Go to contents

Gender controversy over athletes

Posted November. 08, 2013 07:34,   


Caster Semenya, a 22-year-old South African female runner, won the gold medal in the women’s 800-meter at the World Championship in Berlin in August 2009. Her euphoria was short and her muscular physique and overwhelming performance stirred controversy, however. Some athletes raised doubts whether the runner was a man or not. The International Association of Athletics Federation conducted a gender verification test and announced the following year that she is free to compete in women’s races without releasing test results.

“Our child is definitely a daughter and they are saying she is a son? If there’s anyone who does the same to our child, I’ll shoot them.” The then head of Athletics South Africa said, storming out of the IAAF meeting room. South Africans expressed anger, saying, “We’re ready to start a war to defend ‘our daughter’.” There was a consensus that it was racial discrimination stemming from Caucasians’ subjective standards on femininity and an insult of the athlete’s dignity.

Park Eun-sun, 27, a Korean female soccer player of Seoul Metropolitan Government Team, caused gender controversy because coaches from other six teams other than her team took issue with it. After the coach of the Chinese national team made an issue of her gender in 2010, the Korean soccer community is now trampling on its own athlete. If there is any fault the player who is 180-centimeter high, weighs 74 kilograms and has strong body and mental strength has, it would be her stellar performance, claiming the title of a top scorer. Internet users criticize the coaches saying they violated her human rights.

The controversy confirms that a woman’s stellar performance can make her bullied for being unfeminine. Park, who went through gender tests for the World Cups and the Olympics, wrote on her Facebook, “I’m so heartbroken because those who know me well, said hello to me, and worried about me are trying to kill me like this.” She was great, however. She said, “Look at me. I’m not falling and will never fall again. Keep looking at me.” Maybe I need to go to a soccer field next year to root for her.

Editorial Writer Koh Mi-seok (mskoh19@donga.com)