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Gender Issues Are Not Black and White

Quick reax to Hengler's post on David Zirin: I have no idea how you can plausibly make the statement that "Being a man does not mean you're actually better at track and field." All things being equal, how is it possible to say otherwise? Certainly, a non-athlete is going to be better than an athlete at any number of sports-related activities. But there are differences in gender -- small and big -- and these impact one's ability in any number of activities in very real ways.

I actually agree with Zirin (and am jumping up and down and saying "look, I'm a conservative!" when I say this) that differences in gender can be minute. There are "fluctuations," as he says, given the sheer number of intersex occurences. But acknowledging that these fluctuations exist means that you simultaneously acknowledge differences exist. Pretending like those differences amount to nothing more than aesthetic peculiarities (or as Zirin says, don't amount to real differences in things like sports) really undermines his point about accepting these differences and doing a better job of working with them.

Perhaps gender testing is indeed necessary. It's a messy idea and one sure to garner lots of controversy and hurt feelings. But ignoring it alltogether only serves to make you more ignorant of the very thing you're fighting for: better sensitivity, and better management, of gender issues.

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