Olympian and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Phyllis Ellis exposes harmful practice of “sex testing” in international sport

Premieres today—March 8, 2023, at 9 pm ET—to acknowledge International Women’s Day

Toronto, ON, March 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Learn about champion runners impacted by mandates from international sport-governing groups that require certain female athletes to medically alter their bodies to compete. Premiering today—Tuesday, March 8 at 9 pm ET—to recognize International Women’s Day, viewers can watch TVO Original Category: Women on TVO, TVO Today, YouTube and smart TV services. Watch a trailer now.

Award-winning filmmaker and Canadian Olympian, Phyllis Ellis (Toxic Beauty) delivers a damning exploration of “sex testing,” a deceptive and harmful practice that began with a ruling by International Amateur Athletics Federation (now World Athletics), which states that targeted women with naturally high androgen levels must medically alter themselves to compete. Sport-governing institutions imposing these rules are often dominated by men, and the practice negatively impacts thousands of female athletes, notably women of colour. 

Category: Woman profiles four champion runners from the Global South as they fight back against racism, the policing of women's bodies in sport and the violation of their human rights.

“The debate on this issue has raged with little to no consideration for its impact on the world-class athletes caught at the centre of the storm,” says John Ferri, VP of Programming and Content at TVO. “Category: Woman makes it painfully clear that there’s a lot more going on here than a simple effort to uphold the standards of fair play. This documentary is illuminating and infuriating in equal parts.”

“What is fair play, if it is not inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, human rights and bodily autonomy?” says filmmaker Phyllis Ellis. “We must take action and demand from the sporting world at all levels to end sexual, physical and psychological abuse, sex-testing and call out any form of misogyny, racism and discrimination.” 

When South African runner Caster Semenya burst onto the world stage in 2009, her impressive success was quickly marred by doubt. Her personal medical records were leaked to the international media, kicking off intense public scrutiny about her body, much of which was driven by racism and sexism. Ms. Semenya was only 18 years old at the time.

Category: Woman also profiles Ugandan champion Annet Negesa—who was the first female athlete in the world to speak publicly about an invasive, career-ending surgery that was encouraged by international sport officials. The documentary features footage that underscores the racism and misogyny that many high-performance female athletes have suffered due to these regulations. While forced out of competition, the athletes in Category: Woman highlight how their passion for sport has been emboldened by their conviction to stand up for human rights.

Watch TVO Original Category: Woman today on TVO at 9 pm ET (replaying on Sunday, March 12 at 10 pm ET) and stream it anytime afterwards on TVO Today, YouTube, smart TV services and the TVO Today Mobile app for iOS and Android. 

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Proximity Films is a Toronto-based production company specializing in social issue documentaries. Since 2001, we have been producing content for broadcast, web and corporate clients. Recent documentary credits include Stand Up Toronto (2017), The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution (2018) and Hockey Mom (2020). We also provide business affairs support for other documentary production companies. Services include funding applications, budget preparation, production accounting and tax credit calculations. proximityfilms.ca

TVO Media Education Group inspires learning that changes lives and enriches communities. Founded in 1970, we are a globally recognized digital learning organization that engages Ontarians of all ages with inclusive experiences and diverse perspectives. Through video, audio, games, courses, newsletters and articles, we’re investing in the transformative potential of education for everyone. Funded primarily by the Province of Ontario, TVO is a registered charity supported by thousands of sponsors and donors. For more information, visit TVO.me, TVO.org and TVOkids.com

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Sean Minogue, TVO


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