Category: Woman

Phyllis Ellis

Who decides when a human body is ‘normal’? The athletics federation bans women with higher natural testosterone levels from competing unless they medically alter their bodies. Examples of athletes from Asia and Africa show that this can have devastating consequences. Phyllis Ellis (Toxic Beauty) exposes an industry controlled by men putting women’s lives at risk. 
Female athletes who excel at their sport have always been met with suspicion. For decades women at international sports events have had to undergo ‘sex tests’. In the 1960s, athletes had to parade nude in front of gynaecologists to be scrutinized. When 18-year-old South African runner Caster Semenya burst onto the world stage in 2009, her championship was devalued when her gender was thrown into doubt.  
As a result of Semenya’s success, the highest athletics federation banned women with higher testosterone levels from competing – unless they undergo irreversible surgeries or hormone therapy. Following four athletes from India, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, Category: Woman lays bare how sexism and racism in sports destroys women’s most fundamental rights – simply for the way they were born. 

Category: Woman has been part of the Activist competition 2023, with Payoshni Mitra present as a special guest of the festival. 


Phyllis Ellis
Howard Fraiberg
Country of production
76 minutes
Spoken language
English, Hindi, Swahili
World Sales
Espresso Media