Foreword: Sex in Sport
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Historically, debates about what it meant “to be a woman” for purposes of sport were largely confined to elite sports circles. That changed in 2009, when it was announced that South African runner Caster Semenya, the just-crowned world champion in the women’s 800 meters, had been subjected to gender verification testing. Fellow competitors were outspoken: Semenya was not a woman, they said, and it was unfair to allow her to compete in the women’s category. “These kind of people should not run with us,” said Italian runner Elisa Cusma, “For me, she is not a woman. She is a man.” “Just look at her,” said Russian runner Mariya Savinova.
The controversy set off debates around the world about whether and why sex segregated sports are justified and how eligibility determinations for the women’s category should be made. Suddenly, in social media and the popular press, at coffee shops, and in chats at the local grocery store, people who had rarely paused to question issues of biological sex, gender identity, or affirmative action in sports debated Semenya’s case, and what it meant for conceptions of binary sex categories. It also inspired this volume, in which scholars from gender studies, law, philosophy, and biology bring insights to bear on an issue that is important, not only to sport, but to cultural debates about gender and sex more broadly.