It sickens me that instead of Gabby Douglas’s historic All Around win trending on the internet, her hair is taking center stage and clouding this moment not just for her but for us as a nation. Can you imagine the excitement of this young girl just making history and wanting to see her name pop up all over Google and the cover of magazines, to instead find that her incredible triumph was trending in SECOND place to her hair style?
Just thinking about her fresh, shining face scrolling through the comments about her appearance breaks my heart.
Then we turn to Leisel Jones the Australian swimmer who has been the topic of conversation in her country not because of her 8 OLYMPIC MEDALS, but because according the Australian-based newspaper the Herald Sun “she doesn’t look as fit as she did in Beijing” and if that wasn’t enough, they asked readers to take a poll to give their opinion on if she was “fit enough to swim in 2012”. I guess qualifying through countless swims to make the Australian team wasn’t enough. It’s not important enough to be a world class swimmer but she should look like a swimsuit model as well.
Then there is the curious case of Lo Lo Jones who was once the media’s “darling” and now they’ve turned on her essentially calling her a “media whore” for trying to promote her brand and be a world class athlete. So, instead of letting the media control her rise and fall she decided to take control of her message and promote her own brand, that doesn’t make her a whore it makes her savvy. Track and field isn’t like basketball or baseball where there are teams around the world where she can play and make money. Track, gymnastics and even swimming have a very finite windows for athletes to gain success. Either you strike while the iron is hot or you’ll be taking your Olympic medal with you to your cubicle.
Women, especially women of color have to work harder, jump higher, and attain more than their male counterparts to have half the recognition. Then when they do achieve greatness, instead of celebrating them for their extraordinary ability we wonder aloud on “news outlets” and take internet polls on their femininity and physical appearance.
I wish that like Kanye West rhymed in Ni**as in Paris that the media was “suffering from realness”, but it’s quite the opposite.
Instead of celebrating these international treasures for the incredible grace and ferocity with which they compete win or lose, they choose to dismember their brilliance and break them down into parts—hair, body weight, attractiveness.
As India Arie once crooned “I am not my hair” and I will add to that. Women are MORE than their physical appearance. We are Olympians, Heads of State, Astronauts, CEOs, Mothers, and Daughters…we deserve respect not just because it’s right but because we’ve earned it!