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Archive for August, 2009

[This is an expanded version of a comment prompted by this insightful post from Prof. Sussuro.]

Caster Semenya won the women’s 800-meter race by 2.45 seconds over her nearest rival. I want to start with that fact, because that win is amazing. She is amazing. And this being lost in all these rumors and speculations about Semenya’s sex, gender tests, and possible disqualification.

By now, a number of Pinoys have noted similarities between Semenya and Nancy Navalta, a Pinay teenager whose gender came under scrutiny when she started setting track records in the Philippines in the early 1990s. For both Semenya and Navalta, it was their appearance—their well-muscled physiques and flat, powerful chests—that was used to question their femaleness. Both women departed radically from the standards of beauty and softness often associated with womanhood.

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Outside

Tour de France was a few weeks ago, and Leadville 100 was last weekend. So all I did in between was scour the internet for cycling news, get stoked, then go out and ride. It’s a thrill each time because while I will never be Rebecca Rusch, I just really really love this shit.

Something that really bugs me, though? Is how often these breath-taking feats of physicality are framed in the violent imagery of conquest.

For example, there’s Lance not conquering Mt. Ventoux, and “Lance conquers Leadville”. It’s common imagery in climbing too. This wikilink talks about conquering and assaulting the “seemingly invulnerable and formidable” Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Two years ago, my excitement over the Pinays who summitted Sagarmatha (woot!) was diluted by the headline “Palace lauds three Filipina Everest conquerors.” That women can be conquerors too counts as progress, I guess. Plus the subtitle “shows women are equal and sometimes better than men” was a nice touch.  And just as a bonus, that last article also touts the three Pinoy mountaineers who, the previous year, had “made history by conquering Everest.”

Good lord. Chomolungma and Guiting-Guiting will be here long after we’re gone. They’ll always have the last laugh.

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