The Olympic games are here! Yay! As you can probably imagine, all of us over here at Sporty Afros are excited about the Olympic Season.
This time last Olympic Season, Sporty Afros didn’t exist, I wasn’t on Twitter, and I didn’t read my Facebook Newsfeed like I do now. For Olympics XXX, it seems like every move made in London is broadcasted, made fun of, criticized or replayed on someone’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.
What I find very surprising is that many African American women have taken to Facebook and Twitter to comment on Gabby Douglas’ hair. Who is Gabby Douglas you might ask? She’s one of the powerhouse gymnasts of the USA Gymnastics team. Gabby beat out many gymnasts from around the nation to get one of the five spots on the team. She was the only gymnast to earn a guaranteed spot during the USA Olympics trials. On Sunday, July 29th, she outscored three of her teammates to be one of the TWO to represent Team USA in the All Around Gymnastics Finals. On Tuesday, July 31, 2012 Team USA Gymnastics won the gold medal. Yeah, she’s cold.
So what’s the big deal about Gabby’s hair? From what I am reading on Facebook and Twitter, many African American women who are SITTING and WATCHING Gabby compete believe her hair is not “kept.”
She needs some gel and a brush…
Someone needs to give her a hair intervention…
She has to “represent”…
I’ve read many more but these three stuck out the most to me. I decided to break these comments down and reveal what I feel they really imply. Like always, I don’t want to change the way you think. I just want to give you something to think about.
She needs some gel and a brush…
Have we forgotten that Gabby is competing at Olympics XXX? This is not America’s Next Top Model that we’re watching. These ladies are participating in a global athletic competition. And the last time I checked when you play a sport, you sweat. I know I do. And when a Black woman who has chosen to wear her hair straight begins to sweat, her hair will (not might) begin to revert back to its natural coily, curly, or kinky state. Does Gabby need to stop every five minutes to check her hair? No. When one experiences back-to-back intense workouts, that person learns what works best on their hair.
I’m going to post a Part II to this blog post to add some depth to this issue. I would like readers to send me a picture of them after working out for at least an hour. Yeah, let’s make this interactive! I want US to really see how We look after working out at least one hour. Don’t be scared. I’m going to post my picture too. Don’t try to wipe off the sweat, put your hair back in place, or take your head-rag off. Hop off the weights, pull out your camera phone, take a picture of you, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on Sporty Afros’ Facebook Page. FYI, the All Around Gymnastics Preliminaries was an all day event, clearly over an hour. But to increase the sample size of this picture request, a one-hour workout will do.
Someone needs to give her a hair intervention…
Why do some Black women always feel they know what someone needs? And when in history did it become a hobby for Black women to heavily criticize one another? 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. I’m no Gabby Groupie. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know she existed until they introduced the 2012 USA Gymnastics team. But I feel people, especially Black women, need to give her a break and let her blossom like every other rising star. The makeovers will come later. Mark my words, Gabby is going to win big. And when she does, she’ll fly back to the States and get major endorsements. Don’t be surprised when she lands some major interviews, becomes a poster child for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, and be asked to appear on some sort of BET special (because BET will definitely contact her). While all of this occurs, someone from the Gabby camp will seek out a professional hair stylist and her hair game will be on another level. All of this will happen after the competition is over. But for now, chill out and let her compete. There’s a time to be cute and there’s a time to sweat. And right now, its sweating time! Go for the gold Gabby!
She has to represent…
Who does she have to represent? People who don’t understand the hair texture of women of African descent (which unfortunately includes women of African descent)? Sooooo just because Gabby is an African American female she has to represent the African American female race? Is it fair for us to thrust the weight and image of our entire race onto a single person? Like really, is it? We do it all of the time. Does Shawn Johnson represent the Anglo race just because she’s Anglo? Does Nastia Liukin represent the Russian American race? Okay, let’s go ahead and make her the face of Black America. She represents where we come from and the opportunities we now have because of our elders’ sacrifices. I respect that and all but someone please tell me what that has to do with how she maintains her hair while playing sports? In addition, I feel Gabby represents countless Christians that put forth the effort to incorporate the Word of God into their professional and personal lives. After earning a spot in the All Around Gymnastics Finals she stated she remained focused by reading her Bible and knowing that God was with her at all times. Good for you Gabby! Walk it out for Christ in everything you do!
Why do we do this to each other? Why can’t we just be happy for her accomplishments? Making it to the Olympics is a big deal. Winning a medal is a bigger deal. If you just read over the comments like I initially did, you might just write the authors of these comments off as haters. I was real close to doing that. But as I re-read some of the comments, I realized that the comments were only symptoms of a series of the author’s underlying issues. It’s kind of like stank breath. The funk coming from the mouth is not the issue. It’s the bacteria, remnants of rotting food, or the rotten tooth causing the odor that’s the real problem. In my world, these are the issues those three comments really touch on:
1) A large number of Black women do not work out because of their beloved hairstyle. This is so sad and this is why Sporty Afros was created. We are here to help women with their workout hair care solutions and crush excuses such as “I can’t workout because of my hair.”
2) Many of us, Black women, have acquired the horrible habit of criticizing each other from head to toe with no regards of its repercussions. It’s almost like a sport to see how many laughs or likes one’s criticisms can get on Facebook or retweets on Twitter. Once again criticism has trumped compliments. And as a Black woman, this saddens me.
3) Putting more focus on Gabby’s hair and not her athleticism proves many of us are still missing the point on where true beauty, strength, and health lies. Some of us are sitting up right now with our hair done but suffering from high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, obesity, and/or a lack of energy. Oh, but the hair is on point. As mentioned earlier, I don’t know Gabby Douglas personally and I would never try to speak on her behalf. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she considers her health and fitness level to be a little more important than her hair staying in place.
With this post, I’d like to step outside of the Sporty Afros target market and get the opinions of both men and women of all ages and races. Please post your thoughts. I’ll make it a point to post this link on the pages of some of the people who don’t care that much for Gabby’s allegedly unkept hairstyle. Maybe I have it all wrong. I’m no psychologist or Women’s Studies expert. I’m just a running coach who happens to have kinky hair that doesn’t stay in place when I run 3 or more miles. Maybe I should have just laughed and kept scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed and Twitter Feed like so many others did.
I welcome the opportunity to be corrected or enlightened. And don’t forget to send me your post-workout pics ladies. I give you my word, I’m not going to poke fun at anyone.
Love, Peace, and Sweat,
Monisha Randolph is a RRCA Certified Distance Running Coach and the author of Runner’s Revelations: How Running Changed My Walk. To learn more about Monisha or to purchase a copy of her book please visit www.runnersrevelations.com. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and join her Fan Community on Facebook.
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Disclaimer: The opinions of Monisha Randolph does not represent the collective opinion or political stance of Sporty Afros as a whole or its sponsors.