Caster Semenya Is Making Women’s Track Better

Here is the picture of the finish in the Women’s 800m.

Do you see Lynsey Sharp in it? I don’t. I only see fast runners. South Africa’s Caster Semenya (who won gold with a 1:55.28), Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba (silver, 1:56.49), and Melissa Bishop (4th with 1:57.02). I also don’t see the bronze medalist, Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, with 1:56.89. But, I notice Margaret didn’t complain about coming in third, while Lynsey couldn’t wait to complain about coming in sixth with her personal best time (cough you couldn’t have won anyway cough).

Prior to this, Lynsey has finished 14th at the 2015 Worlds and 2nd at the 2014 European Championships. Everyone who ran in the Euro Championships final where she finished 2nd is white. I looked it up. Maybe she should stop attributing being slow compared to Black women to hormones like an old-school racist and try running faster.

Although Caster Semenya has been the face of high-tech gender-checking questions for years now, there has been speculation that all three women who placed in the medals for the 800 have a condition called hyperandrogenism which gives them “too much testosterone”. There’s been a discussion in running about whether this condition makes it “unfair” that these three Black women get to compete against women who allegedly do not have that condition. There’s so much going on here. It’s such a vicious cocktail of inaccurate science, racism, sore-loserness, white fragility, and cissexism.

Gender-checking in the Olympics has a long and ugly history, and it all stems from the understanding that women can’t be “real women” if they’re too strong, too fast, too muscular, and often, too Black. Every time anyone makes the argument that women, especially white women, need to be protected from athletes, especially Black athletes, who might make them push faster and get stronger in their sport, it infuriates me because it concedes the ever-more-ridiculous assumption that men are naturally stronger and faster than women. In case you haven’t noticed, the gap between the speed and strength of women athletes and that of their male counterparts is narrowing rapidly. Giving socially acceptable space to women athletes and encouraging them to be strong, muscular, and fast is very recent, and it’s made clear that many assumptions about the inferiority of women’s physical abilities is basically bullshit. Watch over the next 50 years for many of these disparities to disappear completely.

To me, even if Semenya and others have this condition, and even if it might make them faster, that’s 1) none of anyone else’s business; and 2) wonderful for the sport. I say this as a racing athlete in a sport that favors physical strength, size, and weight. Including these fast-ass athletes is far more fair than disqualifying intersex and/or trans athletes completely, as they used to do, and there’s no cost to cis women at all. Matter of fact, by allowing very fast athletes to compete in women’s events, without regard to whether the very fast athletes are trans or intersex, all competitors are given an opportunity to compete at the highest level against those who will push them to be better than their best. Lynsey Sharp ran a personal best in this final. 1:57.69. WOW I GUESS FAST COMPETITION HELPED YOU! YOU’RE WELCOME.

Almost all the athletes who show up to the Olympics leave without a medal. Now Lynsey Sharp is one of them. If she wants to win future races, she should take this one as a hint for the rest of her training: you can do better if you run next to faster people, fool. Maybe you’re complaining about finishing 6th because you don’t train hard enough.

UPDATE:

We’ve got another crier, crying about how she “feels like a silver medalist” because Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba, and Margaret Wambui, are too fast and that’s gotta be against the rules, or something!

Joanna Jowik decided to make her stance super clear, and said that she was proud to have finished as the “first European” and the “second white” in the race.

And that’s great for you, baby. I’m so happy you can be comforted by your whiteness, since the only medal you’ve ever won was a bronze in the white-only European final at the Euro Championships in 2014.

Oh, and please tell us more about your injuries: “This season I had a lot of health complications and injuries, which is why I am very pleased with this result. I feel like the silver medalist,” Jozwik told Eurosport.

Ok again 1) you don’t know what it feels like to win a silver because your best is a bronze; 2) you finished this race with a PR of 1:57:37, so your injuries don’t seem to have bothered you at all. Thank the other runners for making you faster than your best, and go train with some people who value fast running more than racism so you can win shit someday.