For Caster Semenya, With Love

GREEN HEART JPGThis is an outpouring of love for Caster Semenya. Wrong is not her name. What is wrong is the way she has been treated in global media. As three queer women, we have struggled with our own relationship to the feminine as it has been constructed in mainstream society. As a black woman set adrift in a sea of whiteness, it was hard to see myself as beautiful. My curves and skin color made me unattractive in my world. As a white, feminine woman who is also intersex, I have struggled hard to come to peace with my body. Doctors and the world around me have told me I am defective or have denied my existence entirely. As a disabled Korean adoptee, I grew up as an outsider, rarely seeing people who moved like me or reflected me in my community or in the media. I was constantly told that my body was something that needed to be “fixed;” that it was “wrong;” and that it, that I, was “undesirable.” We engage with each other as comrades, three queer women uniquely shaped by our lived identities and experiences. We were the odd ones out, queered by our bodies, but later we claimed our queerness with fierce intention and pride. Now we choose our difference, embrace what sets us a part from a constrictive mainstream. It is for these reasons that we feel a deep kinship with Caster Semneya. Her story unfolded internationally without her consent and knowledge. We write to right wrongs done to someone whose only crime was daring to be all that she is…

As disability justice activists, we must connect how ableism gets leveraged in service of heteronormativity, in service of white supremacy, in service of misogyny. Ableism gets used all the time to divide us and we must fight it at every turn. How do we begin to understand that it was Caster’s extraordinary able-bodied and gender-non-conforming abilities that threatened ableist notions of gendered bodies and propelled the exposure of her gender through the use of a medical “gender test” to expose her sex. This is not just about defining what a “woman” is, it is also about defining what a “normal body” is and what “able-bodied” is and what it is not; it is about defining what “intersex” is and what it’s not.

We must understand how the medical industrial complex and science are being used to profit off of our bodies and medicalize our genders, our abilities, and render, in this case, an 18 year old intersex South African black woman a spectacle for the world to stare at, gawk at, and examine—at her expense. We must see how this spectacle is connected to the spectacle made of disabled bodies everyday behind closed doors, in sterile white rooms, under florescent lights, in homes, at family dinners, birthday parties, a trip to the mall, to the park, down the street.

To read the full blog post, visit:  http://4castersemenya.blogspot.com

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2 responses to “For Caster Semenya, With Love

  1. http://www.change.org/petitions/united-states-department-of-labor-don-t-remove-the-companion-exemption-to-the-flsa-until-money-is-there

    The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)to Domestic Service which, if put into effect, will seriously reduce the take-home pay of countless numbers of homecare workers such as I and make the lives of the people with disabilities we assist less manageable.
    The changes would require the payment of minimum wage to homecare workers and mandate that homecare workers must receive time and a half pay for every hour over 40 hours per week of work done. Medicaid/Medicare would bear most of the burden.
    This sounds like it would be a major victory for me and my fellow homecare workers, right? But where is the money to pay for this? If the law says we can’t work without minimum wage or time and a half pay but the money’s not there, then we won’t be allowed to work those hours!
    That means, instead of increasing our take-home pay, the proposal will slash all hours beyond 40 per week of our pay. For a worker currently working 48 hours per week, that’s 416 hours and $4,742.40 per year he or she will lose.
    And workers who currently put in 84 hours per week will suffer a 44 hour loss — over half their pay!
    Healthcare insurance will also be harder to qualify for since it’s based on the number of hours worked.
    As a result, many workers will be forced to seek out second or third jobs to make up the loss.
    And, for the people we assist, their lives will be harder. They will endure a reduction in homecare hours or will have to tolorate more workers coming in and out of their homes or pay an unafordably higher deductable for the service or be forced to hire nonprofessionals. That means more poorly paid people in their homes with even less incentive to do a good job. Many people with disabilities have a hard enough time right now managing their assistants. Add to that an increase in the co-pay and the added strain will force many to give up and move into nursing homes.
    Who benefits from this proposal? Certainly the nursing home industry. Also the homecare unions which will receive more dues-paying members even as all the members’ average standard-of-living declines. Even the most poorly-paid worker in a closed shop is required to turn over at least $25.10 per month in union dues. That’s a windfall for union coffers even as the average standard of living of the workers plummets.
    And why should the unions support home care workers when the average nursing home worker, a nurse’s aide, pays more dues than a home care worker?
    What can we do? We can demand that, before this proposal is put into effect, funding for it be allocated and in place to begin payment immediately. Finding this money won’t be easy. The federal government is 16 trillion dollars in debt (that’s $16,000,000,000,000: a lot of zeros!) The states and municipalities aren’t doing much better. But, until we are shown the money, this proposal is nothing but a shell game which promises a reward but leaves us worse off than before.
    Please, my brothers and sisters, before too many of you fall for this pie-in-the-sky scheme, before the DOL proposal is shoved onto us, we must see the money.
    Contact the White House (202-456-1111 or 202-4561414). Tell them, before they end the overtime exemption, first SHOW US THE MONEY!

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