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Accepted Contribution:

Expertise, eligibility regulation, and the case for feminist dialogue with the unregulated majority in women's sport  
Madeleine Pape (University of Lausanne)

Short abstract:

This paper considers how women athletes are epistemic actors who shape the regulation of eligibility in sport. I argue for practices of feminist dialogue that get beyond "scientific" debates about sex-related biology, break down expert/lay dichotomies, and allow for meaningful exchange.

Long abstract:

A significant body of feminist sociology of sport scholarship has focused on how eligibility rules for women’s sport are rooted not in "biology" but in the ideological commitments of policymakers and the experts who guide them. This scholarship has shown that architects of such eligibility rules––whether applying to transgender women or women with intersex variations––have not succeeded in finding a definitive trait to settle the boundary of the female athlete category once and for all: from genitalia, to chromosomes, to testosterone levels, the bodies of women athletes have proven unruly. Such work has had less to say about the policy role of women athletes, and particularly the unregulated majority: women athletes whose bodies are considered to uphold cisgender, binary norms. However, recent policy decisions concerning eligibility for women’s sport suggest the opinions voiced by women athletes can be influential. This paper considers the role of women athletes as epistemic actors who shape the regulation of eligibility in women's sport, and particularly the unregulated majority: the women whose bodies are seen as upholding the cisnormative, binary system of sporting competition. Using a historical case from the 1990s, and drawing comparisons with the present moment, I show that there is a longstanding need to develop practices of feminist dialogue that get beyond "scientific" debates about sex-related biology, break down expert/lay dichotomies, and bring the "unregulated majority" into policy discussions in ways that allow for meaningful exchange, particularly with the trans women and women with intersex variations impacted by eligibility rules.

Combined Format Open Panel P252
Feminist biologies: models, practices and engagements
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -