Stop me if you've heard this one: super-talented famous athlete is criticized for looking "too masculine" and is cured of her gender ambiguity by an awesome dress, a new 'do and plenty of makeup. Because obviously the measure of true femininity is your ability to (hire a stylist to) put together a bangin' outfit and smile all pretty like for the cameras.
You think I'm talking about Caster Semenya, the gender-maligned South African winner of the World Track Championships don't you? Actually I meant this guy:
Horst "Dora" Ratjen was a last-minute addition to the fascist German women's track team in the 1936 Olympic games. She--who was really a he--was put in to replace Jewish high jumper and actual female Gretel Bergmann. Despite an embarrassing loss to the Turkish--and Jewish--female high jumper that year, he continued to compete as a she until an observant doctor noticed his man parts had been taped up. Ironically he had this to say in 1957 about the whole experience, "For three years I lived the life of a girl. It was most dull."
Just like making over Horst with a dress and hair bows didn't make him a woman, neither does You magazine's putting Caster in a slick dress and styled hair on their current cover make her a woman. It doesn't make her any more of a woman because, see, she already is a woman. This shouldn't have to be said but plenty of people from her teammates to medical professionals can attest to the fact that she is not, as accused, "pulling a Horst."
In a world where we equate being a woman with being sexy it is sadly easy for people to decry someone who does not fit the traditional definition of sexy as not being a girl but Megan Fox isn't the only female prototype out there.
As for Caster, who up to this point focused exclusively on being the world-class athlete she has proven herself to be, she seems almost as confused as her critics. In an effort to settle the debate about her genetic makeup, she not only deigned to do the makeover photo shoot but has also said, "I'd like to dress up more often and wear dresses but I never get the chance." Sources at the magazine reported that she loved the shimmery clothes and wanted to buy them all. All of which would be just fine--a girl can certainly be athletic and also like her stilettos--if it were true. Seeing as up until now she has been proud of her cornrows and track pants, I can't help but wonder if all the controversy is getting to her. Perhaps she is even afraid of losing the sport that she has given everything to.
And all because we think the dress makes the woman, rather than the other way around.