The Problem With Criticizing Gabby Douglas’s Hair

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles pose for a portrait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Studios on November 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Problem With Criticizing Gabby Douglas’s Hair

At 20, she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and people only want to talk about her ponytail.

Published August 10, 2016

In Rio, all eyes are on the USA women's gymnastics team right now, though sadly, for many on Twitter, the conversation has turned from perfect tuck jumps done with hair-raising height and history-making medals, to, well, hair. Particularly, Gabby Douglas's hair. Particularly, by those who have a big issue with the texture and grooming of her hair while she's on the world's stage. If you remember back to London in 2012, Douglas received a disproportionate amount of heat for her tresses, which is not only asinine, it’s irrelevant.

So, while the Olympic judges scrutinize Douglas, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles, among hundreds of others, for their athletic prowess, they're also under a microscope for how they look while performing gravity-defying leaps that they spent years perfecting. This introduces another problem entirely. So while the U.S. team in particular has been praised for their beauty risks this year, their desire to express themselves might truthfully act in opposition to their performance. Regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the official standards on conduct of international gymnastics, an athlete’s hair or makeup should not be part of the discussion.

We respect every woman’s right to chose if she is going to go for a full facebeat or play for team bareface but this unbalanced amount of scrutiny for the gymnastics team (who by the way, smoked the entire competition) is another example of sexist attitudes in sports and those particularly aimed at Black women.

Thankfully, Gabby and her teammates are finding support among more rational voices on social media:

Especially Lil Mama, who posted a makeup- and wig-free selfie video in defense of Douglas, while calling out Black women specifically:

As we watch these young women, who have trained for more hours per day than most of us are even awake, compete for national pride and personal victory over the next couple of weeks, let's remember how we would feel if we were subject to the same impossibly high aesthetic standards while doing our jobs.

Written by Evelyn Diaz

(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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