Last July SIUE Sociology faculty member Georgiann Davis had an article published in Ms. Magazine’s blog section. The article titled “Olympics’ New Hormone Regulations: Judged by How You Look,” was co-written by intersex activist Hida Viloria and discusses the ethical and scientific limitations to the 2012 Olympics’ sex testing policy.
Changes in sex testing policy were made in response to the treatment of Caster Semenya in 2009, who faced media scrutiny after a wide margin win. The new policy focuses on hyperandrogenism in female athletes, more specifically testosterone levels, in an attempt to promote fairness for female athletes. This policy is not enforced uniformly but rather on a case by case basis for individuals who arise suspicions.
The Ms. Magazine article is derivative of a paper co-authored by Davis, Katrina Karkazis, Rebecca Jordan-Young, and Silvia Camporesi titled, “Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes,” which was featured in The American Journal of Bioethics earlier this year. The article extensively reviews new and past policies for sex testing in sporting events, calling into question the legitimacy of the current policy on multiple levels including: the scientific validity of the assumption that testosterone gives an athletic edge, how the policy was derived, and whether or not they succeed in their goal of promoting fairness in athletic competitions.
The abbreviated article was written to place the issue in front of a broad audience, focusing less on the academics of the debate and more on informing the layman of the problem’s existence, and what factors were not included in the decision to change the policy.
“I’m really interested in public sociology,” explained Davis, “which involves reaching audiences outside of the university.”
Davis specializes in the study of intersexuality, including issues concerning individuals who are born with characteristics outside of normative expectations of sex. These can include physical characteristics, chromosomes, and in this case hormone levels. Her research focuses on the medicalization of intersexuality, specifically how the condition is experienced and contested by those in the intersex community. Davis is passionate about social justice and strongly believes it can happen by reaching a broad audience.
“Public sociology is my personal commitment and the driving force behind my work,” shared Davis.
Filed Under: Sociology & Criminal Justice