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Margo Jefferson and the Leading Ladies Chairing the Artists' Table at the Women's March

Culture

It's been a long wait since November, but the time is finally here.


The march is on.

Co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Cameron Perez have been planning the march since election night and according to this video they have made it accessible, amenable and inclusive. Nobody will left behind, and those pregnant or with disabilities will be fully catered to.

Celebrity support for the marches has come in abundance. Given the overwhelming support for Hillary from Hollywood during the election - this comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, the displays of rigour and adamance for the women’s cause, especially Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes have been astonishing. Support for the march has been garnered through a variety of social media channels in a show of unity unparalleled since perhaps the Great March on Washington headed by Martin Luther King in 1963.

While the numbers indicate that on that day 70-80% of the attendees were African-Americans, this march is expected to be decidedly more diverse, given the support for the outgoing African-American president and the growth of feminism in the past decade. Both Mallory and Perez have been eager to promote the ideals of inclusivity and solidarity - this march is not about your race or gender, but about equality in the face of division.

Courtesy of womensmarch.com

We spoke to Pulitzer Prize winning author of Negroland Margo Jefferson today about walking in the march, and standing on the artists’ committee. When asked why she was going, Jefferson told us, “I’m going because I want – no, I need -- to see all kinds of women marching for all kinds of justice. All of us refusing to be belittled and assaulted. I’m on the Artists’ Committee and I’ll be with a group of artist friends – writers, actors, musicians.But I’ll be marching in tune and time with all kinds of strangers and that’s what excites me the most." she finishes, "That and the fact that this is just the beginning.”

"I need -- to see all kinds of women marching for all kinds of justice. All of us refusing to be belittled and assaulted." - Margo

Jefferson will be joined by America Ferrera who is scheduled to chair the artist’s table with a plethora of other entertainers and scholars that will head up the crowd before they start the walk toward the White House. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has been very vocal of her support via social media channels, further proving the power of those like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to bring together the hundreds of thousands that will join in the marches throughout the country. In a tweet she says, “Proud to move with the @womensmarch this Jan 21st, raising my voice for honesty, truth, and compassion against injustice, lying and greed.”

Beyoncé has also voiced her support for the march on Facebook in an empowering declaration; "We raise our voices as mothers, as artists, and as activists," she wrote, "As #GlobalCitizens, we can make our voices heard and turn awareness into meaningful action and positive change.” A huge advocate of the Black Lives Matter campaign, and a major supporter of Clinton, the message resonates on a personal level with the singer, whose sister Solange kicked off the weekend’s women’s events with the Peace Ball on Thursday evening. The ball proclaimed itself an event for the ‘voices of hope and resistance,’ and an opportunity to take stock of this administration’s massive achievements over the past four years. It coincided with marches in New York attended by Alec Baldwin, Mark Ruffalo, and mayor Bill De Blasio that were mostly peaceful and encouraged the hundred-day peaceful resistance that begins today.

"We can make our voices heard and turn awareness into meaningful action and positive change." - Beyoncé

Courtesy of jmonae.com

Janelle Monae is among a group of musicians that make the inauguration’s line-up look like a child’s birthday party. In a statement announcing her participation she said, "I am honored to join this critical movement to bring justice and equality to all.” The artists’ table Monae joins is as diverse as many believe the march will be - with women and men of different races and ages coming together to promote togetherness the day after one of the most divisive inaugurations in the country’s history. And if every woman mentioned in this piece uses their social media to promote the march tomorrow - their reach will be over 100million people, not to mention the +200k due to attend.

March on, ladies.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

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.