Transgressive sporting bodies - A theoretical and critical dicourse analysis of the representation of Caster Semenya in Swiss print media

Günter, Sandra (June 2012). Transgressive sporting bodies - A theoretical and critical dicourse analysis of the representation of Caster Semenya in Swiss print media. In: Schlesinger, Torsten; Günter, Sandra; Weigelt-Schlesinger, Yvonne; Nagel, Siegfried (eds.) 9th Conference of the European Association for Sociology of Sport: Sport in Globalised Societies - Changes and Challenges. (p. 68). Münster: Waxmann

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A debate about Caster Semenya's female sex began shortly after the South African runner won gold in the women’s 800m final at the 2009 Athletic World Championships held in Berlin. Her victory was disputed through questions about her right to compete as a ‘woman’, with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) announcing she would be required to undergo a gender verification test before her victory could be confirmed. Using the theoretical frame of social constructionism (Berger & Luckmann), poststructuralism (Foucault), gender- and postcolonial theories (Butler; Hall; Spivak) and the methodology of critical discourse analysis (Jaeger), the paper explores the way the possible intersexuality of Caster Semenya was contextualised in mainstream Swiss German-language print media. The analyses will firstly look at the way in which Caster Semenya was constructed as a ʻfallen hero’ and stigmatised as a double-dealer and unacceptable deviant body. The rumours amongst athletes and commentators became news in the media, which focused on descriptions of her habitus, her muscular body and her deep voice. Through theoretical discussion the paper argues that the media response to Caster Semenya exemplifies Butler’s claim that the discursive framework of gender constructs and naturalises sex. A key question is therefore whether the designation of deviant bodies to a ʻfield of deformation’ (Butler) works to pluralise the field of gender, or rather, as Butler suggests, it tends that those bodies might call into questions. The final part of the paper discusses how gender, ethnicity and sexuality combine to constitute the black female sporting body as a spectacle of otherness. It is evident that this otherness is made manifest through the function of those bodies as a site of transgression, as the boundary between male and female, and often as the boundary between culture and nature (Hall). Using the example of the controversy surrounding Caster Semenya, this paper aims to demonstrate how the post/colonial white female body is reproduced by western norms of gender, sexuality, beauty and sporting behaviour, in the sense of a feminine sporting genderperformance. The media controversy will be also read through the lens of the globalisation of certain ideas of normative bodies, sex, ethnicity and gender and the challenge of changing stereotypes through transgression. Keywords: gender- and postcolonial theories, discourse analysis, print media, Caster Semen-ya, deviant body, ethnicity, intersexuality

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)

Division/Institute:

07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW) > Sport Science III

UniBE Contributor:

Günter, Sandra; Schlesinger, Torsten; Günter, Sandra; Weigelt, Yvonne and Nagel, Siegfried

Subjects:

700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology

ISBN:

978-3-8309-2717-4

Publisher:

Waxmann

Language:

English

Submitter:

Rahel Spring

Date Deposited:

31 Jul 2014 14:50

Last Modified:

10 Oct 2017 13:15

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.55129

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/55129

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