‘Deceptive and harmful’: Documentary highlights impact of sex testing

(Courtesy of TVO)

A new documentary by a Canadian Olympian highlights the impact “sex testing” has on female athletes and women of colour.

Category: Women, produced by filmmaker and Canadian Olympian Phyllis Ellis, debuted on March 8 on TVO. It discusses “sex testing,” which it describes as “deceptive and harmful,” requiring women with higher androgen levels to medically alter themselves to compete.

“The debate on this issue has raged with little to no consideration for its impact on the world-class athletes caught at the centre of the storm,” said John Ferri, vice president of programming and content at TVO.

Category: Woman makes it painfully clear that there’s a lot more going on here than a simple effort to uphold the standards of fair play. This documentary is illuminating and infuriating in equal parts.”

Ellis, who played for the Canadian field hockey team during the 1984 Summer Olympics, profiles four runners, including Caster Semenya and Annet Negesa, who fought back against racism, the policing of women’s bodies in sport and the violation of their human rights.

While being forced out of competition, the athletes highlighted in Category: Woman show their passion for sport and how it has been emboldened by their conviction to stand up for human rights.

When 18-year-old Semenya began her career in 2009, medical records leaked to international media kicked off intense public scrutiny about her body, much of which was driven by racism and sexism.

Meanwhile, Negesa was the first female athlete to speak publicly about an invasive, career-ending surgery encouraged by sport officials.

“What is fair play, if it is not inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, human rights and bodily autonomy?” said Ellis.

“We must take action and demand from the sporting world at all levels to end sexual, physical and psychological abuse, sex-testing and call out any form of misogyny, racism and discrimination.”

Category: Woman is now streaming on TVO Today, YouTube and smart TV services.