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Girl, Interrupted: Interpreting Semenya’s Body, Gender Verification Testing, and Public Discourse

This article addresses the social implications of gender verification testing in sport. The authors ask how sex—gender is contained in mediated public discourses that questioned Caster Semenya’s identity following her success in the women’s 800 m at the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championship. The authors use critical discourse analysis to examine the perception of the case surrounding Semenya along with perceptions of her sex and gender identity. The authors argue that the manner by which Semenya’s body is discursively constructed via news board discussants, scientific and medical communities, and athletic governance policies renders her flesh abject and promotes the interpretation of her body as being “‘disordered,” all in the service of maintaining the rhetoric of “fair play” and “equal opportunity” for female athletes. The authors claim that such tests reproduce existing hegemonic gender ideologies via the categories they reinforce and through the mechanism of testing itself, as this leads to sex—gender “verification.”