The history of gender challenges faced by women in elite sports is fraught with controversy and injustice. Intense training for high-level competition often results in anatomic changes that have resulted in top female athletes being excluded from competing because they were suspected of being men seeking to compete against women.
Over the years, women athletes who don’t look “feminine” enough have been subjected to a variety of “tests”—ranging from visual inspections and “groping” all the way to genetic testing—before allowing them to compete.
Critics call this an “oppressive, discriminatory institutional practice” that subjects only female athletes to a sex-gender system that in the name of protection (of the so-called “weaker sex”) actually punishes them for achieving strength, skill, and the courage to compete at the highest levels.
Peg Brand Weiser, a women’s studies professor, and Edward Weiser, a gynecologist, will discuss the problems facing female athletes in a 3:30 p.m. lecture in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room on Thursday (June 1).
Misjudging the sex of elite athletes exemplifies a biased cognitive framework, a form of erroneous and damaging categorical perception that Brand and Weiser call perceptual sexism. They argue that perceptual sexism has a long history within aesthetic and competitive realms and is still perpetuated by popular culture.
Peg Brand Weiser is an artist, visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, and emerita associate professor and adjunct associate professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Edward B. Weiser, MD, is a gynecologic oncologist who is a visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona and adjunct associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Written by Leah Hewitt, Academy Village Volunteer