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Sport has a long and problematic history of policing women athletes' bodies. Category: Woman focuses on four women athletes from the Global South who are required to undergo medical intervention to compete in their sport, despite being in perfect health, and explores what happens when sexism and racism collide.


When 18-year-old South African runner Caster Semenya burst onto the world stage in 2009, her championship was not celebrated, but instead launched a series of increasingly invasive public attacks, exposing her personal medical records via the international media, and stirring relentless debates on her “legitimacy” as an athlete and as a woman. Using women's naturally varying androgen levels to evaluate their performance advantages, the sporting institution World Athletics create new rules declaring certain female athletes must medically alter their healthy bodies to compete in their sport. Category: Woman focuses on four athletes from the Global South who are targeted and forced out of competition by these regulations, and explores the devastation both to their bodies and their private lives. Filmmaker and former Olympian Phyllis Ellis exposes an industry controlled by men that puts women’s lives at risk and raises issues of racism, sexism, and the right to determine another persons’ biological sex.

"Category: Woman delicately portrays the athletes featured in it on their own terms. Given the incredible complexity of accessing the athletes for interviews, it is unlikely a film like this will come around for another decade at least."
- Kyle Knight, Senior Researcher, Health and LGBT Rights, Human Rights Watch


“I was inspired and deeply affected by this story far beyond that of a filmmaker. I had experienced many challenges as an Olympian and as a woman in high performance sport, but I may have collapsed under the pressure these phenomenal athletes have endured. The devastation to their bodies, and their lives, but equally arresting was their passion and joy for sport, the dedication to their communities, families, and country.”
- Phyllis Ellis, Director, Category: Woman


Phyllis Ellis


Independent filmmaker Phyllis Ellis (she/her) is from Canada and has worked in Europe, Asia, Africa, India and the U.S. for the past thirty-five years as a filmmaker, writer, actor and producer. Her work addresses themes of justice, truth, transformation, and human rights.  Nominated for the 2021 International Emmy’s, and winner of Best Direction and Best Writing at the Canadian Screen Awards (CSA), her feature documentary Toxic Beauty has been viewed by over 44 million people worldwide. Her film, About Her won the prestigious Donald Brittain award at the Canadian Screen Awards (CSA’s) for Best Social Political Documentary Film and Girl’s Night Out, nominated for best direction.  Phyllis has won 6 CSA’s and nominated for best direction for her work in documentary film, series, writing and performance.  She is very proud to present Category: Woman, her most meaningful film so far. An Olympian, Phyllis is dedicated to telling stories empowering women’s voices around the world.

Cheryl Staurulakis


Cheryl Staurulakis (she/her) is the co-founder of Orama Filmworks. She is the Executive Producer of the Emmy nominated documentary Toxic Beauty which premiered at Hot Docs 2019. Cheryl was also the Outreach/Impact Producer for the award-winning documentary Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic narrated by Vanessa Williams and Executive Producer of Lady Ganga: Nilza's Story. Her goal is to bring the works of talented writers and directors to an audience with her producing skills and knowledge and to support the production and distribution of films that educate the public and raise awareness about important world and domestic health, cultural, historic and social issues.

Howard Fraiberg


Howard Fraiberg (he/him) is the founder of Proximity Films, a Toronto-based producer of social issue feature documentaries. Since 2003, he has produced content across all platforms in both English and French. Recent feature documentary credits include Category: Woman (2022) and Stand Up Toronto (2017). Other credits include Co-Producer of The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution (2018), which was the opening night film at Hot Docs 2018 and as Executive Producer for the CBC documentary Hockey Mom (2020).