Commentary: There's More to Gabby Douglas Than Her Hair

A response to the criticisms over the Olympian's 'do.

Posted: 08/02/2012 12:29 PM EDT
Gabby Douglas

Imagine being 16 years old and finally achieving a lifelong dream of not only participating in the Olympics, but actually winning a gold medal for your years of hard work and sacrifices. Now imagine that, while you're standing on that podium beaming with pride, the rest of the world is going on about your hair instead of your accomplishments. What have we become?

Gabrielle Douglas, also known as the "Flying Squirrel," helped her "Fierce Five" U.S. women's gymnastics team land the gold medal this week (for the first time since 1996 no less) and most recently took home her individual gold medal in the women's gymnastics all-around competition, but some have taken to critiquing her hair over Twitter. Rather than commend the teen on her spectacular efforts on the floor, they've been more interested in her "unkempt" hair. 

"In Olympic news, why hasn't anyone tried to fix Gabby Douglas' hair?" @EbonyKeira tweeted while @misDOScentavos wrote, "on another note, gabby douglas gotta do something with this hair! these clips and this brown gel residue aint it!" Some have said that Gabby shouldn't even be shown on camera or commercials until she gets her hair done and can properly represent the Black community.

Sorry this isn't a Hollywood movie where the leading actress can fight off the bad guys and land on her feet with nary a hair out of place. It's an athletic competition; breaking an actual sweat is involved. So if the girl needs a little gel, some hair ties and a few clips to tame those flyaways (and not lose points for keeping her hair in check during her routine) while flipping through the air for the U.S., then by all means make it work, Gabby.

Luckily, those critics have been met with a slew of supporters who do have their heads on straight and have figured out where true merits lie.

“The last time I checked when you play a sport, you sweat. I know I do,” Monisha Randolph wrote on Sporty Afros. “And when a Black woman who has chosen to wear her hair straight begins to sweat, her hair will (not might) begin to revert back to its natural coily, curly, or kinky state. Does Gabby need to stop every five minutes to check her hair? No. When one experiences back-to-back intense workouts, that person learns what works best on their hair.”

And Gabby's Twitter fans have fired back with their own comments. "If you want to ride Gabby Douglas for her hair, you should be open to her coming over to critique your muscle tone," @AmandaMarcotte retorted.

This obsession with keeping our hair well maintained is probably the reason some women refuse to take part in athletic activities (swimming, anyone?) and help keep the rest of our body looking just as good. But here's an idea: instead of getting wrapped up in the superficial, how about supporting each other and then applauding each other's successes instead? Perhaps then we'd find more of our faces proudly standing on top of podiums and clutching medals.


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