comScore
  1. Mediaite
  2. Gossip Cop
  3. Geekosystem
  4. Styleite
  5. SportsGrid
  6. The Mary Sue
  7. The Maude
  8. The Braiser

What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

We Can't Have Nice Things

People Upset About the Appearance of Olympic Athletes, Set Straight by the Athletes Themselves


Last week we posted about our rage over the utterly ridiculous (and unfounded) complaints circulating the web over Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas‘ hair. As we wrote it we were kind of secretly hoping that we were blowing it out of proportion, that it was a small enough story that it would never get back to Douglas herself. No such luck. Douglas has most certainly heard about the unflattering attention her hair has been getting by some–she is, after all, a teenager of note, and has thus googled herself–and she’s responded in kind. Click through the jump to see what she has to say, along with some other Olympic athletes who have been receiving some less-than-flattering attention based on their appearance.

Lucky for every sane person out there following this story, Gabby Douglas is a class act, and one with a pretty good head on her shoulders considering how young she is. Her main reaction to all this hoopla over something as irrelevant and silly seems to involve a lot of confusion and derision. She likes how she looks perfectly fine, thank you very much, as well she should. There’s also the fact that the state of her hair is completely irrelevant to the utterly astonishing things she just did:

“I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair? I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about (my) hair…”

“Nothing is going to change,” she said. “I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.”

“I don’t think people should be worried about that,” she said. “We’re all champions and we’re all winners. I just say that it’s kind of, a stupid and crazy thought to think about my hair.”

We already ranted to the people doing the complaining in our last post, and Gabby herself said the rest pretty well, so we’ll move on to our next great Olympian: American weightlifter Holley Mangold, who has been called out by critics for being fat. At 346 pounds, Mangold is certainly the heaviest woman in the Olympics, but so what? She’s proud of it, so why should you care?

She spoke out on the matter:

“Between my team mate (Sarah Robles) and I, I think we both showed you can be athletic at any size…I’m not saying everyone is an athlete but I am saying an athlete can come in any size.”

In the flurry of Olympic hype, it is inevitable–and great–that a lot of national and international attention is falling on these athletes. It is also inevitable, given the athletic nature of the events, that attention would fall on their bodies. Where this gets twisted, though, is when we as a public confuse the physical appearance of those bodies with what those bodies can do. These women are obviously extremely talented; they had to be to get this far. What should matter is that these athletes compete these events to the best of their abilities, not that they meet our world’s messed up beauty standards while they do it.

(via AP, Yahoo)

Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

TAGS: | | | | |


  • John Wao

    Haters gonna hate.

  • Anonymous

    We judge by looks, or at least the media does.  So there will ever be snippy comments from people ill-able to comment on their actual feats.

    But I must say, she does look like she borrowed that suit from the jetpack guys at the opening ceremonies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that – she makes it look good.

    I haven’t bothered to look, but is there anyone suggesting that the comments about the hair may just be…let’s call them proxy comments for what some might really want to say?

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    From that picture, her hair is fine.

  • Justin Henry

    Looking at the tweets from the first article, I don’t see what the fuss is about.  It’s just a bunch of people talking about how they don’t like how her hair looks.  There’s no degradation of the fact that she is an Olympic athlete, or that she won a gold medal.  She’s in the public eye, and is therefore subject to criticism.  Are people not allowed to have opinions about hairstyles?
    It’s exactly this type of pandering that is creating “soft” kids today.  I remember getting hateful, hurtful things said to and about me when I was a kid.  If there was someone standing there defending me every time that happened, I’d be much less of the person I am today (good or bad) because of it.  And based on this article, it seems like she can handle this kind of criticism pretty well on her own.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OD35QQZNBPZJXWTCBY7N4EE7VY Sarah

    I’m sorry you were bullied. That sucks. Kids shouldn’t have to go through that.

  • mildred louis

    In the Black Community, hair is a big thing. Making fun of and/or criticizing someone for how their hair looks is perceived as a pretty grave insult. There’s a massive struggle over the perception of what “Good” hair is and what “Bad” Hair is, and this is a very intense example of that issue. 

    The uproar and the upset isn’t that she can’t handle it. It’s the fact that this is an issue to begin with. As someone who’s personally had to deal with this flack (not just from other blacks from family members as well), it’s irritating that this is a problem. Albeit, the flack I’ve received was from something different and was due to my transitioning to natural hair styles, it’s still terribly terribly disgusting to see how people can still belittle something so amazing and make it about something so inconsequential as hair.

  • Justin Henry

    “It’s the fact that this is an issue to begin with.”

    That’s my point – I don’t even see it as an issue.  I appreciate your explanation; it gives a lot more context for a pretty “sheltered” caucasian like me :)

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    This reminds me of what one of my teachers said during Black History Month, or a similar time. She said she had gotten a lot of of flack during job interviews due to her hair.

    One problem is that hair is often used has a fashion statement, so a lot of presumptions are tacked on.

  • mildred louis

    Well, in that same line of breath, what does that say about our perception of blacks of their hair is something to attach such an intense stigma to? It’s interesting, honestly, because I only receive a negative response from people who are black. All of my employers so far have been fond of my hair which I regularly sport in either a full out afro or an afro puff or any variation in between. 

    In the stance of Gabby, what presumptions are to be made on the way she wears her hair? There’s so many clear internalized stigmas in the situation that it’s alarming (not directed you, btw, this is about the people who are making a deal about it).

  • Anonymous

    My other question is, when is the last time you were watching, Idk, Men’s Olympic Vollyball, and someone said, “That was a great spike, but what is UP with his hair?”  These are Olympic Athletes, not beauty queens.  We should be focusing on their prowess, not their hairstyle or whether we think they’re attractive.

  • mildred louis

    Any time!

  • mildred louis

    It’s the Olympics. Who the hell watches it to catch the latest trends on hair styles? Her hair style is appropriate and put in a style that is convenient for what she’s doing. Hair is likely to get disheveled when you’re being that active so why is the commentary at all appropriate or even needed?

  • Justin Henry

    Not that it’s relevant, but I don’t watch the Olympics.  However, I didn’t see anything degrading her athletic ability (see my original post or go check out the screenshots from the original article).  The same argument could be said for actors/actresses.  They’re CONSTANTLY bombarded with equally unwarranted criticism, but we don’t make as big a deal of that.  Why?

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I was watching men’s gymnastics qualifiers with a bunch of male friends, and many of them said “why do all the German gymnasts have the same stupid haircut?”

  • mildred louis

    With this (not to fully justify it because so much of it is so harsh and necessary) the difference is that Actors/Actresses are making a good amount of their money off of how they look. That’s a lot of what they’re selling. They’re selling their hair, they’re selling their skin, their selling their looks because this is also how they end up getting other money from places that aren’t just from making film. Hollywood is exceptionally vain. But this is something that many actors/actresses/celebrities sign themselves up for.

     The sports field, however, is less concerned about how you look (since no matter how good you go in looking, you’re going to sweat and messy yourself by the end of it), and far more concerned with how you perform.

  • mildred louis

    I feel like there’s a punchline in this somewhere. Albeit probably terribly inappropriate, but still.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting… I just had this same discussion with a group of friends about NASA’s mohawk guy. Some people thought it was “inappropriate” for him to not have a more business-like appearance. I maintain that if you can safely land a rover on a different planet after a 352 million mile journey, you can have whatever hairstyle you want. I would say that the same goes for Olympic competitors- if you are that good at what you do, by all means just DO it and don’t worry about these petty little details. 

  • Anonymous

    Personally, when I first saw Gabby,  I thought she was absolutely stunning, hair and all. Few people look good with their hair pulled straight back like that, but in her case I think it really accentuates her soft facial features. She’s a beautiful girl, inside and out, and I’m proud that she’s represented the U.S. so well.

  • http://twitter.com/RockShrimp Willow

    Pfft. Seriously. I have fairly conservative clients and my hair changes colors every few months. My boss thinks it’s awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/RockShrimp Willow
  • http://www.facebook.com/missriss319 Marissa Del Valle

    I’m Laughing right now because ummmmm what is wrong with her hair?? Is it some ridiculous shade of pink?? No….is it messy and unkempt??? uhh no…..its pulled back out of her face in a pony for athletic nonsweaty purposes….maybe I’m missing something here but WHAT IS WRONG WITH HE HAIR?? LOL no seriously…..somebody tell me….was there a night I missed where she came out looking like Don King?? because if they are talkng about the pony in the pic above im reeeaallllly confused @#%&*!

  • Anonymous

    Zoe Smith, British weightlifter, had an awesome response after criticism:
     ”The obvious choice of slander when talking about female weightlifting is “how unfeminine, girls shouldn’t be strong or have muscles, this is wrong”. And maybe they’re right… in the Victorian era. To think people still think like this is laughable, we’re in 2012!…
    As [fellow weightlifter] Hannah [Powell] pointed out earlier, we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence.
    Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in
    themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.”

  • Shauni Farella

     Prior to the olympics, Rebecca Adlington ( a four time medal winner, two gold) decided to quit twitter because she was tired of abusive tweets criticising her apearance. A british female weightlifter had some delightful troll tell her she was ‘ugly, was a lesbian, looked like a man’ and she should ‘get back intot he kitchen and make her boyfriend a sandwich.’ she shut him down qwith a well observed note about how the feminine women he preferred must have been beating his door down to get to him…

  • dragonflower7

    What I think is interesting is that the majority of people whose posts were about her hair were black. WTF is with that?

  • dragonflower7

    Because it was a huge group of blacks belittling her … isn’t that as Uncle Tom as it gets? They chose to do shit with their lives, she does incredible things so the dog her. WTF kind of antiBlack behavior is this? It’s like all the bigot blacks that went and got their christian gay free fried chicken. WTF?!? Zionist Jews committing a holocaust against the Palestinian people makes about as much sense as this.

  • dragonflower7

    This kind of outrageous infighting must have been started by a slave Master back in the dark ages. Who gives a flying fig what anyone’s hair looks like?? She is 16 and the best in the world. They should be telling their kids to strive to be like her, not bitching about her hair.

  • dragonflower7

    This kind of outrageous infighting must have been started by a slave Master back in the dark ages. Who gives a flying fig what anyone’s hair looks like?? She is 16 and the best in the world. They should be telling their kids to strive to be like her, not bitching about her hair.

  • mildred louis

    No. It wasn’t started by a Slave Master. It was started by a society that has institutionalized racism. A society that glorified one group so highly, and today in some degree still does, while putting down an entire group. It’s all about trying to assimilate yourself as close to humanly possible to the ‘social ideal’ and those who do not are ostracized and belittled.

  • mildred louis

    What point is there to speculate about the lives of the people commenting on her? What purpose does it serve? I feel bad for these people more than anything – that they feel like they need to be governed by such a segregating mentality that it effects their perspective to this degree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/genabear Gena Bisher

    LOVE this!! Perfectly said…you too are a class act!! I plan on showing this to my niece who has very low self confidence!! Thank you & continue living your beautiful life, you’re a GREAT role model for young women!!! Thank you!! 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CIPKMOXHLA5KG34HMH55OXHCVM Angel H.

    Dear Mary Sue commenters:
     
    Please don’t talk about Black people like we aren’t here.
     
    Signed,
     
    A Black Woman
     
    OT: I’m glad to see that a lot of people are supporting Gabby, but it seems as though a lot of commenters here aren’t even comprehending what a big issue this is. Not the issue of how her hair looked, but the issue of why many people (mostly Black women) felt the need to comment on it. This isn’t the same old Haterade they’re drinking; it’s internalized racism built upon centuries of “Good Hair” (i.e. long, straight hair) vs. “Bad Hair” (i.e. nappy, kinky, thick hair). Saying “her hair is fine” is all well and good, but unless you recognize this for what it really is, those are just empty words.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CIPKMOXHLA5KG34HMH55OXHCVM Angel H.

    If the white slave owners didn’t do it, then where did this institutionalized racism come from? Surely, you’re not suggested that the slaves did it to themselves?

  • mildred louis

    … I think you missed where I said “A society”. It’s not JUST slave owners. If you know your history, you’d realize that a VERY small percentage of people in this country could even -afford- to have slaves. And not even just that but not EVERY slave owner was absolutely horribly and viciously violent. The problem was and still is -society-. You can only blame slave owners for -so long- while completely disregarding the responsibility of the many many many individuals who, despite not owning slaves, still discriminated against them heavily. 

  • mildred louis

    I don’t think it’s really fair to belittle people who see her hair for what it is – appropriate and acceptable for the task she’s taking on. If anything, that’s a GOOD thing that this is what they see. It shows that we are actually collectively capable of moving past these internal struggles to see the genuine value in a person and their capacity to perform well without fixating on something so inconsequential. 

  • Anonymous

    What Angel is trying to say is you do not have enough information to understand the issue. The women who posted about Gabby’s hair was based off of a set of beliefs about how to keep black hair groomed so it look a certain way. This way for the hair to look is all wrapped up in self hate, media’s negative portrayal of blacks in the US, and subtle racism. Yes some people can color their hair a different every day but be black with your hair natural and you will not have the job or the respect you work for.

    Dear Angel you are also missing information that has caused you to think people are talking in a rude manner by talking about an issue that you believe only belongs in the black community. Guess what the posters identify with Gabby as one of them accept it and get over your racists ways before they do more damage to your life and others lives.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CIPKMOXHLA5KG34HMH55OXHCVM Angel H.

    No, you said “It wasn’t started by slave owners”. Yes, it was *started* by them. If you knew *your* history, you would know that the current institution of racism is an effect of the slave trade. It didn’t just appear in mid-air.

  • Anonymous

    It’s all fake drama so we can distract ourselves from our low wages, increased work hours,the constant fear of losing what little we have as we live from paycheck to paycheck, the constant insulting of the working class by the GOP,  and the 2 shootings.

  • mildred louis

    Wait. I’m sorry what? I don’t have enough information to understand the issue? You do realize I’m black, right? Wait, no. No you don’t. Because you decided to jump in rather then read through the rest of the comments I’ve made. Especially considering how I’ve personally had to deal with this stigma myself, I think I have a pretty good understanding. Please do not assume that because I am not shoving my race down someone’s throat as a means of lording my opinion over others that I have no idea what I’m talking about.

  • mildred louis

    No. It was not started by a slave owner, honey. It was started by an entire society that decided to belittle an entire group of people and even decide, in the first place, to TURN into them into slaves. This is a problem that starts with an attitude, a thought, a feeling, a notion because RACISM is just that. It’s important to address and acknowledge the root of the problem then to just go and cast blame on a single individual. Institutionalized Racism is a problem that is inherent in the system. It is more than just about how people treat each other, it’s about how people SEE each other. 

    I never once tried to state that it appeared out of thin air. I very clearly stated:

    A society that glorified one group so highly, and today in some degree still does, while putting down an entire group. 

    Which by no means on any given level tries to even imply that it appears out of thin air. Please, try again.