It’s Not Okay To Say “It’s Okay To Be White”

Because apparently it needs to be said.

Note: I’m turning this twitter thread into a post because apparently it needs to be done. So this is mostly that, with other thoughts interspersed. You’ve been warned.

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“It’s okay to be white.” It’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard someone say or seen on a sticker or a poster or online somewhere. It’s one of those things that sounds really innocuous at first, until you realize it’s actually a white supremacist slogan. Here’s why you shouldn’t say it.

“It’s okay to be white,” as a saying, is based on the idea that white people are in some way an oppressed group. It’s like saying “all lives matter,” in that it’s not so much wrong, as deliberately missing the goddamn point. Yes, all lives matter. Sure they do. But they’re not all treated like they matter right now, which is precisely why we have to say out loud, right now, that Black lives really do matter.

“It’s okay to be white” implies that society is somehow biased against white people, that society is somehow making it not okay to be white, when in fact today, in America, in 2019, whiteness is a status marker that carries privilege and power. Yes, even if you are white and think you don’t have any power. You have the privilege of your skin colour in a country that implicitly gives whiteness the benefit of the doubt in many ways that People of Colour aren’t given.

Right now, the only thing attacking whiteness is antiracism, which is (per the name) trying to undo the systemic forces that have led to white people having massively more wealth as a group than non-white people, having more opportunities for advancement, more of the playing field automatically tipped in our favour.

The idea that antiracism oppresses white people is fantastically racist.

So, is it okay to be white? I don’t know. I don’t much care, either. I don’t think it’s a very specific question, for starters. What does “okay” even mean? Allowable? Of course it’s allowable to be white. But does being white come without responsibilities? Is that what “okay” means? Okay to live in white skin without effort?

Here’s what I can tell you: being the recipient of white privilege in 2019 carries with it the ethical burden of trying to use that privilege to deconstruct racism and the oppression it entails.

“Is it okay to be white?” as a question, in America in 2019, is like asking “is it okay to have undeserved power?” It’s a problem that that power has been given over in the first place, but since that’s how things are, the question then becomes “well, how are you using it?”

Here’s what I can tell you: it is NOT okay to be white and to simply accept the status quo of the privilege that whiteness carries. And I can tell you that even aside from the racist dogwhistle of it all, it is NOT okay to proudly say “it’s okay to be white” as though that were an unproblematic statement.

Live and learn, white folks. If we don’t, a whole lot of people are going to continue to get hurt.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is an abstract white textured background, called “White Texture 004″ by Craig Leontowicz, released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

Two Surprisingly Good Takes on Sex Work by Guys

I had this big post planned for this week, and then I was like, “Oh yeah, work and sleep are supposed to be things.” So that post didn’t happen. Instead, I had a couple YouTube videos on in the background, and in one of those neat coincidence things, two channels I really like, Some More News and Philosophy Tube, both had some interesting and pretty good videos on sex work this week. So enjoy those, while I try to get my thoughts in order for next week’s post!

Some More News. Direct Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y533teuhmL8
Philosophy Tube. Direct Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DZfUzxZ2VU

Also this post wouldn’t be complete without a link to the time we wrote about FOSTA and SESTA here on the blog.

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Featured image is a combination of the two YouTube thumbnails for the two videos. On the left, half a man sitting in a chair with the words “SEX WORK” over top, and on the right, half a man sitting in a news setting with the caption “The Anti-Sex Trafficking Law that Made Sex Trafficking Worse.”

Four Ibuprofen

Some advice for when “take four ibuprofen” is the standard of care.

So last week I talked about the recent rush for abortion bills, and since then, things have gotten worse. Like, way worse. But I think that I don’t have very much new to say on that front, besides “Fuuuuuuck.” I could talk about Alyssa Milano’s ill-advised call for a sex strike, but it honestly just makes me tired. So instead I’m going to expand on something that I briefly mentioned in my last post—IUDs. More specifically, the way that medical professionals and common discourse seem to ignore the pain and complications around IUDs.

I know that anecdotes are not evidence, but I’m egotistical enough to think that my own experience serves as a good foreground to this topic. Content warning for graphic depictions of pain and blood. Skip to the paragraph that starts with “This story is” if you don’t want to be squicked.

When I got my IUD, I had no chance of getting pregnant (unless I happened to be sexually assaulted, the fear of which was admittedly a component in my decision). I wasn’t sexually active, and “terrifying stories you hear in high school” aside, it’s not super probable to get pregnant from a toilet seat. What I did have was debilitating periods that caused extreme blood loss and a sudden, instinctive fear that at some point my access to the birth control pills that kept them somewhat at bay would be taken away—you see, I got my IUD at the end of November, 2016. I had called to make an appointment within days of the election.

I did my research—I looked up the differences between copper and hormonal implants, I looked at different brands, and I talked to many friends who’d already had an IUD put in. As with almost any medical procedure, I got a range of opinions, because my friends had a range of experiences. Some of them had terrible reactions to the IUD and got them removed. Some had a remarkably easy insertion process and raved about it. The majority of opinions, however, followed a consistent narrative: it’s going to hurt like hell, but you’re going to be glad you did it.

I was really worried about that pain. For some (possibly TMI) background, I’ve basically never had a non-traumatic OBGYN experience. My yearly exams are always painful, and I seriously considered having an endometrial ablation when I was 22 because I knew I didn’t want children and it would decrease the number of reasons I’d need an exam. (The doctor refused to perform the procedure at that point because “I might change my mind,” and that is a rant for another day.) So the stories of painful insertion procedures made me very nervous. But friends told me that there were a lot of options available to help mitigate that—things like cervical softeners and higher intensity pain medication for before or after the procedure.

So when I called to make the appointment, I asked about the pain, and the pain mitigating options, multiple times. Over and over, I was told that the best thing to do would be to take four ibuprofen before the procedure. I expressed doubt that this would be enough—for scale, four ibuprofen is what I take for a headache. My body doesn’t respond to low-dose medication in basically any form. I asked about the cervical softeners, I asked about the higher intensity pain medication—four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen.

I took the four ibuprofen as suggested, but I asked about other options again at the appointment itself. The nurse asked if I’d taken the four ibuprofen, and I said I had. The nurse told me I’d be fine. When the doctor came in,  I asked him about it as well. Four ibuprofen. He suggested that I should take my phone out and read an article or play a game, as a lot of his patients found that a good distraction from the minor pain of the insertion.

What followed was some of the worst pain of my life. For scale, again, I’ve slammed my thumb in a 2-inch thick door, burst an eardrum, and had spinal surgery. When I talk about pain, I have a pretty big scale. And this was at the high end of the scale.

My hands were clenched, white-knuckled, around my phone. Tears were blurring my eyes. My legs were trembling as I fought the urge to clench and make things worse. The doctor seemed surprised that we were having such trouble. “When was the last time you were sexually active?” he asked. I thought back to my chart, the one he supposedly read, where I put a big zero next to the question about how many sexual partners I’d had. “I’ve never been sexually active.” I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I’ve ever said in a voice that could be legitimately called a “growl.”

Eventually it was done. He sat back with a cheery smile. “Whew! For a while there I thought we were going to maybe have to do this surgically.” I thought about all of the interim steps between “incredible pain” and “surgery,” steps that I had specifically asked about and been denied, and said nothing. The nurse showed me where there was a supply of pads, talked about the cramping and spotting I’d likely have for the next few days, and they left. When I stood up, I found out that they had left behind the large paper pad that had been resting underneath my groin and upper thighs for the procedure. It was soaked with blood. I carefully folded it and threw it in the biohazard bin, then got dressed, put on the pad, and went to call my friend for a ride home.

I got off pretty lightly in terms of after-procedure effects, with a day spent on the couch with my dog while I watched Netflix and felt achy with cramps before feeling fine the next day.

This story is not meant to scare anyone away from getting an IUD. In fact, as I wrote last week, I still strongly consider that anyone who can get pregnant consider getting an IUD. But I think it is important for anyone who is considering doing so to go in with eyes wide open, and to know one important thing: the doctor is probably going to be dismissive of your pain. Casey Johnston wrote a piece about the disconnect between the amount of pain IUD insertion can cause and the amount of pain relief patients are offered. (Note, I don’t totally agree with the titling of the piece, which is “If Men Had to Get IUDs, They’d Get Epidurals and a Hospital Stay,” because there are plenty of trans men who get IUDs and are also likely to get their pain discounted, but the main theme of the piece, that women and women’s pain are discounted, is spot on.) It’s honestly a bit beyond belief that a procedure with such a high propensity to cause blinding pain is not automatically performed with the option of higher dose pain medication and a local anesthetic. And this isn’t even taking into account the very serious and painful possibly side effects.

Johnston muses that one of the reasons doctors may downplay both the pain and the effects of the insertion procedure is that they don’t want to scare someone away from getting one, and I think this is likely correct to a certain extent. When the procedure is advertised as a “quick,” mostly painless event where you might just feel a “pinch,” more people are likely to look into it and sign up for it. But I honestly think that explanation covers less ground than, “medical professionals discount women’s pain.” There have been studies that show that menstrual cramps can be as painful as a heart attack, and generations of women were told to take a couple ibuprofen, put on a heating pad, and get back to work when they complained about menstrual pain. In my case, I repeatedly expressed concern over the pain to nurses and to the doctor, and was repeatedly dismissed. And in the midst of the procedure the doctor had apparently had the thought, “This is fairly difficult, should we do this surgically? Ah well, no way out but through! Tally ho!” (He may not have actually thought the words “tally ho,” but it seems an appropriate addition.)

So my advice from last week still stands—look into long-term birth control options. (Ideally, if you’re like me and you’re certain you don’t want kids, you might want to look into sterilization procedures, but you’re likely to face some of the same obstacles I did, so that one isn’t as practical of a piece of advice.) But I want to amend last week’s advice with some further advice. Sadly, this advice kind of amounts to “add obstacles to your own care in the hope that the end result will be better,” and I know that not everyone has the spoons for that. But I am deeply invested in this being as non-traumatic as possible.

1. Do your research.

There are a lot of long-term birth control options out there, including IUDs and subdermal implants. I was most interested in the former, because even more than avoiding pregnancy I wanted to avoid debilitating periods, and the subdermal implants aren’t very useful for that. While hormonal birth control in pill and ring form are also available and are viable options, the current trend towards removing contraception coverage and even trying to outlaw contraception makes me lean towards birth control options that are There To Stay for at least a few years. Find out what your different options are, find out what experiences others have had, and do your best to figure out what will be best for you.

2. Talk to the doctor personally prior to the insertion, preferably at a separate appointment.

I had never met the doctor who performed my procedure before having the procedure. This was mostly due to my brain frantically blaring at me, “DO THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE,” so I just signed up for the first available appointment with the first available doctor. In retrospect, this was a mistake—even though I should be able to trust any random doctor to have my best interests in mind…. Well, I can’t. If I had met the doctor prior to the insertion appointment, I either would have had the chance to discuss pertinent information and been sure that he understood it (I could find a lot of different languages in which to say “I have never had sex” until he understood) or, if I still didn’t feel confident that he was taking me or my concerns seriously, I could have asked for a different doctor. Once we were at the appointment and Doing The Thing, the mix between my own sense of urgency and my fear of “wasting people’s time” meant that I felt stuck.

3. Don’t be afraid to waste people’s time.

In the back of my mind, I had been hoping that there was a disconnect between what I had been told over the phone and what was going to happen at the appointment. I was hoping that when I was face-to-face with a nurse or with the doctor, that they would decide to take me seriously, take my concerns into account, and offer more pain mitigation options. That didn’t happen. And when that didn’t happen, I should have politely thanked everyone for their time and left. Given the reasons that I was getting an IUD, there was no reason that I had to continue the appointment once I was certain that my pain and my concerns were being discounted. It would have taken a leap of social awkwardness that I’m usually reluctant to pursue, but I should have left at that point.

4. Bring someone else that can help advocate for you if you need it.

Not everyone is good at interpersonal conflict, and I get that. So if you have a friend or loved one that feels comfortable doing so, let them know what your concerns are and bring them with you to the appointment. When they see you getting uncomfortable or not getting what you need from the doctor, they can help you navigate either leaving the appointment or advocating for you.

5. Don’t gaslight yourself.

You know your body. You know what “normal” and “abnormal” types of pain are for you. I was lying on that bed, crying from the pain, and still my brain was telling me, “it is supposed to hurt this badly.” In the modern age, nothing is supposed to hurt that badly, especially not a routine procedure. The world, and especially the medical establishment, is going to try to discount and minimize your pain. Don’t do their work for them, and don’t gaslight yourself.

So that’s my advice for navigating the medical system in search of long-term birth control. Now if all of this systematic disenfranchisement has given you a headache, take four ibuprofen—because that is what it is good for.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image is of a bottle of ibuprofen on its side with four pills in front.

I Only Looked Away For a Second

A few days ago, I clicked on a campaign ad for Elizabeth Warren. The ad was inviting me to vote on what issues I considered important, and would like Warren to address. The categories were far reaching, including reproductive health, income inequality, race-based injustice, LGBTQ+ protections, income discrepancies… I kept scrolling, and kept clicking. Yes, I thought this was important. Yes, I thought that was important. Yes, I’d like a political candidate to address this issue. I scrolled through almost twenty items, clicking as I went, before I reached the end. I’d clicked on everything, and there was a box at the end to allow me to enter even more things that mattered to me. “My God,” I thought, looking back over that list. “I care about all of those things. But how can any one candidate cover all of those things, let alone cover them well? How would they even attempt to prioritize a list like that?”

That sense of being overwhelmed by how many things are going wrong, of not knowing where to focus, of not even knowing what fire to start putting out when everything is on fire, is one that I’ve known well for most of my adult life, but especially since November 2016. To a certain extent, I’ve chosen some of my priorities—this is called “Feminist Friday,” after all. Gender concerns are pretty obviously on the forefront of my mind. But good feminist practice involves incorporating many concerns, because pretty much all social justice issues intersect. Being a generally good person involves caring about many different concerns because, you know… gotta look out for your fellow humans. And animals too. And plants. And the environment in general. And… you see how it goes?

An accidental byproduct of this split attention is that some things end up being de-prioritized. Or not even de-prioritized so much as “set aside and hoping they won’t explode for two seconds.” Like when you have a pot about to boil over but there is another pot boiling over right now, so you have to hope that the first pot will keep its shit together for as long as it takes you to turn down the other burner, take it off the heat, and try to salvage something within it.

 Or even worse, the issue is one that you thought was mostly handled, but then suddenly flared up again while you were focused on something else—a new attack that you weren’t expecting. For me, that supposedly settled issue that has suddenly boiled over is reproductive rights. Namely, abortion rights.

I learned about Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood early on in my feminist arc. And both of them felt fairly far away, even though I realistically knew that the cases had affected my grandparents’ generation, my parents’ generation. Even though people liked to come to campus with large pictures of mangled fetuses. Even though I had to pay out of pocket for my birth control at the school clinic. Things were a bit unfair, sure, and things could certainly get better, but we were making forward progress! We were going to only move forward. We’d already established our rights, and there was nowhere to go but up. After all, it wasn’t like we had our rights to vote curtailed once the 19th Amendment finally passed, was it? (Ah, young!feminist Elle. So idealistic. So naïve.)

The steady rise of TRAP laws, the gradual erosion of reproductive rights, the constant pressure from anti-abortionists, the downright false beliefs that fly in the face of established medical science… they’ve been gnawing at reproductive rights since the beginning, but they have definitely gone into overdrive in the last few years. And I’ve certainly been paying attention for the last few years– a good deal of my posts on this blog and our former blog deal with reproductive rights. But I still thought that things were happening piecemeal. That enough anti-abortion legislation had been overturned that while things were getting dicey, and Handmaid’s Tale-y, public opinion was enough on our side that things would stay at the current level of bad for a little while longer– long enough for me to catch my breath and focus on things like “children being put into cages” and “the 12 year time limit on our planet as a functioning system.” And… that didn’t happen.

And now everyone who was yelling at feminists for being alarmist because we kept comparing the erosion of reproductive rights to The Handmaid’s Tale are now going, “…..yeah, ok. Damn. Kinda Gilead-y over here.” Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is horrific on a level I can’t even really fathom. It could foreseeably treat any miscarriage as a potential homicide (btw, did you know that about 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage? And that even more pregnancies end in miscarriage because they happen before the woman knows she’s pregnant… which under this bill would probably still be after the point at which an abortion is illegal?) It punishes you for leaving the borders of Georgia to try and obtain an abortion. It punishes anyone who helps someone else to get an abortion. This is…. This is some “chain you to the kitchen” kinds of legislation. It clearly and explicitly sees people with wombs as incubators for children, and nothing else. You’ll notice that the law doesn’t require the institution of child support, or other protections that are afforded to children. The law considers a fetus a “child” only for the purpose of punishing women.

In previous years, I’d at least have the cold comfort of knowing that once the inevitable lawsuits over this law made it to the Supreme Court, it would be overturned. But now that we have Neil “Torquemada” Gorsuch and Brett “Devil’s Triangle” Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court… I don’t really have that confidence. In fact I have confidence in the opposite conclusion. And in a lot of ways, the damage will already be done, even if the law is overturned.

 The damage that has already been done is incalculable—clinics that have been forced to close and will never open again, policies passed at various levels that will keep people away from reproductive information at crucial times in their lives, necessary funding has been withheld, research has been set back by decades…. It makes me want to cry.

We are treading in waters that are very reminiscent of the pre-Roe v. Wade era. Because overturning Roe v. Wade is the endgame. This law was put into place in order to be challenged, because anti-life activists (not giving them the pleasure of being either “pro-life” or “anti-abortion,” at this point they are sincerely anti-life) read the signs, and decided that this was the best possible time, with the best possible state government, and the best possible Supreme Court, to get this law to work its way through the system and effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.

There are some things we can do to try and condemn Georgia lawmakers specifically for their actions—namely, encouraging major industries like film and television to stop using the state as a location, or removing tourism dollars in other ways (no Dragon Con for me). But Georgia is not the only state where this is happening. Fun fact, the pending Ohio bill requires a surgery to “save” ectopic pregnancies that doesn’t currently exist. Funner fact, the Alabama bill that is trying to overturn Roe v. Wade calls abortion worse than Hitler, Stalin, China’s “Great Leap Forward,” and the Khmer Rouge! By the time this is all done, the structural damage it leaves in its wake is going to affect the entire country.

Anyone who has the ability to get pregnant needs to decide what they going to do about that. And anyone who has the ability to get anyone else pregnant needs to figure out what they’re going to do about it as well.

On the personal level, I genuinely, strongly encourage anyone who is able to get pregnant and doesn’t want to do so to look into long-term birth control. I personally ran out and got an IUD as soon as Trump was elected, because even though I was pretty distracted from just how bad things were getting on the reproductive rights front, I could still see the writing on the wall. It’s supposed to last for another three years, aka, “hopefully past the end of Trump’s only term.” Emergency contraception like Plan B is not always readily available, and it doesn’t work well for anyone over 160 pounds.

If you’re able to get someone pregnant and don’t want to do so, strongly consider getting a vasectomy. While the process isn’t as foolproof, or as non-problematic, as people like to act it is, it’s still one of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure that unwanted pregnancies don’t happen. It also puts some weight and responsibility on the impregnator which… basically no abortion bill does. Weird. It’s like abortion bills are written by a lot of misogynists under a patriarchy.

Finally, think really hard about what role you’re willing to play in helping the people affected by this bill, and by bills like it. Are you willing to give money to organizations fighting these bills, to clinics, or to individual people needing assistance affording contraception or an abortion? Are you willing to donate your time? Are you willing to run to office? Are you willing to help smuggle people out of the state to get abortions? Are you willing to let people stay at your house, or drive someone for ten hours, or use your insurance, to try and work around various abortion restrictions? Are you willing to risk imprisonment? Are you willing to risk your medical license by performing illegal abortions? Because pretty much all of these things are going to become necessary if we want to maintain reproductive choice under these conditions.

I’m not trying to scare you—you should already be scared.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is of a group of actresses dressed as Handmaids filming for the Handmaid’s Tale television show. Photo: Victoria Pickering CC BY 2.0

Subjective Science

Gather round, everyone, and let’s have a little chat about how seemingly “objective” means are frequently used for subjective ends.

The supremacy of science and phrases like “Facts don’t care about your feelings” are frequently trumpeted on the internet by men who are some combination of fedora owners, neo-Fascists, and lovers of literature about lobsters written by white men. (The funny thing is that you don’t know if I’m talking about Jordan Peterson or David Foster Wallace. The sad thing is that it doesn’t matter.) The idea is that there is a Realm of True Things, and they are always available to us if we just Logic hard enough and set our feelings aside. And to a certain extent, they are right—my feelings do not change the efficacy of vaccines, or the reality of climate change. The Three Laws of Thermodynamics do not give a fuuuuuuck about my feelings regarding entropy. But the same people who say these things aren’t usually talking about how gravity is the one law that anarchists have to believe in. They’re talking about things like gender, and sexuality, and biology, and race, and that is where scientific things get really, really squishy. Because science, you see, is done by people. And people… well people are just monkeys with anxiety and superiority complexes, basically. And we are really good at using supposedly objective things to support subjective goals, even while still loudly bragging about how objective we are.

Language, for example, would seem at first glance to be objective—it’s “just” words, an agreed upon system of sounds and pictures that we use to convey meaning. But did you notice that I started this post off with “Gather round, everyone” instead of the more traditional “Gather round, boys and girls”? I did so deliberately, because “Gather round, boys and girls” implies that there are only two genders, whereas I know that things aren’t that simple. We have nonbinary gender folks, agender folks, transgender folks, etc. And so I deliberately avoided using a seemingly objective opening that would have carried a point of view that I don’t agree with.

But that’s language. Language is already suspected of treason by the Fedora Federation, because it is very close to poetry, which is feminine, and also was probably invented by left-wing academics. So let’s talk about their beloved science.

Science, as we said before, does have some objective foundations. And then it has a looooot of subjective sprinkles on top, depending on who is doing the science and what they believe is true. At various points in our history, we Absolutely Knew Thanks to Bulletproof Science that:

  • Women who grew despondent in the face of the patriarchy were “hysterical” and could be cured by a combination of forced seclusion and forced orgasms.
  • People with mental illness could be cured via an icepick through the orbital socket.
  • People of color, especially Black people, were “inherently” inferior races due to the size and shape of their skulls.
  • Diseases like cholera were spread via “bad air.”

All of these things were scientific “discoveries” or even widely believed scientific “facts” at one point or another. Note that a lot of them seem to specifically disadvantage marginalized people. I wonder why that is… (I don’t actually I was just using one of those sneaky rhetorical flourishes. Language again.) Science, you see, is only objective when it is used by a subjective person as objectively as possible. If the person doing the science is consciously or unconsciously putting their thumb on the scale to change the results… well. Phrenology happens.

All of which is a very long way to say a very short thing: what is happening to Caster Semenya is fucked up. Because quirks of biology, discoverable through scientific means, seem to only be “unfair” when they are happening to a Black woman.

Athletic ability has a lot to do with dedication, and practice, and luck, and privilege… and biology. Like, some folks are just gonna be 7’3”, and that is probably going to give them an advantage in basketball. It doesn’t have to, they could still suck at basketball, but… I mean it probably is going to help them out. And we don’t say, “Hey, tall people have an unfair advantage in basketball! They should only be allowed to play basketball if they walk on their knees!” I admittedly would probably watch more basketball if everyone was walking on their knees, but that is neither here nor there. We just accept that their genetically-imbued factors, namely their tallness and skills, are a natural part of who they are, and their use of their genetic gifts in their sport is seen as normal.

We don’t have to compare Caster Semenya to all other athletes to see how she is being treated unfairly, however. We really only need to compare her to one: Michael Phelps. As Monica Hesse writes, Phelps possesses a slew of genetic oddities that make him perfect for dominating the world of swimming:

Phelps possesses a disproportionately vast wingspan, for example. Double-jointed ankles give his kick unusual range. In a quirk that borders on supernatural, Phelps apparently produces just half the lactic acid of a typical athlete — and since lactic acid causes fatigue, he’s simply better equipped at a biological level to excel in his sport.

I’m thinking of those stories, because I’m thinking about the ways Michael Phelps was treated as wondrous marvel. Nobody suggested he should be forced to have corrective surgery on his double-jointed ankles, nobody decided he should take medication to boost his lactic levels.

As Hesse points out, no one is suggesting that Phelps hamper or cripple himself in order to make the sport more “fair” on other contestants. He is taken as-is, and has gone on to win a shitload of gold medals.

Semenya gets no such free passes. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that if Semenya wanted to compete, she would have to take medication to curtail her testosterone, which is naturally higher than it is for the average woman. The CAS was not so much making their own bad ruling as upholding an earlier bad ruling from the International Association of Athletes so… way to pay it forward. And on top of that, they said the quiet part out loud, and admitted, “discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics.” Which… what?

In case anyone is confused, this isn’t about maintaining the integrity of female athletics. This is about maintaining the “integrity” of a popular concept of femininity. Specifically, the integrity of a popular concept of white femininity. They’re not exactly questioning the integrity of the female competitors of sports like discus, even though those women are super swole. (They’re also usually white.) When Michael Phelps literally doesn’t make enough of the thing that tells you that you are tired and should stop, there is no pearl clutching about the integrity of male athletics, or even the integrity of “non-superhuman athletics.” Even though the science on the benefits of a failure to produce lactic acid seems (to my English major-brain at least) a lot more convincing than the science on the benefits of testosterone.

The way that you study data, interpret data, and make decisions about data can turn seemingly objective “facts” into subjective weapons. And the athletic community is making a subjective claim in the battlefield of gender politics under the guise of an objective statement of facts. The more that we learn about the biology of sex, the more that we learn it is as much of a spectrum as the concept of gender. Humans are complicated, y’all. And while I don’t have the answer as to how sports should be divided (or even if it should be divided) I know that it shouldn’t be this—invasive testing and blanket proclamations that tell a woman that she does not have the right “stuff” to be considered a woman, while white male athletes have their biology unquestioned.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is of a phrenology map next to the word “science.”