Gender parity? Pish!

in #currentaffairs4 years ago (edited)

I answer the phone. A young man asks

Is that Fiona Cameron-Brown


My name is John. I'm calling from the bank. Fiona, is it a convenient time to call?

Ten out of ten for the question, but, excuse me, who are you to call a customer by her first name, I wonder and then -

Because you are over 55, you qualify for....

Then my hackles rise.

It's evident that the person at the other end of the telephone is young enough to be my child and a person I've never clapped eyes upon, let alone spoken to before. In his own culture, he wouldn't call a woman his mother's age by her first name.

I confess I am tetchy when it comes to bureaucracy, but it goes deeper than that.


Now I'm in snarling mode for the reasons above and it's about the 550th interruption of the day. I didn't invite him to call me by my first name.

Mrs Brown....

Did you notice the bold bit above? Cameron-Brown? My legal surname and the name on my bank account. I snap.

The surname is Cameron-Brown. Mrs Brown is either my husband's ex-wife or his late mother...

Had the person been looking for The Husband, the person would have been looking for Mr Brown, not Tom, Dick or Harry.

Yes, I am ranting:

Well, a couple of days before, watching a television interview ahead of the national elections on Wednesday, I was struck by how the host addressed members of the panel - one male and one female. Both academics and professors.

The male was addressed by his title and last name; the female, by her first name.

Why are women not accorded the same courtesies as our male counterparts?

There is more - isn't there always?

In South Africa, we have been mesmerised by the unfolding events surrounding Olympian, Caster Semenya, and even before this article in the Washington Post, and when she had been subjected to such appalling treatment ahead of the last Olympic games, I had begun to wonder if a man would be subjected to such invasive, humiliating scrutiny.

Because he excelled.

I know, because I'm a woman that many women achievers in their professions are looked at askance. Especially if they've never married, had a partner or not had children. There must be something not quite right. Society remains inherently judgemental and patriarchal, and although things have changed a great deal, in many ways, things stay just the same. I hasten to add that we women are often perpetrators of the same scrutiny and judgement. I know. I've been on the receiving end.

You don't have children? You poor thing.

There endeth the conversation. Their lives are defined by the children - and more recently - the grandchildren. There is nothing else to talk about and no attempt to find common ground. Now don't get me wrong, there is no-one more admiring of mothers and the challenges of motherhood, but what I do know, is that most women don't want to be boxed as only being mothers - even though I concede that if it were me, it would be the job of which I would be most proud.

Consider the average exchanges between men: their own progeny is low down on the topic list. However, to men, a woman who prefers her career over children is not a woman; nor is one who has a woman as a partner; nor is a woman with hyper androgeny, and self-identifies as a woman. They are, at best, considered "sexless" and at worst, invisible.

Returning to Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is not invisible. Nor is she sexless. In 2009 after winning gold in the women's 800m in the World Championships, she was subjected to a sex verification test.


Can you imagine how humiliating that must have been? At the time she is quoted as saying

I have been subjected to unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being.

The ordeal has continued and Friday's anouncement by the IAAF does not bring an end to it. In an interview on a South African radio station on Friday, a member of her legal team who has been working with her since it all began ten years ago, commended, as those of us who can only watch from the sidelines have observed, the dignity and grace with which she has conducted herself through the entire debacle.

Then, hot off that apparent defeat, she goes and wins her first race of the season, saying,

I believe nothing is hard in life, because it is up to you how you take life.

That race may also be her last.

There are other sportswomen who have the same condition as she does. They, too, have been subjected to similar scrutiny; others apparently might, but were not tested, because they are of different eras; Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King are in Caster's corner.

Yes, we are painfully aware of this in South Africa: she is "our" golden girl, but I cannot help but ask why, when men present with genetic anomalies that allow them to perform better, naturally, they are not subject to similar persecution scrutiny. Cricketer, Dale Steyn, with his twitch muscles and Ian Thorp, the swimmer, are two other examples. Should they have been "treated" for their conditions and prevented from competing?

It was not even entertained. Instead, all the men who present with anomolous conditions, including the now disgraced (for other reasons) Lance Armstrong are lauded.

Caster and women like her, are victims of their biology. Neither she, nor any woman, chooses her biology, yet we have to not just put up with what it sends our way, but in a cesspool of inhumanity deficient in compassion, let alone empathy, we have to defend who we are: to our very beings.

As I write, there has been no announcement as to whether Caster will challenge and/or appeal this ruling. I would understand if she did not. I hope she does. Either way, she has my unwavering respect and admiration: as a South African and more particularly, as a woman.

Until next time Fiona The Sandbag House McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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Yes, these little subconscious bias based on gender is still very pervasive in our society and is likely to continue to have a pretty good hold for a while yet, I think. I can relate with your concerns, to be sure! I think it really makes my days a bit better whenever other people make little efforts to recognize gender bias and break down the small outdated habits. For example, at work, a friend would always include my name last in a string of names if there are male coworkers involved, even if I'm the one doing the most work in the project, so it's like "Hi, Rob, Greg, Tim, veryspider, ..."

And I asked him one time about it and he's like, oh, i didn't realize such things, but now he makes the effort to assign the order based on who the email is most pertinent to so..... IMPROVEMENTS! :D

Great post, @fionasfavourites <3 Really resonates with me~ !!!

Thanks @veryspider - Seems not all agree lol ;)


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Obviously, we probably won't agree with everything, but I feel at one point there, you start you use the same broad strokes to describe men as you accuse them all of using. That being said, I can agree with a lot of this.

What's happening with Caster Semenya, I find to be ridiculous. Everyone is born with a different balance of hormones. It's always been a spectrum. I was never under the impression that those races were only for a certain type of woman. Semenya was born a natural woman, and therefore should be allowed to compete in any womens' sport she sees fit.

Better yet, I truly feel we'd be better off just making sports co-ed. This sort of issue wouldn't exist.


at one point there, you start you use the same broad strokes to describe men as you accuse them all of using.

Yes, hahaha! I did begin to feel myself heading down that slippery slope, but didn't want a distraction or to sound apologetic or defensive.

That being said, I can agree with a lot of this.


Better yet, I truly feel we'd be better off just making sports co-ed. This sort of issue wouldn't exist.

And, of course this is unlikely to happen...

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It seems quite ridiculous that they would even require her to undergo sex testing. A simple birth certificate ought to be enough. Regardless...

You are correct that women are treated much differently than men on many fronts. I watch it play out in our political cycles here in the US as well. Men are discussed for their ideas and policies while women are discussed for their outfits and emotions. :-/

Precisely. Sadly, women often perpetrate that. Mea culpa I confess

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True story. We really ought to be nicer to one another.

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Not fair, indeed. I hope some persecutors get sued until they resign.

Also, I hope you're able to have fun on the phone with such people at their expense.

Hahaha! yes, the reference to my husband's ex-wife usually gets them! lol

In Canada there is a transgender cyclist by the name of Dr. Rachel McKinnon. She is a professor of philosophy and a semi-professional athlete. She probably didn't just decide to become transgender, but whenever she completes a lot of people get really salty.

This is such a difficult issue. No, transgender people don't choose to be that. Any less than a gay man or a lesbian. Of course, the world is so full of bigots. The corollary is that nobody complains when men enter what is considered "female" domains: nursing, beauty, wellness. Some are considered odd, but it doesn't stop them, does it?

Isn't it the human condition to want to be considered "normal"? Then we also want to be different. We can't win, can we?

It's pretty simple to tell if someone is legitimately transgender which is why I don't see it being such a big deal. Those people already have it difficult enough, I can imagine athletics or any hobby is a nice escape from the crap they have to constantly deal with. It's a shame they are getting hassled there as well.
Olympic athletes of all types are already so far removed from what a normal human is (edit: capable of ), I don't really care about their precise gender.

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Caster is a curious creature I'll admit, with more testosterone than usual due to having internal testes, unlike any woman generally, so she is somewhat androgynous, although exernally female. She literally has both sex glands producing both hormones.
Now they want her to take testosterone-lowering drugs, which is the first time someone has been told to take drugs because of her excellence, but you can see the scientific or biological grey area, despite the humane obvious need for psychological sensitivity and respect for a female athlete.

Actually, all women produce and need testosterone - in one form or another - via the adrenal gland. As Caster's medical records have never been released, we do not know (and I don't want to know) whether she has "internal testes".

the humane obvious need for psychological sensitivity and respect for a female athlete

That is the nub of it.

Still, a male-dominated society... and as such woman are expected to be within certain parameters. The fact she is born with certain abilities is a blessing should be treated as such no matter what her hormones.

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