Ignorance and the Gender Binary: Resisting Complex Epistemologies of Sex and Testosterone
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A key project for feminist scholars aligned with Science and Technology Studies (STS) has been to critically examine how researchers produce knowledge about sexed bodies in ways that impose binary categories onto a far more complex and indeterminate reality. In this chapter, I ask: how is it that institutional actors are able to ignore the now large body of evidence demonstrating that sex is dynamic, non-binary, and entangled with gender? In order to answer this question, I examine the regulation of women with high levels of naturally occurring testosterone in international track-and-field. Drawing on interviews with 62 stakeholders, including athletes, coaches, managers, media personnel, and officials, I examine how this elite community protected their existing epistemic investments when a high-profile international court case called into question the exclusion of women athletes with high testosterone. Proposing a framework of ignorance as an institutional process, I identify the strategies and structural arrangements that allowed stakeholders to turn away from and ignore claims that threaten their commitment to binary sex. I suggest that attention to these dynamics can aid the feminist cause of challenging the institutional marginalization of more complex representations of sex and gender.
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