigid gender roles that someone like Caster never fit by nature, and forced her into the mold - the result being a complete disaster, at the expense of yet again, her identity, dignity and sense of self.
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Being Brazen said...

I really feel sorry for Caster.

Ps - nice blog

The pale observer said...

Yes what a disaster they've dragged her through... the trouble is that the gender/sex issue involved has everyone in fierce debate... but it's Caster who pays the ultimate price.

And thanks Brazen gurl!! :)

Nana said...

I so agree with you! I think its extremely sad that Caster agreed to do this photoshop. Oh well, if nothing else it reveals what a mockery rigid gender norms are

The pale observer said...

Thanks for reading Nana! Sexuality is fluid and the more we try to box and label people, the more they defy the classifications!

Caster as a girlie-girl is a joke and unfortunately its at her own expense...

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