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Women's sport

Whatever happened to feminism?

Lia Thomas: smashing the competition. Mike Comer/NCAA Photos/Getty

Every so often, a fashionable cause “pushes its luck too far”, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. That’s exactly what happened last week, when the trans athlete Lia Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle swimming race at the US national college championships. “Impossibly long of leg, lengthy of torso, flattish of chest,” Thomas looks very much like a “strapping young male” – which, of course, she was, until she started taking oestrogen and progesterone supplements a couple of years ago. Before that, she competed in men’s events for the University of Pennsylvania “with no particular distinction” – in one discipline she was ranked a lowly 554th. But now that she’s up against women, who didn’t benefit from the “huge skeletal and cardiovascular advantage a human being gets from going through male puberty”, she is smashing the competition.

How is this fair on the other women? “Why are we even obliged to pretend that there are two sides to this argument?” Seeing a “mediocre man rewarded for being less talented than his female colleagues” is nothing new, of course. “It’s kind of why feminism was invented.” Alas, after decades of progress, women’s rights have suddenly been deemed “secondary” to those of men who decide to become women. Indeed, “this whole debate is skewed towards the male”. If it were trans men shattering men’s world records, you can bet there’d be “a lot more anger and resistance”. Pointing any of this out is always immediately decried as “bigoted”. But it’s just common sense. “This insanity has to end.”