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gender bend it like beckham?

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I’m going to talk about a transgender issue today but I hasten to clarify that I’m not planning on entering the area of sexual orientation, nor the debate on self-identification per se.   Also I know I’m going to have to tread carefully because this whole area is a moral and metaphysical minefield but as the songs says ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’!

I restrict myself to one aspect only and that is the area of sports, specifically professional athletes and it is here where some of the  problems of the gender fluid society are manifesting themselves.  Let me begin with a name with which you will probably be familiar – Caster Semenye.  You will probably recall that  Ms. Semenye, a professional South African sprinter, caused a great deal of debate and controversy when she first burst on to the athletics scene about 10 years ago. 

There were those who questioned her gender, based on her looks and physique, and therefore questioned her rights to compete as a woman.  She was subsequently required to undergo gender testing before being allowed to continue competing and there the matter seemed to end, until now.   This report is from the AFP and The Times:

Women's 800m champion Caster Semenya could be forced to take testosterone suppressants if she is to compete in women's competitions, athletics chief will tell a court.  The IAAF, the International Association of Athletics Federations, is to argue that Semenya should be classified as a 'biological male' and forced to take testosterone suppressants if she is to compete alongside other women.

Ahead of a landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration (CAS) next week, The Times said that the IAAF will contest Semenya and other athletes with 'differences of sexual development' (DSD) should only be able to compete with lower testosterone levels to ensure a level playing field. However, the IAAF hit back at the 'biological male' claims on Wednesday.  'The IAAF is not classifying any DSD athlete as male. To the contrary, we accept their legal sex without question, and permit them to compete in the female category,' the IAAF said in a statement.

However if a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women.  'Therefore, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels before they compete at international level.'

Semenya, along with South Africa's athletics association, is challenging the IAAF's new eligibility rules that would oblige DSD runners in women's middle-distance races to have significantly reduced levels of testosterone for the previous six months. As well as Semenya, the silver and bronze medallists of the 800m at the Rio Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya's Margaret Wambui, have also faced questions about their testosterone levels.

'If the CAS rules that legal recognition as female is sufficient to qualify for the female category of competition, and the IAAF is not permitted to require athletes of female legal sex who have testes and consequently male levels of testosterone to reduce those levels down to the female range, then DSD and transgender athletes will dominate the podiums and prize money in sport,'

To clarify, high levels of testosterone, known as the male hormone even though it also is present in females, greatly affect the physique of the individual, boosting upper body strength, muscle development and stamina.  It is for this reason that almost all professional sports have historically been separated into men’s and women’s events, so that players of each sex literally and metaphorically play on a level playing field. 

In practical terms this means that men’s sport is effectively played at a higher level in terms of how far a ball is kicked, batted or thrown, how fast a swimmer can power through the water and of course how quickly an athlete can run round the track.  Without separation, then, there could be no fairness.  In the words of Jonathan Taylor, the IAAF's London-based lawyer , otherwise   “women with normal female testosterone levels will not have any chance to win.”

There is, of course, no suggestion that Ms. Semenye is a closet transgender, merely that her body might produce an excess of testosterone but her case does lend itself to the debate in as much as any male athlete self-identifying as a female would clearly have an unfair physical advantage where they to compete in a female event.  Under present IAAF rules, this is not permitted; however it is permissible for a male who has transgendered to a female to compete in the new gender but they can perform professionally only after they have taken testosterone suppressants for a specified period of time. 

In amateur events, however, there is no such restriction and therefore such trans athletes could presumably compete and qualify for professional status by unfairly trouncing the female competition at lower levels , thereby fast-tracking themselves to the entry ranks of the professional sport.

Like I said, it’s a minefield  when it should just be a playing field.

I now move on to a related issue and one which would seem to be more clear cut but in today’s semotive climate  can apparently be raised as a serious point.  A female MP in the British parliament this week made a speech in which she pointed out the disparity in the pay gap between male and female footballers. 

Specifically she cited the anomaly that in the  women’s FA cup leagues, the prize money was a mere £1/4m  ( P3,75m) whilst in the men’s league the trophy netted a cool £30.6m (P459m).  This she  branded a national disgrace and she called on her fellow MPs to support her call for equal pay in the footie ranks.

Begging your pardon, Honourable member but It will never happen!  Professional men’s football is less a sport and more big business.  It generates huge income from ticket sales, television rights, sponsorship deals, club clothing, souvenir and memorabilia sales and advertising.  Top players and managers earn silly money salaries with so many zeros  even they lose count. 

And so long as punters keep on coming through the turnstiles it will ever be so.  The women’s sport, however, languishes in the shadows for all the reasons laid out above – the men compete at a higher level and that’s a biological fact, not an opinion.  Sorry, ladies, it is what it is.  I have made no judgements here, merely laid out facts and its for you to draw your own conclusions.   I will, however, come to a close on a much lighter note which is from a posting on the internet by what must be a puzzle-loving wag who pointed out that an anagram of the name Caster Semenye comes out as ‘Yes, a secret man’.  You couldn’t make it up!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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