You see the girl in the photo above? That graceful, beautiful, powerhouse gymnast? That’s Gabby Douglas; she won a gold medal last night at the London Olympics. But while watching her amazing performance last night, there are a lot of people out there who weren’t focused on her form or her discipline or her undeniable talent–they were focused on her hair.
There’s no doubt that hair is a hot-button issue within the black community. But let me speak from experience here: If you are a woman of color with relaxed hair, you are still going to sweat like everyone else when you work out. This is fairly obvious. And with that sweat, your hair is not going to remain perfectly coifed. This is true if you’re just running on a treadmill or doing jumping jacks in your living room; I imagine it’s true tenfold if you are going through the regular, intense workouts it takes to get you to an Olympic gold medal.
Luckily, with the hair-haters come to hair-defenders, and Dodai Stewart of Jezebel phrased it beautifully:
For an athlete, the best hairstyle is the kind that lets you accomplish your goals. Even if she never won anything, her life is about her strength, flexibility and tumbling ability — not to mention dedication and focus. What’s in her head, not what grows out of it. But since Gabby Douglas’s hair did not stand in the way of a gold medal, it should be a non-issue.
As Monisha Randolph of Sporty Afros pointed out, “this is not America’s Next Top Model we’re watching.” Gabby Douglas was also the only woman on the American gymnastics team to compete on all four apparatuses.
Here’s the thing, though: We are never, ever going to achieve equality of the sexes if we keep our focus where it is. If we keep focusing on a woman’s pantsuits or her hair as opposed to her politics or her gymnastics, we will not get very far.
This is all made all the more frustrating by the fact that her hair looks perfectly fine. But that is irrelevant, because just look at what she can do:
And just look at her with that gold medal:
(Photo via The Grio)