Critiques of hair are off-balance

The hair of U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas (second from right) has drawn nasty social-media posts.
The hair of U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas (second from right) has drawn nasty social-media posts.
Posted: August 03, 2012

Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas is adorable. The 16-year-old American is a muscular powerhouse - the only U.S. gymnast to perform in every event on the way to the team's first-place finish.

So I need all of y'all who are bad-mouthing Gabby's hair to stop it. Just stop it.

In her blog, "Sporty Afros: Where Hair and Sports Collide" ( www.sportyafros.com), Monisha Randolph railed against the black women who have been posting nasty comments on social media about the teen's ponytail.

You know, pleasantries like:

"She needs some gel and a brush."

"Someone needs to give her a hair intervention."

"She has to 'represent.' "

Come on, seriously?

I guess winning a gold isn't representing enough.

I'm glad Randolph called out these women who revel in tearing down their own. Last I checked, perfect hair didn't earn anyone a gold medal, let alone respect.

Wednesday's post was reblogged on the website Jezebel and retweeted.

"Why do some black women always feel they know what someone needs?" Randolph wrote. "I find it sad that I have seen more black women post criticizing comments about Gabby's hair than I have comments of praise about her athleticism or adding color to USA Gymnastics since Dominique Dawes."

That's the truth, Ruth.

Who really gives a balance beam that the hair closest to her scalp is fuzzy? (In my world that's sometimes called nappy edges.)

Gabby is an athlete. Her workouts are strenuous and nonstop. Yeah, she has to hold her hair back with a gang of clips. Of course her hairstyle gets a bit disheveled after she literally flies through the air. Show me a white woman's hair that wouldn't do the same thing.

It's these kinds of comments that stop some black women - who don't want to be laughed at when their hair reverts to its natural state - from going to the gym. So they end up caring more about keeping their relaxers tight than their bodies healthy.

Surprisingly, there has been a welcome backlash against this din of criticism that's getting louder and louder.

Not long ago, I was one of few black women jogging Kelly and West River drives. But these days, thanks to Black Girls Run, those routes are dotted with African American women.

So thank you, Gabby, for being a role model in a world where too often African American female role models are rude reality TV divas. You're a winner with top-notch style. Present that to the judge.


Contact Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ewellingtonph.

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