Wednesday, 26 August 2009

My so-called life as an intern

So Caster Semenya is indeed female, but, according to the BBC, one with three times as much testosterone as the average woman. Nature or nurture? Her coach, Dr Ekkart Arbeit, head of the South African team, was notorious for his doping techniques during the 1970s and 1980s, but insists that his coaching methods are now clean. As I watched coverage about Semenya's return to an ecstatic South Africa, I wondered what would happen if it was discovered that she *had* cheated, or, like several athletes before her was found to be genetically male. There is something about the cautiousness with which the British media has approached this issue that intrigues me: on the one hand I think it's great that she is given the benefit of the doubt. On the other, I don't think her controversy has led to a mainstream discussion of gender; rather it has led to heated debates about privacy, sensitivity and racism.

Being a mere intern, I do not claim to have any special knowledge about gender, but I have been called 'sir' enough times to empathise with Semenya's coolness about the whole thing: despite being 5'4, having a B cup and hair fast approaching my shoulders, I am mistaken for a guy at least two or three times a month - usually by security staff, washroom attendants and the elderly. I don't see anything wrong with it and sometimes I enjoy the fact that a hulking security guard is showing (inadvertent) deference to the fact that I am, admittedly, a bit of a lady-boy. But the more I read about Semenya, the more I wonder about how society might look if it were organised around different criteria; why male and female in a sports competition? If characteristics over-lap, why not have groups according to how much testosterone you have? It would be akin to the paralympics, which is grouped according to the severity of the athlete's disability.

That said, here in the DIVA offices we discovered the folly of attempting to organise society into arbitrary halves; what if there was the intelligent and unintelligent toilet? Or the ugly / beautiful changing rooms? What if a plane was divided up according to Dog people and Cat people, instead of first, business and economy?

Oh, what then.

In other news: climate camp in London. Well done to the campaigners in Blackheath who are out-smarting the police. I happen to have two friends who will be joining the camp and they've encouraged me to visit. But oh how I will boil in my own hypocrisy; I fly, I use plastic bags, I eat terrible things like palm oil and tuna. Can you imagine?

"Intern, why are you here at Climate Camp today?"

"To abate my crippling sense of moral worthlessness."

Saying that, there was a mini poll this morning about how everyone had got to work; most of us had taken some combination of foot, bike and bus. One staff member, however, gave a suspicious description of her 'bike'; apparently she had to touch in with her oyster card before getting on...

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