History warns us that the media have been too late in the past to react to an autocratic movement or a despotic leadership. The press was censored with little to no resistance under Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini's movements and in astonishingly quick fashion. The press has crumbled under autocracy, overtaken by propaganda and become mouthpieces for leaders. It has failed in the past, absurdly, to do its job and serve its purpose - and we're painfully aware of the consequences of a biased, politically driven press.
President Trump's first week was not going to plan before it even started. The rumblings of potential headcounts for the women's marches overshadowed his seemingly puny inauguration. Mourning for the loss of Obama from the oval weighed heavy on social media, and that leering, ludicrous Moscow debacle still lingered around the edges of the media. There was no excitement, no international awe at the impending swearing in - just anger, fear, consternation and rebellion.
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world" -John Muir pic.twitter.com/AJYOGAVeu8
— JohnMuirNHS (@JohnMuirNPS) January 27, 2017
His reaction was, as predicted, immense. Bold, brash misogyny littered newsfeeds for the entire week - an outpouring of grief from the rest of the world. What have you done?
The marches did little to deter from his agenda; he didn't listen, see, nor did he care about anything emboldened on the hundreds of thousands of signs made to get his attention. And when one of his underling agencies inflamed him with rage on his favourite social platform for verbosity - gag orders were sent down from the oval.
The horrifying word that was rattled around in the wake of his election and his tirade against the media became a reality last week when he imposed a gag order on some of his governmental agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) among others, who have been sceptical of the new president since his appointment of Scott Pruit to leader of the agency.
The National Parks Service twitter was deactivated after they retweeted the picture that has gone viral indicating the major difference between Obama's inauguration and Trump's, a difference he vehemently denied in a cringey statement made at the C.I.A.
NPR suggest that these accounts could be a logical way to oppose media blackouts, and indeed they're right. Where history indicates people were too slow to react to a potential autocrat and report on their malice or wayward political approach - these rogue twitter accounts pre-empt what has the potential to become a very angry, insolent and ignorant presidency.
Instead of the media having to plunge itself into what during the wars became known as 'The Underground' press, the internet - social media and other outlets allow for a new type of freedom that cannot be reduced to a meagre newsletter handed out through rebel channels.
If this past week has proven anything it's that the president continues to align himself with those names we dare mention above, that have haunted history since the beginning of the last century, and does not look like stopping. His ascendancy to power bares a striking and unnerving resemblance to that of the Nazi party in the 1930's backed by racism, fear and a discontent with a 'weak' government(and some foreign governmental help). The anti-semitism that pervaded Adolf Hitler's campaign is near replicated in the beginning of his immigration policy implemented this past week. His next step would have been to censor the media and place a trusted adviser to take over and begin impugning the press with propaganda.
Therein lies the major difference between the 1930's and now.
You cannot shut down the New York Times or silence the Washington Post - you cannot close Twitter or Facebook, and you most certainly cannot eradicate internet sites like Buzzfeed or Mashable. They are too large, too prevalent, the presidency only gets you so far.
What you can do — and what is futile — creating an even bigger resistance, is shut down these minor accounts, only to serve the purpose of cutting the head off a monster similar to Fluffy from Harry Potter. Another will always come up in its place.
Nazi Propaganda Chief Goebbels.
Courtesy of New Statesman
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.