Soccer Scandal: Iran's Female Stars Face Random Gender Tests

TEHRAN -- Iran’s female soccer pros face random gender tests after seven people were disqualified from the league because they were deemed not to be women.
The "snap checks" have been introduced by the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Ahmad Hashemian, who heads its medical committee.
Teams are required to perform gender tests on any woman signing a professional contract and pass the results on to the federation, Hashemian said. However, many clubs previously failed to comply with the regulation. The rule was introduced about three years ago after a team raised concerns that an opponent's goalkeeper was a man.
Seven people have now been disqualified from playing in the women’s league, while four others are waiting to hear back from the federation.

Iranian female soccer players attend in a training session in Tehran on June 25, 2009.
The checks are similar to those carried out on South African runner Caster Semenya, who was forced to undergo gender tests before eventually beingcleared to return to action against women.

In cases where players are undergoing sex changes, Hashemian said they would be allowed back onto the field when their gender-reassignment procedures had been completed.
"If these people can solve their problems through surgery and be in a position to receive the necessary medical qualifications, they will then be able to participate in [women's] soccer," he added.
While Iran has strict laws governing homosexuality, which is punishable by death, sex-change operations are legal as a result of a fatwa - or religious ruling - pronounced by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Sex changes are recognized in Iranian passports and only Thailand performs more gender-reassignment surgeries.
Henry Austin reported from London.


Meet Muslim Figure Skater Zahra Lari

Zahra Lari is an 18-year-old figure skater from the United Arab Emirates who’s known to the folks back home as the “Ice Princess.” This year, she’s already making headlines at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Source: http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/02/meet_emirati_figure_skater_zahra_lari_who_performs_in_hijab.html 

Saudi soccer debates broadens over women’s rights and nationalism

By James M. Dorsey

Female US Congressional staffers in Riyadh's King Fahd Stadium, source: James M. Dorsey
A Saudi debate about the societal role of soccer expanded this week with controversy over a group of female American Congressional staffers being allowed to watch a match in a Riyadh stadium from which Saudi women are barred and a video in which a teacher encouraged his students to chant slogans for a soccer club rather than the national anthem.

The expanded debate hooks into a broader debate about women’s rights in a country that upholds gender segregation; bans women from driving, attending sports matches and forces women’s soccer clubs to operate in a legal and social nether land; and in general provides few sporting opportunities for women. A Saudi student allegedly died earlier this month after officials at King Saud University refused to allow male emergency responders entry to the women only section of the campus to apply first aid.

In the latest twist of the debate on women’s rights, Saudi media quoted female entrepreneurs as saying they were forced to close down shops because their women employees had difficulty finding affordable transport to and from work. With relatively few municipal busses offering separate sections for women, women are forced to either hire a full-time driver or pay for expensive taxis.

The restrictions on women’s sports appear at odds with public opinion. A Saudi sociologist concluded in November on the basis of a survey that the vast majority of Saudis favour granting women the right to engage in sports. The survey conducted by Mariam Dujain Al-Kaabi as part of her master thesis showed that 73.5 percent of the respondents unambiguously endorsed a woman’s right to engage in sports while 21.6 percent felt that it should be conditional.

There are no official facilities for female athletes or physical education programs for girls in schools in the kingdom. Spanish consultants hired to draft Saudi Arabia’s first ever national sports plan were instructed by the government to do so for men only.


Feminizing fighting sports?

By Jasmijn Rana
Fouzia (the trainer) told us that we were not training hard enough, because she never saw anyone vomit in Ladies-Only kickboxing training. Naima, with whom I was training, responded: “But we’re girls, right? We don’t have to do exactly the same as they do in the men’s training?”   Fouzia answered elaborately by sharing a personal experience. One day, she was training with a new male pupil, who told her she could punch and kick as hard as she wanted because she was a girl. So, she did and she said she “totally destroyed him.” Naima just nodded and we continued the exercise. Then she whispered: “Well I don’t want to vomit. Do you?” I shook my head and we continued taking it easy. 
The phenomenon of Ladies-Only training contests the masculine practice of thai-/kickboxing by challenging the aggressive, competitive and painful nature of the sport. Participation of girls and women in this sport is often initiated as a form of ‘empowerment,’ both by local governments, incited by national policies, and by the gyms. The wider public tends to view kickboxing negatively as an overly aggressive sport. Yet in the case of women, kickboxing is perceived as emancipatory enskillment and as a form of self-defense. My research on female kickboxing practices in the Netherlands demonstrates how ideas of masculinity and femininity are contested and reproduced in sports.
Read the rest: http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/489-sports-provocation

Cite as: Rana, Jasmijn"Sports: Provocation." Fieldsights - Field Notes, Cultural Anthropology Online, February 10, 2014, http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/489-sports-provocation