Spurred by the gender tests on South African runner Caster Semenya, a discussion heated up in our office the other day about gender lines in sports. Obviously men and women compete separately in most events because of the clear physical advantage men have over women. Sports like basketball, baseball/softball, hockey, etc. are physically dependent enough that men would completely dominate in a coed environment.
But what about the flip side? If a woman is a strong enough athlete to be competitive in a male environment, what’s wrong with her competing against men? When kids play in rec and travel leagues, age groups follow the format of 16 and under, 14 and under, etc. Older kids have a physical advantage so they compete in their own leagues, but younger kids who are talented enough are allowed to move up to older leagues. It seems to me like this mentality could work with coed sports. If a woman can compete with top men in sports like tennis, basketball, and even track, then why shouldn’t she be allowed to? The controversy over Semenya brings to light an issue that could come to the forefront of sports, and considering how poorly this situation has been handled, it’ll be interesting to see how athletic associations deal with gender issues in the future when the lines are blurred.