(2016) Human Studies 39 (3).

Constructing gender incommensurability in competitive sport

sex/gender testing and the new regulations on female hyperandrogenism

Marion Müller

pp. 405-431

The segregation of the sexes in sport still seems to be regarded as a matter of course. In contrast to other performance classes, e.g., age and weight, which are constructed on the grounds of directly relevant performance features, in the case of gender it is dealt with the merely statistical factor that women on average perform less well than men. And yet unlike weight or age classes, which can be interchanged if the required performances are provided, the segregation between the sexes in many types of sport seems to be quite impermeable. Contrary to popular beliefs women were not excluded from the beginning of modern sport. Hence, the meaning of gender differences varies in the course of time and in types of sport. Thus, this paper firstly gives a short summary of the different relevance of gender differences in high performance competitions of various types of sport. Then the historical construction of gender as central dimension in modern sport will be illustrated by using the example of soccer. Here in this paper, the elaborate processes of reproducing this incommensurability between women and men in sport is the main focus: At first big sport organisations tried to exclude women whose performances were well above the expectations by establishing so called "Gender verifications" which suspected them of fraud. Although it became certain that there is no clear differentiation between the sexes, gender segregation was not abolished. Instead new regulations have been invented to treat and "normalise" people who are difficult to categorise, e.g., transsexuals and women with Hyperandrogenism, in order to subsume them into the existent gender categories. So finally, gender segregation in sport seems to be just another example for Goffman's institutional reflexivity: While the separation of the competitions are said to be a natural consequence of the differences between men and women, it actually is just a tool to create those differences.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s10746-016-9397-1

Full citation:

Müller, M. (2016). Constructing gender incommensurability in competitive sport: sex/gender testing and the new regulations on female hyperandrogenism. Human Studies 39 (3), pp. 405-431.

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