You know women have been fighting for their rights for some time. The right to be respected. The right to paid fairly. Even the right to vote. The right to have a choice in what happens to her body. Yet, despite all the victories women have achieved in the process of “Re-Branding” the image of women around the world there are still places where women are seen as less than second class citizens. Even in a world class champion runner like Shanti Sounderajan can be destroyed if she doesn’t measure up to the some archaic standard of what some in the world think a woman should be.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I laid on my bed watching “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” last week as women who couldn’t compete with Shanti hid in cloak of dark room and told reporters that this world class runner had to be a man. She couldn’t possible be this talented. She couldn’t possibly be this strong. One woman said “She’s not married and she has no children.” Can you think about how many strong women athletes are unmarried and without children. The answer is thousands upon thousands. Competing for a living is demanding. And motherhood will definitely trump competition when a woman is ready to have a family.
Shanti was publically humiliated by the Indian Olympic Association, with a test stating she was not genetically a women. She has abnormal levels of testosterone in her system which they believe gave a her a competitive advantage over other female competitors. Shanti is a little woman and weighs 141 pounds. She is small compared to many of the other athletes she competes against who have longer legs and she has lost to other female athletes as well. So why Shanti?
She’s a woman from an underprivileged area in India who worked her way to the top. She became a runner because her mother told her to “Run to school everyday to cut down the time of her walk” and she kept running until she was in the Olympics. There are still some in the world that don’t want the world to hear about a woman with that type of brand story.
Think about how many endorsement deals she has lost because of this outrageous declaration against her womanhood. How kids and families she could have helped where she is from with her star power a sports spokesperson who had voice on national stage? Until she was allowed to compete again in 2010 she worked as a bricklayer in the village where she is from. Shanti may have suffered because of test but her suffering didn’t go unnoticed because she and others who have been branded “Men” to disqualify their talents have paved the way for new legislation and testing in sports.