As the debate heats up surrounding the International Olympic Committee's new policy governing sex verification, Prof. Rebecca Jordan-Young is quoted in The New York Times, calling the regulations "an unsuccessful attempt by the I.O.C. to address an issue that is more complicated than the rules suggest." From the article:
“The problem here isn’t unfair advantage,” she said of the I.O.C.’s view that some women have an unfair biological advantage and should be barred from competing as females. “The problem is the misperception and bias against people who are not gender-conforming.”
Prof. Jordan-Young, associate professor of women's gender and sexuality studies, and Katrina Karkazis, a senior research scholar at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University recently penned an editorial on the same topic for The New York Times. An excerpt:
"Testosterone is one of the most slippery markers that sports authorities have come up with yet. Yes, average testosterone levels are markedly different for men and women. But levels vary widely depending on time of day, time of life, social status and — crucially — one’s history of athletic training. Moreover, cellular responses range so widely that testosterone level alone is meaningless.
Testosterone is not the master molecule of athleticism. One glaring clue is that women whose tissues do not respond to testosterone at all are actually overrepresented among elite athletes.
As counterintuitive as it might seem, there is no evidence that successful athletes have higher testosterone levels than less successful ones.
Yes, doping with testosterone will most likely improve your performance by increasing muscle size, strength and endurance. But you cannot predict how well athletes will do in a competition by knowing their relative testosterone levels. There is just too much variation in how bodies make and respond to testosterone — and testosterone is but one element of an athlete’s physiology."
Listen to a podcast of the professors discussing their paper, "Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes," which was originally published in The American Journal of Bioethics. Anthropology News also covered the story.
Prof. Jordan-Young's book, Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, is a comprehensive critical analysis of research purporting to demonstrate that hormone exposures in utero "hardwire" the brain to be either masculine or feminine in sexuality, skills, and interests. The professor is a sociomedical scientist whose research includes social epidemiology studies of HIV/AIDS, and evaluation of biological work on sex, gender and sexuality. Prior to joining the faculty at Barnard, she was a Principal Investigator and Deputy Director of the Social Theory Core at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research of the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., and has been a Health Disparities Scholar sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. She teaches courses in science and technology studies, sexuality, gender theory, and HIV/AIDS. In the spring of 2008, Professor Young was a Visiting Scholar at the Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy, and a featured speaker in the FEST Trieste International Science Media Fair.