Testing Sex, Attributing Gender

What Caster Semenya Means to Women’s Sports


  • Susan Cahn University of Buffalo




The highly-publicized case of Caster Semenya is a symptom of deeper problems that continue to plague women athletes at all levels—biased gender identification and a belief that sport and femininity do not mesh. I trace my own path through the thickets of “angry feminism,” a love of sports, stereotypes of the “fair” sex, and a 4-year-old nephew’s confused claim that Aunt Susan is a man. I examine symbols, body parts, gestures, clothing and other means by which men and women are unevenly (and often inaccurately and unfairly) identified. I note that in spite of new opportunities enjoyed by women to run, jump, compete and otherwise celebrate their physicality, female athletes still struggle to maintain their identity as “normal.” I see dangers in a world that forces its citizens into one of two gender boxes, but I also acknowledge gender as an important part of human identity and sporting opportunity. I conclude that I do not have any solutions, only questions. But I am certain that we should be able to play in a world where none of us is robbed of our joy.

Author Biography

Susan Cahn, University of Buffalo

Cahn is with the Dept. of History, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.




How to Cite

Cahn, S. (2011). Testing Sex, Attributing Gender: What Caster Semenya Means to Women’s Sports. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 4(1), 38–48. https://doi.org/10.1123/jis.4.1.38



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