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Policing the sex binary: gender verification and the boundaries of female embodiment in elite sport

Erikainen, Sonja Tuulikki (2017) Policing the sex binary: gender verification and the boundaries of female embodiment in elite sport. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis develops a genealogy of the female category in elite sport by examining the historical and contemporary manifestations of ‘gender verification’ as a form of sex and gender binary policing applied by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). By mapping the IOC’s and the IAAF’s gender verification policies and practices from the 1930s until the present, the thesis charts both continuities and discontinuities in how boundaries were drawn around the female category and how the female/male sex binary was erected and secured by the IOC and the IAAF through gender verification. The thesis is based on archival research and embedded in feminist theory. It applies the Foucauldian genealogical approach and discourse analysis to construct a genealogy of the female category, aiming to contribute to feminist theorising on the ontology and epistemology of sex difference and the female/male sex binary. It takes the female category in elite sport as a lens for exploring the construction of sex and gender category boundaries more generally, and examines how the sex binary is solidified in different ways in response to changing temporal and contextual conditions. The core argument developed in the thesis is that gender verification practices have been motivated by anxieties over sex and gender binary breakdown, embodied by female-categorised athletes who rendered in doubt the relationship between sexed embodiment and its gender categorisation. They consequently also rendered in doubt the ontological necessity or fixity of binary sex and gender categories. This doubt, in turn, incited the construction of definitional and embodied boundaries around the female category based on which female athletes’ gender could be verified, which functioned to both erect and secure the female/male dividing binary line. The thesis demonstrates, not only the foregrounding significance of sexed and gendered doubt in the construction of the sex binary, but also the foregrounding significance of the temporal and contextual contingency of the ontology of sex and gender difference.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
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Keywords: gender verification, female, sex difference, sex binary, sport
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Sonja Erikainen
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2018 11:37
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2018 11:38
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19355

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