Jonathan Edwards, Tiger Woods, and Prop 8

Jonathan Edwards and Tiger Woods. Those two names don’t make me think about health care or golf. Instead, especially when mentioned in the same sentence, they bring to mind words like infidelity and lies. Let’s not be fooled. Playing a great round of 18 holes doesn’t make you a moral man and neither does running for office. Edwards and Woods made vows to be faithful to their wives, not to me. So it’s weird that I feel cheated and disappointed (but not at all surprised). We’ve come to expect and perhaps accept that married men stray. Cheating isn’t like tripping over a curb. You don’t “slip up.” No one’s pants breakaway like they do in some TV comic pratfall. You don’t “fall” into bed. It’s action and decision. Just like marriage.

Marriage is essentially a legal vow to be each other’s one and only. And, it doesn’t mean one and only Scrabble partner or bill-paying buddy. When you get down to it, what essentially separates “lovers” from “spouses” is a formal agreement to be sole sexual partners, until death do us part. That’s the biggest distinguishing factor. After all, your best friend can be a lifetime companion for you, emotionally and financially. And a lover might say forever, but those are just words and only words when there is a legal option available to show you “really mean it” and sign on the dotted line.

For 2.5 weeks now, the courts have listened to testimony to decide whether or not to overturn Prop 8, the proposition banning gay marriage. No matter where you sit on the fence, gay, straight, married, or single, you have to admit that marriage has been cheapened by public infidelities and a 50% divorce rate. Still, gay people in this country are fighting for the right to marry. Maybe there’s something better, a step above marriage they should be legalizing for their relationships instead. After all, if you want to learn to be a great golfer, emulate Tiger Woods. But if you want a lifetime commitment, why not aim higher?

When is a woman too much of a man to be a female athlete?

So, the IOC just recommended gender-testing centers to determine eligibility when an athlete exhibits sexually ambiguous characteristics. Caster Semenya, the woman who won the 800 meters at the world championships this past summer, seems to have spurred the scrutiny with her masculine build, low voice, and hint of an Adam’s apple. Excruciatingly embarrassing for her to be called out in such a public manner, however, I’ll argue that you have to be fair to all athletes.

Men and women compete in separate categories in most sports because of the inherent inequity in speed and strength. If a tad more testosterone didn’t boost performance, we wouldn’t be having debates about steroid usage, right? Unlike cheating in sports though, Caster Semenya just is who she is and wasn’t trying to put anything over on anyone else. In November, the I.A.A.F. ruled (after gender-testing results rumored to show Semenya as a hermaphrodite) that Semenya would keep her world title and prize money. However, it has not ruled whether or not she would be allowed to continue competing as a woman. The question becomes–where do you draw the line? If a woman’s natural testosterone levels are higher than other women (on par perhaps with a man’s), should she be allowed to compete against women? What if she has ambiguous sex organs? And how do you single out an athlete for testing without crushing her spirit and reputation?

The answer seems to be that the IOC cannot consider this matter on a case-by-case basis. They must return to standardized gender-testing for all athletes (as they did a decade ago) or risk demoralizing and humiliating individuals. And, as inane as it sounds, the IOC must determine the criteria it will use to decide when a woman is too much of a man to be a female athlete.