A piece by Rosamund Urwin in the latest Sunday Times:
He has become an unlikely feminist icon: the weightlifting hip-hop artist and Oxford graduate who set out to demonstrate that athletes who are genetically male should not be competing alongside women.
The rapper, whose stage name is Zuby, was filmed last week smashing the British women’s deadlift record, in which the weights are raised from the ground to thigh level, while he said he was “identifying as a woman”. The video has had almost 1m views on Twitter.
The 32-year-old later beat the UK women’s bench press record too, joking that his work was “strong, stunning and brave”.
It comes amid a debate about the participation of transgender athletes in sport.
Critics including the tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who is a long-term campaigner for LGBT rights, have argued that it is unfair if athletes who were born male are able simply to self-identify as women to compete in female events.
Yesterday the former swimmer Sharron Davies told the BBC many female athletes felt the same way, adding: “It is not a transphobic thing . . . there needs to be a fair and level playing field.”
Others, including some feminists, have responded that this view is rooted in prejudice and that athletes always have advantages over one another whether it is height or hormones.
Zuby, who is from Southampton and describes himself as a “recreational lifter” who has trained for about 15 years, said his video had “struck a nerve”.
He said: “It was done in a humorous way, but it made it more real: it showed the fallacies of the arguments on the other side.
“I have seen people saying there is no inherent biological strength difference between men and women. I posted it being a bit tongue-in-cheek, showing what I think is the obvious absurdity of their argument.”
He added: “I said four or five years ago that you are going to start having biological males competing against women [in sporting events]. People thought I was being alarmist.”
Navratilova faced a backlash over her comments. However, Zuby said the reaction to his video had been “98% positive”.
“There was a small number of people who tried to make out that I had evil intent,” he said. “Among my trans followers, most agreed. Some said to me, ‘This thing is clearly silly.’ ”
Zuby may now have haemorrhaged some of his feminist support, after tweeting on Friday: “Some will consider this a backwards, tyrannical, patriarchal notion — but in the vast majority of cases, it makes more sense for the mother to do the majority of infant rearing.”
Weights and measures
● Americans charmlessly call it being “chicked”: being beaten by a woman at sport. It is relatively rare because men tend to have higher muscle mass and less body fat than women.
● The British power-lifting record (83kg division) is 342.5kg for men and 238kg for women.
● The 100m world record for men, held by Usain Bolt, is 9.58 seconds, compared with women’s 10.49 seconds set by Florence Griffith-Joyner.
● Ultra-distance, open water swimming is one of the few sports where women regularly outperform men, with one theory being that they are better at burning body fat over longer distances.
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