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How To Prove Someone Is Female?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the who-can-replace-a-man dept.

Science 1091

krou writes "Caster Semenya won the 800m at the World Athletics Championship in blistering style, leaving her competitors in the dust, but she has been thrown into the midst of a scandal amidst claims that she's not really a woman. According to the many press reports, she's believed to shave, is flat chested, has a very masculine physique, previously preferred playing physical games with boys, and shunned traditional female activities and clothing. Questions about her gender have dogged her entire career. Previously, acceptance that she is a women relied on simple inspection of female genitals. But now the IAAF claim that they want to conduct further tests to see if 'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' An IAAF spokesmen noted that 'The [testing] process was started after Semenya made her startling breakthroughs — a 25-second improvement at 1500m and eight seconds at 800m, just some weeks ago.' I'm curious what the Slashdot community thinks: what can be considered proof of someone being male or female? Is it simply a case of having the right genitals, or are there other criteria that should be used? Is the IAAF right in claiming that someone should be prevented from competing because they have a rare medical or genetic advantage?"

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Make them write some code (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158007)

... and see how it pans out.

Easy (3, Funny)

Wamoc (1263324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158009)

To test if someone is female or not, just ask them to go out with a geek. If she says yes, then she can't be a female.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158211)

just ask her to show you her pussy. god damn, how hard is this really?

Re:Easy (2, Funny)

Joe Jay Bee (1151309) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158221)

It's quite easy, actually - I'd imagine it's the slapping and the police involvement afterwards that's the hard part.

Re:Easy (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158315)

Here's [harvard.edu] the pussy in question. Now you tell me with a straight face what you think of that!

Re:Easy (1)

Bertie (87778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158389)

I can't say such a direct approach has ever worked out favourably for me. Well, not without the assistance of the demon drink, anyway.

This is /. (3, Funny)

desertfool (21262) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158011)

I doubt most people here would have experience with that.

(sorry, just a bad joke.)

Re:This is /. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158371)

Yep.

You know the solution is simple. Sexes compete together in the same events.

Genetic (3, Insightful)

cob666 (656740) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158013)

I would think that a genetic test would prove whether or not she was.. well... a she.

Bloody difficult. (4, Interesting)

El Jynx (548908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158147)

Considering that there are plenty of creatures which can be hermaphrodites, and that there are rare genetic variations (YXYY, for example) where one is born with e.g. male characteristics while the sexual organs may be female, this is a difficult point. Where do you draw the line? I know of a few lesbians who, except for the chest, could easily pass for male: large arms and hands, low voice, etc.

The sexual differences are fairly pronounced for "normal" men and women, but there are plenty of in-betweens. Methinks the only thing they can do is make an extensive study of all the differences between men and women, and say that if more than an x number of variables lean towards the one or the other, the person in question must be considered as being of the opposite sex. Either that, or you have to create the Hermaphrodite Olympics. They'll probably still have to investigate each case separately either way.

Re:Bloody difficult. (4, Insightful)

cob666 (656740) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158263)

I somewhat agree with you but a 'rare genetic variation' is simply that, RARE. Under normal circumstances, there are genetic markers that distinguish a male from a female and if this particular athlete has a rare variation or abnormality in his/her DNA then that bridge should be crossed when it's come to.

Re:Bloody difficult. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158323)

"creatures"?

I'm going to assume you're not talking about humans who happen to be intersexed, because otherwise that's really. freaking. mean.

Probably not that difficult (3, Funny)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158327)

Considering that there are plenty of creatures which can be hermaphrodites

We aren't talking about clown fish here. That would be a red herring. (Sorry couldn't resist the pun.)

there are rare genetic variations ... this is a difficult point. Where do you draw the line?

An interesting question, but probably not relevant to this particular case. We know we want to draw the line between XX and XY. Test her. If she is XX, then female. If XY, then male. It only needs to be an issue if she turns up as XXY or XYY something else.

Re:Genetic (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158165)

That.
I would also use this occasion to state my amusement to see these sports officials embarrassed about someone having a clear advantage that can not be put on special training, drugs, equipment or techniques. At a high level, performances in sports like athletics will show differences that can have a clear genetic cause (that's okay. That is, after all, a feature of evolution, that some individual will outperform others on specific tasks) yet refuse to acknowledge it and emphasize on the training and work of athletes.

Athletes keep talking about sports' spirit, about how it is all about fairness and balance. I am happy to see some reminders that top competitions are mostly about unfair genetic advantage. This focus on the top 1st, the gold medal, the world champion, is a bit insane. The most respectable difference I see in sport is between amateur and well-trained. Between these two levels, the difference is clear and is mostly about efforts. But it is not very convenient or spectacular to build a mediafest around.

Re:Genetic (1)

El Jynx (548908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158237)

Well said!

Re:Genetic (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158351)

Indeed, some more organized and large countries (China being the most effective current example) have programs to try to find people with particular genetic variants to recruit into sports. Want to dope people with testosterone but it's illegal? Find someone with abnormally high levels of testosterone naturally! Thinking of competing in a sport where HGH would help? Find a guy who naturally produces really high levels. Etc.

I guess I don't find that process that interesting. Is there really anything better or more fair about a guy who produces abnormally high levels of HGH, vs. someone else injecting HGH? Why is one more interesting to watch than the other? It seems the only possible answer is attaching some sort of mysticism to the fact that one was "natural".

Re:Genetic (1)

Hungus (585181) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158355)

*Agrees*
As far as I am concerned if it has only X chromosomes it is female, else it is male.

The question is philosophical, not genetic. (-1, Troll)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158367)

What is the purpose of the Olympic Games [about.com] ? Originally, the Olympics was a religious event. In modern times, the Olympics is a celebration of the beauty -- the perfection and stamina -- of the human body.

In my opinion, people with flaws -- like genetic anomalies -- should be disqualified from participating. If you think that they should be allowed to participate, then would you allow a 3-armed man to participate in the boxing tournament? Do you think that having 3 arms would give the participant an unfair advantage?

The Olympics is not about helping people with genetic flaws to feel good about themselves. The Olympics is a sports competition that celebrates the beauty of the human form.

So, if Caster Semenya is proven to possess a genetic abnormality, then she should be disqualified. However, "should" does not mean "will". Chances are good that if she is disqualified, she and her African-American/African supporters will accuse the Olympic officials of exhibiting "racism" against Africans. So, the final outcome is likely that she will be proven to possess the genetic abnormality, that she will not be disqualified, and that the Olympic officials will suddenly become mute.

Obvious solution (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158017)

If you can make love to her, then she is a woman (provided that you know where you put your willy in)...

Re:Obvious solution (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158039)

As a general rule, if you can't tell what she is, then run.

Re:Obvious solution (4, Insightful)

El Jynx (548908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158189)

I disagree. Her ability to run was what got this whole discussion started in the first place :P

Re:Obvious solution (5, Funny)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158043)

If you can make love to her, then she is a woman (provided that you know where you put your willy in)...

... or, if she uses the term "make love" for the act, she is a woman.

Re:Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158049)

My hand is a woman?

Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (2, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158019)

As subject says. If there is a "Y" cromosome, well, you have a male then...

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (2, Informative)

packeteer (566398) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158035)

You know that some people with XXY chromosomes are identified as female right?

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (2, Interesting)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158071)

Even more confusing, how would you classify a chimera [wikipedia.org] where some body parts have Y chromosomes and some don't?

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (2, Funny)

gparent (1242548) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158381)

Well man, if she's a chimera [wikipedia.org] too we're fucked.

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (1)

freeballer (1160851) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158079)

I never saw this woman til just now... but she's really manly looking, no offence intended. Maybee the tests aren't infoulable but considering how many would test to be xxy I'd say test them and if they happen to be that 1% give it to them. but genetal checks don't mean anything if a guy could get a great doctor and other body differences (to my knowledge) are chopped upto things like hormones (size of middle/second last finger)

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (4, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158125)

[citation needed]

Every reference I could fine indicated that Klinefelter's Syndrome was considered "males born with extra chromosome". Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] is just one, but everything else I found thru Google on "xxy chromosome" referred to the people born with this condition as "male".

Can you site a reference otherwise?

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158353)

The grandparent probably got it mixed up with

Androgen-insensitivity-syndrome [about.com]

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158153)

You realize some people with XXY chromosomes may have genetic advantages over normal XX females, right?

Yes, but should they be in sports is the question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158171)

Sports records, competitions, etc. aren't divided between genders for social reasons (or well, in a way they are but you know what I mean) but for physical ones. Males with equal amount of practice can get much better results, etc... And officially sports are supposed to give more weight to practice, dicipline, etc. than genetical aspects.

So is she physically closer to "the most fit female in the world" or "male in very good shape". I think that looking at testosterone levels or something is probably the key.

(Personally though, I think this is all bullshit and they should either put all human is one series or then begin giving penalties for extraordinarily good genes.)

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158271)

Are we talking about Lady Gaga here?

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158117)

Apparently that is not always the case. There has been a Dutch atlete (mid last century, forgot the name) who had a "Y" chromosome, yet was still considered female (well, after recent studies anyway)

IMO just leave the girl alone. She came only recently to the world of athletics and is only 18: isn't it to be expected that someone in that situation can still drastically improve?

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (3, Insightful)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158127)

It's Not That Simpleâ [wikipedia.org] .

Besides, you're ignoring the point. The real issue here is highlighted by this passage:

But now the IAAF claim that they want to conduct further tests to see if 'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.'

In a world where people can change their identities at will (transsexualism, etc.), or otherwise [go.com] , what changes need to be made to the outdated simple classifications?

And additionally, the obnoxious notion of "fairness" further complicates the issue.

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (5, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158373)

And additionally, the obnoxious notion of "fairness" further complicates the issue.

When issues like these come up, I'm always reminded of Harrison Bergeron [westvalley.edu]

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (1)

VulpesFoxnik (1493687) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158213)

You cannot possibly be serious. Intersexed affects not only the genitals, but mental configurations as well, a condition known as transsexual. But please, continue your bigotry.

Re:Simple... if "Y" chromosome found = male (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158257)

Genitalia isn't determined by the Y chromosome, but by something called the "Testes Determining Factor". It is possible to have XY females and XX males. And even when it is present, that's not what causes differentiation, but rather a hormonal surge during about the 6th week of pregnancy -- which is environmentally mediated. Back to the drawing board you go.

Medical advantage (4, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158025)

"she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' "

What kind of bullshit is this? Your genetics are 80% of the winning. Personally, I was born with messed up feet so I have always known that I wouldn't be the sprinting world champion. The fact that this woman(because that's what she is) has the better genetic profile to win these kinds of races is to her advantage and the people who didn't win are to accept that or play another game.

Re:Medical advantage (4, Interesting)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158139)

To expand on what you said, if she's banned or pulled back because of her genetic condition, then you can probably expect your gold medal in the mail any day now. Treating people differently for their genetics has a very bad history so far, and sets a bad precedent for the future. Wake me up when the question is about whether someone genetically engineered to be better should compete in the same league as naturals. That's an interesting topic since genetic engineering could be construed as a performance enhancement.

Re:Medical advantage (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158155)

While that's true, the separation of male/female sporting competitions throws a wrench in the works, because it's already based entirely on the assumption that to be "fair", we ought to first do some genetic segregation. So then you open up the whole can of worms about whether a particular person is "unfairly" on the wrong side of the fence.

Re:Medical advantage (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158297)

because it's already based entirely on the assumption that to be "fair", we ought to first do some genetic segregation

They allow M2F transgendered persons to compete as women provided they've been on hormone therapy continuously for two or more years -- because it's been proven that hormones have a far greater role in athletic performance than genetics. So genetics is really not the issue here.

Re:Medical advantage (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158321)

Hmm, interesting. In that case, the commenters arguing that testing for XX vs. XY would settle the problem in this case would seem to be wrong, and instead the right test would be for hormone levels.

Re:Medical advantage (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158331)

Assuming you're right (and I don't know either way), I imagine that such a rule would disappear quickly if these transgendered women started *winning* against the `real' women consistently. They would only allow something like that if it didn't actually make a difference. Once it made a difference, people would argue it was unfair and it would be thrown out.

Re:Medical advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158243)

At first I wanted to disagree with you, but the more I thought about it the more I agreed with you. The best example I can come up with is the horse Secretariat. When he died they examined his body and discovered his heart was much larger than average, allowing him to pump more blood faster through his body than other horses. I don't think anybody looks back on his accomplishments and considers them to be tainted in any way. He was just a freak of nature; other horses racing in his era were just out of luck.

Re:Medical advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158299)

"she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage."

Ummm yeah! But it's not so rare. It's called being a GUY.

"It's a MAN, baby!"

Genetic Advantage (3, Insightful)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158027)

Everyone competing in IAAF competitions should be fat, lazy, nonathletic, slobs. Otherwise its unfair to all the fat, lazy, nonathletic slobs who just cant compete.

Re:Genetic Advantage (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158093)

Unless they have a TV-remote competition.

Awesome (2, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158033)

One reason I would never hope to be rich and in the spot light is stuff like this. Ask Richard Gere how long shit like this can follow you. If it its true it is a pretty personal outting.

I can do the opposite (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158053)

If you ever posted here, you know you are not a REAL female. You may even look like one, but you know, deep inside, you have big question mark lingering. Don't you!

I vote we settle this 4chan style... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158057)

"PICS OR IT'S NOT TRUE!"

Re:I vote we settle this 4chan style... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158123)

Stop it! You're asking for goatse, you know.

Simple Test: (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158059)

Kick them in the nuts really hard. If they don't fold over in pain and whimper an octave higher, they're female.

Gender isn't sex. (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158067)

I think slashdot should start with the correct definitions, being a technical community and all: Sex is, Gender does. Second, Slashdot of all places should know that the two are correlations, not causations. And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:

You can't.

Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.

Mod Parent Up (1)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158161)

Totally agree with you. Science has shown us that there is no easy answer to this question.

Intelligent discourse? (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158275)

Remember where you are.

Re:Gender isn't sex. (5, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158277)

And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:...

Bad girlintrainig! You never, ever, EVER presume that just because someone is smart and intelligent they should agree with you -- or that, just because someone disagrees with you, they're either not smart or not intelligent.

I'd say it's far more scientific to brand gender and sex as immutable based on your genetics than to relegate it to subjective measurements And on that note...

Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.,

A female is an organism that can produce an ova to create young during its lifespan. A male is an organism that can create sperm to fertilize said Ova during its lfiespan. This is not arbitrary -- this is the scientific definition from biology. Any organism that can do neither of those two during its lifespan is neuter, and any that can do both is hemaphroditic (sic). ANY OTHER DEFINITION is cultural, subjective, non-scientific crap.

Re:Gender isn't sex. (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158361)

A female is an organism that can produce an ova to create young during its lifespan.

So women who have their ovaries removed become men? Or what about women born without reproductive organs? Are they not women anymore?

A male is an organism that can create sperm to fertilize said Ova during its lfiespan.

So if I chop your nuts off, you become a woman? Do you forget a lifetime of experiences being male? Do you have to change the little 'M' on your driver's license to an 'F'?

This is not arbitrary -- this is the scientific definition from biology.

This is an abuse of science when we have clear and documented cases where your definitions are inadequate, yet you continue to insist they are correct. Your definition, your model, is in error. Scientifically speaking -- science takes all available evidence into consideration, not just the parts you agree with.

Any organism that can do neither of those two during its lifespan is neuter, and any that can do both is hemaphroditic (sic).

Again, your definition is in error: A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs. Nowhere in that definition is "Ova" or "sperm" included -- it is possible to have both male and female reproductive organs and have either, both, or neither, of those conditions met. Neuter is a an adjective that refers to either a lack of gender (a social construct, not physical), or the lack of reproductive organs.

ANY OTHER DEFINITION is cultural, subjective, non-scientific crap.

The very definition of gender is cultural, subjective, and very much not scientific. You're attempting to use science to advance your own religious or personal beliefs about how the world "should be", not how it is. Science is about how things ARE not how they SHOULD be. The moment you start saying "should", you've left the realm of science.

Re:Gender isn't sex. (1)

Binary Boy (2407) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158375)

So if I'm otherwise a male - have a penis, for instance - but cannot produce sperm at all due to a physical abnormality, I'm not a male?

Re:Gender isn't sex. (4, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158295)

Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.

Exactly, they are the laws of women.

Re:Gender isn't sex. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158339)

Well how profound. So onto the real question, if you are going to have a group of contests for women only, how do you go about determining who is eligible for those contests, while being fair to all the participants?

Obvious. (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158069)

The solution is to genetically test several different spots on their body to make sure it isn't a case of them being a male/female chimera, that is, having both cells that are XX and cells that are XY. Being a chimera would give them an advantage, though, not as much of an advantage as them being male.

This opens up a whole new can of worms, in terms of sporting events and genetic disorders. Do you let the kid with that genetic disorder that makes him super muscular compete in weightlifting competitions, knowing that he has an unfair genetic advantage to begin with? Would you let a person born with a mermaid tail instead of legs compete in swimming?

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, as it could shape the future of competition in sporting events. Personally, I'd like to keep things fair. It's not fair to the other racers if she's female but has a genetic disorder that makes her much more male than the other racers. She's built like a man, looks like a man, runs like a man, and probably has the urge to urinate while standing up like a man. How is this fair in a competition built around females, knowing that males would have an unfair advantage against them?

Re:Obvious. (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158193)

Running is all about genetics though. The fastest runners happened to have the best genes for running. This girl may just happen to have exceptionally good genes. I think it would be unfair to penalise her for that.

Re:Obvious. (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158311)

There's a whole host of genes that can make people better athletes, but we have to ask, where do we step in and drop the 'unfair advantage' bomb? That's the question I'm getting at.

Alright, so you have genes that allow your muscles to be more efficient. You have genes that allow you to store more energy for quick use. Then you have genes that cause your hormone levels to match that of a male. Since the event was specifically designed to make this event fair for women, why let someone that is that close to being male compete with the women?

Re:Obvious. (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158379)

So the first step is not to determine if she in in fact a man or a woman, but to define what differentiates a man and a woman. Surely there already is a definition for this that the Athletics people use.

  To change this definition now would be like changing the rules of a game after the game is over. She won under the rules as they were at the time. Maybe for future events the rules can be different, but as long as she fit the rules at the time of the race she should win IMO

I know! (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158081)

cut her in half and count the rings

women do have one more set of rib bones than men do

Bend over (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158085)

If he/she sticks it in your butt, it's a dude.

Now he/she is able, and does, stick in your butt and you enjoy it, then you're a faggot as well.

easy (2, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158095)

just ask "asl?"

Assertion failed in gender_assumptions.m (1)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158097)

To prove someone is female, you have to define what "female" means first. Is a female human one with breasts and/or a vagina? Two X chromosomes? A certain balance of hormones in the blood? One whose birth certificate reads "GENDER: FEMALE?"

An athlete may have an "advantage" over other athletes by virtue of an innate genetic difference, whether that difference improves circulation, O2 sats, lactic acid removal, or whatever. You can't call it "unfair" unless the advantage was conferred deliberately in an attempt to boost performance. No one disagrees that A-Rod, Manny, and Ortiz all got an unfair advantage in baseball because they were taking steroids to boost muscle mass. But would you call Jeter or Ellsbury's agility "unfair?" They got it in the same genetic lottery in which we all participate at birth.

Re:Assertion failed in gender_assumptions.m (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158319)

Is a female human one with breasts and/or a vagina?

Definitely not "or". Man-boobs exist.

always trouble in the gray areas (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158099)

Most people have an okay time with "male" and "female" as unproblematic concepts, because for the majority of people all the things that might go into the concepts correlate at least reasonably well. Most females are genetically XX, and have both primary and secondary sexual characteristics typical of females. Most males are XY, and have primary/secondary characteristics typical of males.

If those things aren't all correlated nicely, though, it makes clear that there isn't really a solid definition that covers all aspects of what we mean. A genetic test for XX vs. XY? (And then what do you do about XXY?) Just an issue of primary sexual traits? (Do secondary sexual traits matter?) A combination of all the above? (And then what do you do if they don't all match up?)

At some point the distinctions become somewhat arbitrary, and to me at least not all that interesting: there isn't actually any magical "right" answer to the question. Perhaps to get an answer that makes sense in this context we might first answer: what is the purpose of having separate male/female sporting competitions, and which definition of sex or gender would contribute towards that purpose best?

Mutant inqusitions (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158103)

>'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage

Have began

Turing Test (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158111)

Question:
Have you gained weight?

Answers:
Yeah, I should hit the gym. - Male
Whaaa... you don't love me anymore! - Female

In related news (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158119)

in a secrete government facility some testing are being done on something that surely must be an alien with shape shifting abilities or a liquid metal robot from the future. It was found looking like a blonde, young and attractive female solving math problems.

Easy! (1)

Kotoku (1531373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158137)

Easy.

Step 1: Pull Pants down.

Step 2: Look.

Re:Easy! (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158281)

In my high school biology class, the teacher asked the class "How can you tell the sex of a fly?"

Someone responded without raising their hand - "Turn it over!"

Two words: (5, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158141)

Driving test.

It all comes down to inadequate definitions (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158159)

What's she competing in? Well, she's competing in the "female division". What does "female" mean? Turns out they never bothered defining that.

Is it fair that she be allowed to compete?

Who the hell knows? They've already tossed in an "unfairness" by removing half of humanity. Is it a justified unfairness? Probably. But there's no objective answer to where they should draw the line - they could restrict it by weight class, by height, by age, by whatever the hell they wanted to.

Even assuming we discover there's something wacky about her genetics, the problem isn't her genetics - the problem is that nobody sat down and scientifically described what "female" meant, and now they're going to end up in the middle of a shitstorm because everyone defines it slightly differently without realizing it.

What is "Fair" competition anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158179)

I think everyone would agree that putting any 5 year old up against michael jordan in a one-on-one basketball game would be "unfair". But two NBA stars are considered fair game, even if one of them is Michael Jordan-- who was way better than other players.

Some sports add handicaps, extra points, compensatory rules, etc. to make competition with one stronger player seem fairer, but it seems that what we REALLY mean by fair depends on context and opinion. Fair competition could mean:

1. Competition with a level playing field. So that all players are close-to-equal in their abilities to win. The level playing field could be determined by categorization (weight class, male vs. female, etc.) or by systematic elimination (poker tournaments)...

2. Competition where the winner cannot be easily determined. May have asymmetric competitors (different fighting styles for example), but we don't know who's going to win. Or as long as the teams "look fair" or are statistically close in terms of performance, we call this fair.

Then again, Sometimes all we want from a competition is to enjoy the spectacle and we don't really care if it's fair..

A competition is, in a way, an experiment to determine how unfairly matched the competitors are. So I guess it's kind of arbitrary.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158185)

Don't segregate based on sexist ideas. Everyone competes against everyone because women and men should be treated as equals because they are equal.

Re:Simple solution (0, Flamebait)

dougmc (70836) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158365)

Sounds good, but then women would almost never win in most sports. They may be equal under the law, but they're certainly not physically equal.

Nerds? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158197)

Any biologist will tell you what a karyotype is.

If it's XX, it's female. If it's XY, it's male. Pediatricians do this all the time in cases of genital ambiguity.

Easy as 1...2... (1)

Hercules Peanut (540188) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158203)

Proof of female: Give birth

Proof of male: You are reading this

No Brainer? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158215)

Place subject in bedroom and tell subject you are leaving for an 'evening out' in 10 mins.

If subject does not emerge from bedroom, ready within the next 20 mins, subject is female.

real problem is not enouch choices (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158219)

While 99.9% of people are clearly male or female, more than one in a thousand can't be easily classified. Some of them are clearly neither, others can be argued are both. There are:

Chimeras (people composed of cells with two distinct sets of genes).

People that have an XY chromosome but are 'immune' to testerone, so they are physically female.

People with XXY, XYY, and even XXX genes.

People with that are XX but genetically sensitive to testerone so they are physically male

People that are hermaphrodites (non working)

People that are hermaphrodites (working - very rare)

People that looked 'unusual' so doctors 'altered' them when they were a child, surgically and/or pharmaceutically

People that choose to alter themselves surgically and/or pharmaceutically

The law needs to recognize that male and female are not the only choices.

The easiest solution (1)

grahamlee (522375) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158229)

Just let everybody race everybody else. No more worrying whether people truly class as male, female, able-bodied or whatever.

Re:The easiest solution (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158309)

Seconded. Different classes for men and women is like different classes for black and white people.

Re:The easiest solution (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158333)

Just let everybody race everybody else. No more worrying whether people truly class as male, female, able-bodied or whatever.

Of course, the obvious problem with this is the vast majority of the winners - and competitors, even - in high-level sports competitions will be men. That's not really an acceptable solution, at least not in most of the developed world. Ever hear of Title IX?

Heck, the problem with this whole thing is there may very well not be a politically acceptable solution.

plztag: gendertestingispants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158235)

should be obvious, really.

Seriously? (1)

phmadore (1391487) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158253)

Look, "a rare medical condition" wouldn't change anything. Would she then compete with males? No, she couldn't, could she, because she has a cunt and tits? So they're trying to disqualify her from competing at all. This is total bullshit; why can't they just let her have her 15 minutes in the spotlight?

Easy (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158255)

Genetic tests and genital examination.

LK

Why is everyone so surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158265)

A fair number of lesbians are masculine looking. She's not the first masculine-looking woman.

Two Options. (1)

Upaut (670171) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158273)

Well, the sport in question needs to decide one of either of these simple diagnostic criteria in segregating their sport:

Either you go by genetic screening, in which case "Y makes the guy". They could have an extra chromosome or two, or even be missing one, but so long as they do not have a "y", they are female.
"or"
Its done by respective genitalia, having been born that way, or surgically altered. Basically where do you want transvestites to compete? It's almost purely a PC issue, but the lack of testies is a bit of a handicap in some cases. Though then what about testicular cancer survivors? Brings up a slew of arguments. Maybe the creation of a third catagory is needed in some cases. Though then would it have the player density to be interesting to watch, and would it bring a stigma to those in that catagory? Heck, I know of some female golfers that t off with the men at their t, play with normal clubs, and use pink ladies... (as are the men... Though this reference is a bit dated...) and if they were pro, would preffer to compete in the mens leugue, as they feel it would be more challenging and bring more respect.

Two options, one with a third ammendment that could be chosen as well. Personally? I would go with genetics. I think it's more fair. And only for sex chromosomes. I could care less about any other genetic condition that could give them an edge. If athletes that lack the ability to feel lactic acid, or have a slew of other enhancements, then cool. It might kill the sport for those without those genes, but then more and more will have these genes in competition. Or not. Who knows what the future holds? Though if you start screening on genes asside from sex, then you drive out these "super athletes". The you get a question for if "they" should have their own league? And if others without these enhancements bred onto them can compete for greater glory? And soon all these complications add together to really make ones head hurt, and detract from the sports in question.

Then again, I only watch curling, play a little golf, and generally ignore the rest.... So I might not be the best opinion on the matter...

Handicaps (1)

Under_score+1 (1610199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158301)

Each persons genetics should be profiled... and all genetic advantages should be handicapped against. This will make it fair to those whose will and determination in training are trumped by their less optimum genetics.

Lance Armstrong should be tested too.... (1)

thephydes (727739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158317)

By any measure the man is a physiological freak. Come on! anyone who is at the peak of their sport is a freak compared to mere mortals like 99.9999% of us. Leave her alone and let us enjoy her performances.

Distance Racers (2, Informative)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158329)

I watched the women's 1500m race today and saw not one woman who wasn't flat chested or nearly so.

I believe (from Mary Decker Slayne) that this is typical of women who train hard and as this young lass is just now 18 it would make sense that her hormonal changes were or are going to happen latter.

"Unfair" Advantages (2, Interesting)

Cassander (251642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29158345)

I really hate this idea that people with any kind of advantage aren't allowed to participate in athletic competitions. What's the point, then? How far should we take it? Next thing you know, people will be rejected for the "unfair advantage" of simply having spent their life training for the event. (This actually already happens in the olympics to some extent with their ban on "professional" athletes in events like basketball).

Our "world records" are quite meaningless when the individuals with the greatest chance of actually setting one aren't allowed on the field. I also think it's inappropriate to ban athletes that have subjected themselves to chemical augmentation. I would suggest keeping separate "augmented" and "non-augmented" records, but ultimately it's impossible to determine where to draw the line between augmentation and things like tailored dietary supplements. But our records are a joke. We have no idea who the fastest human runner on the planet is, because he's not allowed to officially compete.

Cases like this also illustrate the ridiculousness of gender segregation in athletics. Does anyone with a basic science education actually still believe that there are only two genders? Should we have yet another segregated league for XXY athletes like M. Semenya? If we are going to acknowledge the tendencies for different genders to have different athletic abilities, why not acknowledge the tendencies among different races, age groups, cultures, shoe sizes, etc? I know, let's just put every individual in their own little athletic division and they can set records against themselves all day long. Imagine the profits for Guinness!

Gender equality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158385)

Those male, female teams are so outdated, they are based on the sexist view that man are stronger or something. Time to "co-education" in sports, time for gender-neutral sport.

The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29158391)

The real problem is that they've allowed the gender to be either male or female - without specifying what the conditions are for each. I know, I know. You'd think it's obvious, but nobody thought about it apparently or they wouldn't be having this "problem". If it *has* been defined and they're now unhappy and redefining what should be male or female for the scope of those contests, then I'd sooner say they're just bad losers. As somebody else said - winning in these things pretty much is 80% genetic if not more to begin with. Silly people.

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