Dept. of Gender Equality

As you've probably heard, there have been concerns that maybe Caster Semenya, who won the 800 metres at the ongoing athletics world championships, "does not meet the requirements to compete as a woman", as one report put it. Others discuss that not all people can easily be sorted into the "male" and "female" files; it reminded me of how utterly pointless I find running competitions that are reserved for women in the first place. It's a ghetto competition for one set of people that happens not to be as good as another set of people.

In other sports the case for female-only competitions would be easier to make. Here's a simple model of performance in sports:


Restricting competition to female athletes can be seen as a way of artificially restricting the range of values in the athleticism factor, thus putting the other two in the forefront. Some tennis fans prefer to watch the women's competitions because in the men's, winning has too much to do with how much force you can put behind your serve. Similarly, it has been said by people who know more about these things than I do that you can be quite successful in heavyweight boxing (but not in the lower weight classes) even if your technique isn't too hot.

In running, however, differences in technique play a minor role. You might as well have a 100 metre dash for white people only.

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