Sunday, December 6, 2009

The difference between men and women

Excellent article in the New Yorker [Nov. 30, 2009] about the Caster Semenya situation… a couple quotes:

"Unfortunately for I.A.A.F. officials, they are faced with a question that no one has ever been able to answer: what is the ultimate difference between a man and a woman? “This is not a solvable problem,” Alice Dreger [a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine] said. “People always press me: ‘Isn’t there one marker we can use?’ No. We couldn’t then and we can’t now, and science is making it more difficult and not less, because it ends up showing us how much blending there is and how many nuances, and it becomes impossible to point to one thing, or even a set of things, and say that’s what it means to be male.""

and later:

"There is much more at stake in organizing sports by gender than just making things fair. If we were to admit that at some level we don’t know the difference between men and women, we might start to wonder about the way we’ve organized our entire world. Who gets to use what bathroom? Who is allowed to get married?"

Right, at the end of the day, reality doesn't come carved up into little chunks -- we have to make those chunks. That requires acts that are drenched in politics, ethics, epistemology, etc.

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