Mirror, Mirror: Pam Oliver's hairdo was a don't, but no need for nastiness

Fox sports broadcaster Pam Oliver had a less-than-good hair day covering the 49ers-Seahawks game on Sunday. The ensuing social-media vitriol was cruel, misogynistic, and near-racist.
Fox sports broadcaster Pam Oliver had a less-than-good hair day covering the 49ers-Seahawks game on Sunday. The ensuing social-media vitriol was cruel, misogynistic, and near-racist. (blacksportsonline.com)
Posted: January 23, 2014

Let's be clear: The wild, windblown tresses Fox reporter Pam Oliver sported on the sidelines of Sunday night's 49ers-Seahawks game were an absolute mess.

But much worse than the veteran journalist's disheveled mane during the NFL playoff game were the social-mediasphere cutdowns. The nasty comments trending on Twitter and Facebook that lasted into Monday evening cruelly crossed the line from catty fashion criticism to blustery bullying.

Likening Oliver to Aerosmith's shaggy front man Steven Tyler is a low enough blow. But comparing a grown African American woman to Star Wars' mean-mugged Chewbacca is near-racist. And calling into question Oliver's education and skill set because of a bad hair day? That's downright misogynistic.

All this the day after America tuned in to see Saturday Night Live's first black female cast member in six years, and the night before we recognized the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Can we get some perspective, people? We've come a long way, and we've got a long way to go. There's no time for schoolyard antics.

It's no secret that, fashionably speaking, this has been a rough season for Oliver. While covering a pregame warmup in August, Oliver was hit in the head so hard by a wayward football that she suffered a concussion - and a cockeyed wig.

During the season, she appeared in front of the camera wearing peculiarly perched hairpieces in an array of styles, from a shoulder-length, burgundy ombré coif to a dusty-brown Beyoncé-ish bob.

Some surmise that Oliver, who is 52, is probably wearing her own hair under those alleged wigs. Why not let the fake hair go and embrace her natural self, critics asked?

But for a black woman working in the sports industry, that's an unlikely option. Generally, the public, black people included, isn't receptive to brown women in the public eye whose hair is anything but perfect.

What does the mainstream consider perfect? Try the slinky, long-haired Real Housewives of Atlanta weave, or Gabrielle Union's bouncing and behaving locks in BET's Being Mary Jane.

Unfortunately, Oliver's hair - natural, weave, or wig - isn't working for her. Maybe she has purchased low-quality hair. Maybe her stylist just isn't good.

Whatever the problem, her hair is a sharp contrast with the female television reporters and impeccably dressed male sports analysts. I'm sure that's why armchair critics felt justified in their uncompassionate, "she-should-know-better" conclusions. (Men, by the way, seemed to have the most to say in the Oliver smackdown - as if they've all become experts on extensions after watching Chris Rock's 2009 documentary Good Hair.)

It's not just the NFL season that's trending caustic.

The Monday morning after the Golden Globes, we awoke to a flurry of memes that ripped apart Jennifer Lawrence's black-and-white Dior gown - one had a cat dressed in toilet paper to resemble her white silk-satin chiffon.

Gabby Sidibe set her gaggle of Golden Globe haters straight. After what had to be thousands of 140-character cyber-jabs, the actress, who is appearing in FX's American Horror Story, tweeted: "To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night."

We don't have to like Pam Oliver's hair (I don't), Lena Dunham's tattoos (not me), or the crop-top maternity gown that actress Kerry Washington wore to Saturday night's SAG Awards (I did!).

But we need to drop the mean-spirited vitriol. Everyone is entitled to their opinions - and people who appear on TV should expect to hear the yeas and nays - but try this rule on for size: If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, think twice before tweeting.


ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704 @ewellingtonphl

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