Sport is about finding the fastest and strongest human. Almost always, this turns out to be a man. In order to allow women to compete in elite sports, we created a category for “women”, and have excluded men from competing in this category. But for over 100 years, we’ve battled to define who a woman is in sport. Back in 1936, for example, both the gold and silver winners of the 100m accused each other of being men. A “nude parade” was required for all elite women athletes – to literally stand naked in front of a panel of judges to prove they were women. This was changed in the 1960s and 70s to a “female passport”. It then shifted to chromosome testing, and today a court has confirmed it relates to hormone levels. But none of these are adequate, and all have been flawed.
This bonus episode of the ALLin podcast looks at the fascinating history of how sport has tried to define who a woman is, and what it means for us that they have essentially failed to do so in over a century.
Of course, sport is merely an example. This also applies to how we might define who can go to a girls school, or who gets counted as a woman on your Board or Executive leadership team if your country requires a specific quota of women in those positions.
This bonus episode concludes the mini-series on “Are there only two genders?”. The answer, it is clear, is NO.