On Law, On women, Other Stuff


If I promise myself that I will write something, I cannot sleep until it’s done. So with the end of August and end of Women’s Month today, I want to squeeze in a brief mention of two women who taught us all valuable lessons this month.

One is of course CASTER SEMENYA and the other, in my mind, is THOKOZILE MASIPA.

Now. It’s pointless even mentioning the controversy which tried to suggest that higher testosterone levels lead to an unfair advantage in women athletes. Genetics per se gives an unfair advantage, whether it is fish like feet or big bones and bulging muscles or the crazy contortedness (is this even a word?) required by the rhythmic gymnasts. As one of the articles in the New York Times (and countless others) observed,

‘All Olympians have some exceptional traits. That is why they are elite athletes. A level playing field for everyone remains elusive, perhaps unattainable’

If you are sufficiently determined, incomprehensibly disciplined and dare to dream big, you deserve to stand on that little elevated block for as long as you like and bite down on the gold for the cameras until the applause dies down. All we can do is look on in awe. We, the motley crew of onlookers have no idea what it means and what it takes to single-mindedly go for gold. AND THEN TO WIN!

But that CASTER queen is something else. Because not only did she run around that track and look like she was just cruising the block on any Sunday morning, she ran and won and then had to justify to the media that she ran as a women. Just the way she was born.

‘God made me the way I am, and I accept myself,’ Semenya was reported to have said. ‘I am who I am, and I’m proud of myself.’

Pierre de Vos (in the Daily Maverick) in his usual thought- provoking style suggested that, ‘Maybe it is time to have a conversation about why these categories are not absolutely fixed; why they do not tell the complete truth about any human being: why they can never encompass the infinitely diverse ways in which we make our way in the world.

Although most people take the binary man/women for granted, it does not fully capture the psychological and physical reality of many people. Even if we accept the fiction that society is neatly divided between “men” and “women” (something that is obviously not true), there must be at least a dozen different ways of determining the sex of a person.

‘They are constructed, he suggests, ‘perhaps partly to make the world simpler and safer. (I almost added, “safer for patriarchy”.’ he adds)

And with this I must agree. For we all need a simpler and safer world with names for this and boxes for that, despite patriarchal constructions of polygamy and all that , hey? I mean, how do I otherwise know that the blue sky which I see is the same blue sky that you see?

Which makes it all the more marvelous, I believe, that in the face of this chaotic patriarchal gender construct which may be predominantly physical or psychological (it matters not) it was Semenya, as a woman, that made us proud. WE SALUTE YOU, Semenya. You added GOLD to our rainbow nation.

Which brings me to JUDGE MASIPA.

Last Friday, in the face of unyielding pressure in what many believe was a ‘shocking inappropriate ‘sentence of six years for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, Judge Thokozile Masipa rejected the State’s bid for leave to appeal the six-year jail sentence for murder she imposed on Oscar Pistorius.

“I am not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success for an appeal. The application for leave to appeal against the sentence is dismissed with costs,” she said in the High Court in Johannesburg.


Whether you agree with her or not, and whether you believe that contrary to what he says happened, he was so angry that he picked up a gun and fired at a woman through a closed door, whether your view is that he has suffered sufficiently by that horrific deed alone and all that followed, you have to applaud the fact that she refuses to capitulate to the fervor of the two white males who have been batting away for months now, in order to determine the appropriate sentence for our fallen Olympian.

I don’t know about you but there’s something so satirically ironic ( or is it situational /dramatic? I really have no clue) about this whole affair for me: the disproportionately heightened testosterone of our black women Olympic champion athlete, the disproportionately placed anger of our disabled white male fallen Olympic hero, and a BLACK WOMAN judge who stands her ground and refuses to capitulate in the face all that white male madness in the middle of WOMEN’S MONTH !


#just saying

#end of women’s month

#where to from here?

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