Gender Ethics

Gender Ethics

There are many practices that the human species carries out on a daily basis. These activities range from political, economic as well as social activities. These aspects have brought about the necessity of embracing different ethics, in ensuring that all human activities are well accounted for. These ethics also seek to ensure that the human population coexists peacefully with each other in relation with these aspects. When it comes to gender, there are also different ethical aspects that are installed in our lives on a daily basis. To understanding this concept better, we will look at the utilitarian ethical theory. We will also identify the strengths and weaknesses of this theory, and also look at its application in the topic of gender.

In definition, the utilitarian theory, or as infamously known as the utilitarianism concept is a normative ethics theory, which cites that the right course of action, can be both directly and indirectly responsible for utility maximization (Mill, 2011). In other concepts definition, it can be viewed as reducing suffering through maximizing happiness. Therefore, it can be said to be a theory that mainly focuses on the outcome of a situation more so if it is of a happy nature, regardless of the choices one had to make to achieve it (Mill, 2011). In gender ethics, I feel that the issue of utilitarian exists more so in the world of sport. This is more so when it comes to the process of gender verification of female athletes. This is where the world and also sports governing bodies prevent women with male characteristics from competing, sometimes even stripping them off their medals after they had won in the eyes of the public. I feel the utilitarian theory applies in this concept especially in cases where an athlete is stripped her glory because such an act only maximizes on suffering while taking away all the happiness of an athlete. The ones who stand to gain are other female athletes who may have been disadvantaged when an intersex wins.

The most affected gender in this issue is intersexes, or women who have tend to male characteristics. Some have been banned from taking part in sports as women, only being left with the option of competing with the male gender. As of now, we have not seen a woman who has been banned from participating from female sports going to participate in the male side after a sex verification test. Sex or gender verification can be defined as the process of determining the eligibility of a person to participate in an event that has been limited to one gender only (Trew & Kremer, 2008). This test was adopted by sport bodies after there were outcries from women that there were men who were participating in female events so that they could win. These complains were later adopted for intersexes competing as women, for they seemed to have an unfair advantage in winning especially in most Olympic races (Ingle & Sutera, 2013). This made the Olympics governing body, together with other sports seeking scientific point of view. When scientist did research especially on women who seemed to have intersexes characteristics, it was indeed found out that they inhibited an unfair advantage.

This meant that they could win any race with much more comfort and ease as compared to other women who had pure female gender genetics (Ingle & Sutera, 2013).  Instead of shaming these women just to maximize on the happiness of other athletes, I feel we should be looking at means of ensuring intersexes personnel are discovered before they take part in a single sex race. This is because, I feel that sometimes it is unfair to let these people participate in an event only to strip them of their rewards after the public or the other competitors starts question their gender. This is a situation that has happened more than once under our sports bodies’ watch. It is very disheartening and heart breaking after an athlete, especially an intersex one, does all the preparations and invests on their becoming champion only to be stripped of their achievements after so much hard work (Trew & Kremer, 1998).  A good case example was what happened to a South African, Caster Semenya in 2009. Semenya won the 800 meters race in the world athletics championship in Berlin in a time of 1minute and 55.45 seconds (Ingle & Sutera, 2013). She got banned from ever again taking part in any women event, more so in the world of athletics.

Under the utilitarian theory which focuses of maximizing on happiness, this would have happened because if sports agents had done gender verification, then they would have saved her the embarrassment. This would have maximized on her happiness while at the same time curbing the suffering and the embarrassment that awaited her. The utilitarian theory has many strengths. They include; it recognizes the role played by pleasure and pain in human life, it also equates the both of them and asserts that they can be quantified; it also approves or disapproves any action depending on the consequences (Mill, 2011). In the above concepts, I feel that it would be in everyone’s’ interest not to embarrass women who may have male characteristics in the eyes of the public, more so because it was not their fault they were born with these genes.

When it comes to the weaknesses, analysts argue that since the utilitarian theory seems to promote “the end justifies the means” concept, then people could use it to justify their immoral behaviors in the society (Mill, 2011). These analysts also argue that utilitarian theory could lead to one making unjust rulings in the society; just because they please the majority, without caring what the minorities think. Sports bodies justify stripping of intersexes their medals, or banning them from competing just to please the other competitors without caring of the psychological and mental effects they install on them. Why not do their gender verification before they compete?

In conclusion, the utilitarian theory means to maximize happiness by reducing suffering (Mill, 2011). This theory has been an issue that has even rocked sensitive issues like gender ethics. However, we have to be sensitive too when dealing with it, more bearing in mind that it has some serious weaknesses. Looking at the above concept, on the issue of gender verification, it is evident that we cannot justify our actions by their achievements. Gender verification tests and stripping, or banning an athlete from ever competing on the grounds of their sex characteristics is not justifiable. This is more so in the eyes of the public, after they have won their medals even if other athletes were at a disadvantage. Therefore, from the above concept, I feel that the utility theory is a rather sensitive issue and it should be approached with extreme analysis before application.


Ingle, Z., & Sutera, D. M. (2013). Gender and genre in sports documentaries: Critical essays. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Mill, J. S. (2011). Utilitarianism. Luton: Andrews UK.

Trew, K. J., & Kremer, J. (1998). Gender and psychology. London: Arnold.