Intersex, Trangender, and Sex in the Olympics

A follow up to yesterday’s post, here’s an article from FiveThirtyEight looking at transgender athletes and the conditions for male to female transgender athletes. It has some good quotes from Caitlyn Jenner, perhaps one of the best people to speak on the issue being one of the few high profile people to be both an Olympian and transgender. 

I have to admit I find it so puzzling that the IOC thinks that male athletes would try to fake being a woman in order to compete in that division. The one case that the first article mentions is of someone born with atypical genitial, whose parents raised him as female, and he competed as female, but he always thought he was male and was relieved when found out because he could then live as a man. Competing at this level is so difficult that adding living a lie on top of it seems too much. (Perhaps I’m too influenced by the NYTimes article about doping and the strain of living that lie.) Plus, today’s Olympians bodies are on full display in tight athletic wear. I was watching the swimming trials last night. No one could hide their form once they were at the start of the race. 


Commonplace: Dick Page on mascara and fashion 

Nothing on the runway means anything for the ordinary consumer. If they have any sense, they’ll only do what appeals to them. I mean, we shouldn’t take it seriously — it’ll just be washed off on the taxi on the way to the next one. I actually don’t often use mascara myself. Sometimes it depends on the photograph and light, and you want to do something where the eye looks more bare. Just don’t do something because you’ve always done it. That’s when makeup gets boring. Think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
~ Dick Page

Intersex and sex testing in Sports

Long article from the New York Times Magazine on the sex testing of women in Olympic sports, particularly running. It’s illuminating for both the ways that it explores how science cannot do what the IOC  and the IAAF wants it to do–definitively define sex–and while it’s not explicitly explored, the ways that the women often identified for testing are from impoverished backgrounds. It’s hard to ignore the class and race implications, however. 

The history of sex testing presented here is one I didn’t know, and it’s well worth the time to read. What I found fascinating is the idea that science cannot make sex into a binary when nature refuses to do so and that part of what makes Olympic athletes so good are often times genetic abnormalities–think Michael Phelps body dimensions–that put them outside the so-called norm. Yet, we penalize women for not presenting as the norm–think every article written a both Serena Williams–and not men.  

Commonplace: from an interview with Anthony Bourdain

“Writers just writing about the food, you can only eroticize it so long. It’s all about other stuff. And I don’t think you can properly appreciate food if you’re not having some kind of sex, you know—occasionally. It doesn’t even have to be acrobatic, but other pleasures are important. It’s counterproductive, in fact: creepy food writing by people who are not having any sex, that can barely remember having sex.

In order to write well about food you need to eat well, and you cannot eat well if you’re analyzing the food. It’s not fun for the people you’re eating with and I don’t see how it can be fun for you. I spent 30 years in the restaurant business and I do not want to be thinking about if the bus boy’s doing his job. I don’t want to hear the bell in the kitchen. I don’t want to be thinking about what’s in that dressing. I want to be lost in the meal. I want to be a romantic fool.”

~Anthony Bourdain, interview here


Still absorbing Brexit implications, but it reminds me of two different incidents. In 1996, I lived in London for a semester. One of the guys in the house of American college students was actually from England, just attending school in the US and on a weird reverse exchange. At any rate, he was from Brighton and about as Tory as possible. On a day trip to Canterbury, he said the most bigoted things imaginable about a group of German tourists, who he apparently identified by their windbreakers in true xenophobic fashion. I generally avoided him after that.

I was on a train to Edinburgh in 2011 and a man from Taiwan, who had lived in the US, asked me what was going on with Congress threatening to default and sending the US economy over the precipice. My answer was we’ve gone mad. But only mad enough to show boat.Indeed, the general feel in England that trip was you poor American with your crazy government. 

I’m no fortune teller nor make any claims to be, and there are some real dissatisfactions at work here that have noting to do with the EU. But it feels like the cliff is behind us now instead of in front. 

Unions and Restaurants 

Jason and I have been working our way through another culinary memoir, this time Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. Jason’s an excellent cook in his own right, and I’ve loved food memoirs of all sorts since I first cracked open Under the Tuscan Sun sometime in 1999, which is about the intersection of food, home, and place. We both find the life of a chef fascinating, and Hamilton’s memoir does confirm the seedier sides of the industry highlighted by Anthony Bourdain’s two memoirs. I never thought about how unionizing restaurant workers could improve conditions for those workers. Admittedly, the American Prospect, where this article is from, is unabashedly pro-Union, so read it with that lens in mind. But it is eye opening for the ways high end restaurants don’t pay their workers equitably. You may tip for excellent services, but that money may not make its way in full to your server. 

Song of the Day: Bat for Lashes, “We’ve Only Just Begun”

I admit, my knowledge of the Carpenters is predominantly from a made for TV movie called The Karen Carpenter Story, which was a pretty decent biopic in retrospect. I watched it at a friend’s house–I think the same night we also watch Doris Day’s Pillow Talk but not the same day we watched On the Town. At the time, I was mostly horrified by Karen Carpenter’s eating disorder and how it so tragically controlled her. I don’t know if it was intended to serve as a deterrent, but it decidedly didn’t glorify her struggle.

Know your cows

Okay, true story, there is an organic market around the corner from Jason’s house. We convenience shop there vs grocery shop–i.e. we need an ingredient staple that they have, mostly coffee and half and half. My coffee addiction is real. Once we needed eggs while cooking. The organic, free range eggs came with a little folded up paper telling us about the hen who had laid the eggs. It was decidedly Portlandia-esque. Mostly, we try to make conscientious consumer choices about what we eat without going to the farm the produce or chicken was grown or raised at. I’m under no illusion that my individual consumer choices have a major impact on the food industry. Nation of Rebels, which is a decade old now, makes the compelling case that we mistake individual consumer choices for taking action when in fact collective action would be more effective. That doesn’t mean I don’t make consumer choices based on ethics; I avoid Tyson because the chicken trucks make me sad. But I don’t think my avoidance of Tyson is hurting their bottom line. I also avoid oxybenzone in my sunscreen–it can be a cancer agent, but mostly I’ve found I prefer the skin feel of formulas without it. At any rate, Food 52 has an interesting article on organic milk and knowing your dairy. I’m not saying you need to go know your local dairy, but it’s a good explanation of the various labeling your milk can have and why organic may be a good choice but not the only choice.