African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Twitter as barometer of public opinion on the female athlete: The case of Caster Semenya

Engela van der Klashorst, Simona Safarikova


Twitter is a social platform that has become well-known for the controversial opinions posted by politicians and celebrities. Caster Semenya became an overnight topic on Twitter with an overwhelming number of people posting opinions about whether she is male or female, and how that affects her participation in international athletics. This research utilised the gender controversy around Caster Semenya to explore how Twitter can be used as a barometer of public perceptions of the female athlete in sport. Thematic analysis of Tweets around the Caster Semenya controversy did not only illustrate a deep divide in public opinion on the female athlete but also highlighted an often hidden, racial classification. It concludes, however, that even though perceptions are still influenced by entrenched cultural beliefs, gender stereotypes are being questioned.

Keywords: Caster Semenya, female athlete, Twitter, social media

AJOL African Journals Online