Friday, August 17, 2012

Why is the focus on Gabby Douglas' hair and not her Olympic accomplishments?

The ridiculous attention given to the hairdo of Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas knows no bounds.

The 16-year-old recently received a “makeover” in which her hair looks much more in line with European beauty standards, according to media reports.

Britain’s Daily Mail paraphrased a statement from Douglas’ newly hired stylist, saying in part that black women “go to great lengths to keep their dark hair under control.” Under control? I think that this needs further examination.

My former colleague Jason Whitlock wrote eloquently on the initial furor over Douglas’ hair and the “$9 billion-yearly obsession with straightening, lengthening, curling, coloring and Europeanizing our hair”.  

The control that the stylist referred to seems to be not a control of the physical hair, but one of the mind. Why shouldn’t European women be pushed to make their hair like that of blacks? That never seems to be asked.

Douglas, whose family’s financial issues have been media fodder for the past few weeks, is using a stylist who charges clients $950 at his salon, the Daily Mailreported. A young woman who was seemingly content with herself has now been pushed to acquire a costly service.

Instead of feting Douglas for her accomplishments, the focus remains on what’s on her head, not what’s in it. And what’s in her head is the drive to overcome adversity and be an Olympic champion.

Sadly, I fear the story young women will take from Gabby Douglas is looking “nice” (read European) will give you more media praise than your actual achievement.

-- Steve Bien-Aimé

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