What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Naturally, before you can discover that pure comedy gold, the first thing a story has to do is grab the attention of the reader. We all now have so much access to information absorbing any of it can be like filling a teacup with a fire hose.
#1 – The “Hook”
BERLIN (AP)—A day after winning her first 800-meter world title…the father of South African teenager Caster Semenya dismissed speculation his daughter is not a woman.
Now, you have to admit, that last line does arouse the curiousity. Why is the gender of this 18-year old in doubt? Your eyes do the auto-scan of the news article, but you find no photographic evidence. Instead, you get three picture of female relatives, and a lot of table-pounding denials. If nothing else, you want to find out why the word is out this girl might be sporting a dangle. Granted, you chuckle a bit at the fact that you can’t spell “Semenya” without “semen,” but you aren’t ready to revert to being 14 years old quite yet.
#2 – The “Build-Up”
The key factor in a successful build-up is to allow the reader to become sympathetic to the target of the story. Trotting out grandmothers, little sisters and other like characters to give the tearful denial is the prototypical means to accomplish this. Of course, today’s example drips with them.
The 18-year-old runner’s father, Jacob, told the Sowetan newspaper: “She is my little girl. … I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times.”
“She said to me she doesn’t see what the big deal is all about,” South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said Thursday. “She believes it is God given talent and she will exercise it.”
Semenya’s paternal grandmother, Maputhi Sekgala, said the controversy “doesn’t bother me that much because I know she’s a woman.”
This is when you start thinking that it’s a terrible thing somebody would level these sorts of accusations at a teen-ager; just look at the righteous indignation in those defenses. Now, you are even more interested as to why such a slander campaign would be happening.
#3 – The Reason
I will be the first to admit that I only pay attention to Olympic sports every four years, so it is completely feasible that someone could have risen to the top of the heap in the 800-meter dash world. Apparently, Semenya has done exactly that. Semenya dominated her rivals to win the 800-meter event at the World Athletic Championships in Berlin on Wednesday. Conveniently enough, the insinuations about her dramatic improvement in the event and her “muscular build and deep voice” surfaced again.
The first chirps about Semenya came three weeks ago after the South African burst onto the scene by posting a world leading time of 1 minute, 56.72 seconds at the African junior championships in Bambous, Mauritius. So now you are thinking this might just all be a bit of “sour grapes” from the vanquished. The story even manages to inject a bit more sympathy, playing the “athlete who just accomplished their first major achievement” card.
Semenya was thrilled about winning the race and picking up her first world title. “She was over the moon,” Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said.
Gideon Sam, the president of South Africa’s Olympic governing body, congratulated Semenya on a “truly remarkable achievement.” “We condemn the way she was linked with such media speculation and allegation, especially on a day she ran in the final of her first major world event,” Sam said. “It’s the biggest day of her life.”
Semenya did not attend the news conference after winning Wednesday night’s race by a margin of more than 2 seconds, in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. She was replaced by International Amateur Athletic Federation general secretary Pierre Weiss.
#4 – The Gut-Punch
You are now completely sympathetic to Semenya’s plight. Then you see the picture.
After you’ve mopped up the coffee you just spit across the room, you understand exactly why the original story, one intended to build up your sympathies, did not include this photo. You also start to see why the International Amateur Athletic Federation asked the South African to conduct a gender test on Semenya after her breakout showing in Mauritius. Weiss said the testing was ordered because of “ambiguity, not because we believe she is cheating.”
#5 – Epilogue: The Part You Just Don’t Understand
The entire concept of a “gender test.” For the entirety of your life prior to twenty seconds ago, you thought this was a fairly straight-forward process. But now, to your horror, you discover tales of Stella Walsh. It seems the “Stella” was really Stanislawa Walasiewicz, a Polish athlete with “ambiguous genitalia” who won gold in the 100-meter dash at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
You also are discovering the most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of hormones. If that weren’t enough, it seems that not all women have standard female chromosomes. All this information doesn’t even begin to explain why the test takes weeks to complete. It requires a physical medical evaluation, includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, an internal medicine specialist, and an expert on gender.
It’s the “expert on gender” part that makes your eyes glaze over. We could eliminate all this with one gender expert; one with a definitive test that provides instant results.
Remember the scene in the bar where Crocodile Dundee walks up to the transvestite, grabs a handful below the equator, and announces “OI! SHE’S A GUY! THAT SHEILA IS A GUY!”
It was that simple once…
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