Gabby Douglas, at the tender age of 16, has become the first African-American all-around gymnastics gold medalist for the United States of America. Gabby, with the smile that lit up the arena in London like the candles lit up the sky during the opening ceremonies, has done her momma proud. She has done her family proud, and man oh man, has she done her country proud. And what are many people focusing on?
Her hair! That’s right, her hair. This article in the Huffington Post is just one of many that illustrate the various comments that are taking the internet by storm. Never mind that her hair was done in a beautiful bun like the majority of the gymnasts, for the practical reason of keeping her hair out of her face. We should all be taken aback that we as a country have become so shallow that we would focus on something so superficial.
Haven’t we learned yet that what’s put on the internet is out there for the world to see? What must they think? As I watched the medal ceremony and listened to our national anthem, I couldn’t help but swell with pride. Our country had taken another gold medal. Yet I also felt a sense of shock at the reaction to this amazing young woman as I listened to her humble speech. Twitter, Facebook and various blogs were awash with statements about how something needed to be done about her hair.
To these silly nitpickers I want you to do something. Please look at the staggering statistics on young women cutting themselves. Look at the hundreds of thousands of teen girls suffering from depression, anorexia and bulimia. These are serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions brought on, in part, by the inordinate amount of attention given to not our accomplishments, but on how we look. A heavy burden is placed upon young women to fit in. And the said part is that the “it” look can change as quickly as the next hot video girl, but these young ladies are expected to keep up with and master that elusive “look”.
You can walk into any strip, or shall I say gentleman’s club, and see women working the pole with nary a hair out-of-place. So what? It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside. Gabby should be commended for what she is doing with her life. And I won’t go into a long speech about sexism except to say that women face unfair pressure when it comes to their looks. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear one word about Micheal Phelps’ haircut and how he might have chosen a different style. All attention, as it should have been, was focused on his victory. Women deserve the same respect.
One last thought I’d like to leave with those so quick to criticize this Olympic champion’s hairdo. Gabby Douglas poured her heart out in her performances on the beam, uneven bars, and floor exercises to represent her team and her country to the best of her ability. Her effort would have been enough, but the icing on the cake were the team and individual gold medals. Think before you speak, tweet, or write dear friends. Because sooner or later the hoopla will die down and she will relax and have time to read the articles. Perhaps on a rainy day, she and her mother will sit down over a cup of tea to put together a scrapbook of memories. Let us hope that what she reads will not wipe away her beaming smile. I was moved as I watched her eyes begin to water during the medal ceremony. But those were her tears of joy. Shame on anyone who later causes her tears of sadness.
To Gabby Douglas, the entire United States gymnast team, all of their parents and coaches, I salute you. We are so very proud of you and may you continue to fulfill your dreams. Thanks for the spectacular athletic feats that thrilled our hearts and thank you for bringing home the gold. God Bless you and God Bless America.
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