‘Make-over is not to prove a point’ — Semenya

2009-09-09 00:00

WOW, look at Caster now! The latest issue of YOU magazine features Caster Semenya as its cover girl after giving her a make-over for a “new Caster”.

Pictured in a sequined dress, vinyl tights, stilettos and lipstick next to the subtitle “Athletics star Caster Semenya as you’ve never seen her before — transformed by YOU from powergirl to glamourgirl”, she certainly does look more glamorous than South Africans have ever seen her before.

Semenya, South Africa’s athletics hero, has been caught up in debate around her gender since she won the 800 m World Championship in Berlin in August and since then the media has been flooded with articles regarding the decisions and conflicting opinions of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Athletics South Africa (ASA) and South African politicians and pictures of Semenya in her athletics kit.

In the four-page spread of photographs and interview, Semenya said that she would “like to dress up more often and wear dresses”, but what with training twice a day, six days a week and maintaining her studies, she just does not have the time. Semenya was a tomboy growing up, and so dresses and other girly things were left at the edge of the soccer pitch when she played with the boys and later when she swopped to athletics. And even though Semenya has not worn a dress since Grade 9, the 18-year-old still has great self-esteem, stating: “God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of myself.”

When asked by the media why she agreed to the make-over Semenya said: “I didn’t do this to prove a point but rather to have fun. I don’t give a damn what people say about me …”

5FM radio host Poppy Ntshongwana said of the YOU spread: “We know that she is not a skinny jeans and liquid tights type of girl, so why make her wear something that doesn’t suit her personality and body shape?”

The Times Online broached the subject of why Semenya chose to pose for YOU magazine now, asking: “Why such a public statement about her femininity now when a team of scientists are simultaneously drawing conclusions that may not agree with it. It is indecently hasty when she could easily have waited until the science had been completed.”

A spokesperson from the Commission on Gender Equality did not regard the feature as helpful as it is seen to reinforce the fact that “women cannot be seen in a different light” to the current stereotype and that people will no longer associate Semenya with the “girl we love because she runs for us”, but rather simply as a woman conforming to the gender role assigned to her by society.

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