Hair on stage

I know I’m late to the party, but I was busy with other matters last week. However, the issue of Gabby Douglas’s hair didn’t escape my attention. This 16 year African American girl was the first one to win a gold medal in her sport, yet a number of people on Twitter and Facebook felt that her hair (and how they found it lacking) was more important than her accomplishment.

Disgusting. And yet given how black people and women are generally socialized and regarded in our society, those people’s ignorant and shallow comments really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Women are generally valued more for our appearance than for our accomplishments and intelligence. And a black person competing in what is considered a “white” sport and doing well in it threatens certain people, because Gabby’s success will undoubtedly inspire other girls of color to enter the sport and certain people fear that those “niggers and spics” will eventually take over and dominate it, shattering the belief that only whites can excel at it. It’s happened in other sports before(baseball and basketball are two of the biggest examples) so don’t think it can’t very well happen here.

As far as Gabby’s hair is concerned, it’s worn in a slicked back ponytail that is the standard in her sport. Does anyone honestly think that anyone’s hair can remain neat and in place when doing backflips and swinging on high beams? Seriously? That Gabby had to be subjected to the pressure of having to look perfect and sleek when she is an ATHLETE is totally ridiculous. Why it was even an issue is indicative of the virulent racism and sexism that is pervasive in our society. Are men, even black ones, subjected to as much scrutiny about how their hair looks or how thin they are, whether they are athletes or regular Joes?  Hell to the no. However since girls and women are generally valued more for what they look like on the outside and not for what they are on the inside, it can lead a fair number of them to do drastic things to change their appearance in order to fit our society’s BS narrow standards of beauty, things that their bodies were never meant to tolerate. Things like slapping caustic chemicals on their heads to straighten their hair because their God given curly or kinky hair are regarded as ugly and bad. Like getting Botox. Or even something as extreme as starving themselves so they can fit our society’s ideal feminine shape as something akin to a concentration camp victim. Unless we expand our standard of beauty, the pressure and desire for girls and women to fit into our narrow one will continue. And it’s a sad thought.

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