IAAF results of Caster Semenya's gender test are evidently in, but not announced yet, though the sports body has already announced that it won't strip the South African runner of her gold medal. But South Africa's enthusiastic support of its controversial track star may have come at a huge price, for her. The 800-meter world champion and gold medalist has let herself be packaged for the red carpet...in gold bling, stiletto heels, a low-cut cocktail dress, nail polish...and her famed corn rows now teased into an afro.
Have They Been Twisting Caster Semenya's Arm?
SA tabloid magazine You splashed Semenya's picture on the cover, with the headline WOW, LOOK AT CASTER NOW! On the inside pages, Semenya modeled a whole collection, including a slinky silver top, super-skinny jeans and more stilettos. It even looks like they lightened her skin a shade with makeup.
Caster insisted that she did it "for fun" -- that she really does love to dress up in girly-girly clothes. Really she does. She just never had the time, she says. This from a girl who spent her school years being notorious for tomboy styles.
After the public triumph of Semenya's return home, how much arm-twisting did she get in private? It's one thing when women athletes like Danica Patrick freely pander themselves to conventional images of femininity like Playboy pics in bikinis. Even hard-as-nails jockey Chantal Sutherland has done the femme foto ops, which can be rationalized because she has actually worked as a model.
But it's another thing when political duress is added -- when a country might feel that its national honor is put at risk by the gender image of one of its star athletes. Maybe the powers-the-be have put it to Semenya this way, "Whatever the test results are going to be, you need to start looking like a real girl. Or we won't support your athletic career any longer."
I also wonder how much You paid Semenya for the celebrity makeover job. To a rural girl who grew up poor, and her family, a fistful of rands may have been a big inducement. Is there anybody in Semenya's world who is giving her good legal and political advice?
Unfortunately the You spread will only pour gasoline on the flames. Reactions ranged from unkind (DListed called it her "drag makeover") to disbelieving. Yahoo sportswriter Chris Chase said, "This feels forced....If Semenya was pressured to do this to silence her critics, then this is a sad story."
Sad indeed. If the gender police thought they could get away with making women athletes run for the gold in stilettos, they'd do it.
More when the test results are actually announced.