Gabby Douglas made history this summer when she won the Olympic gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics competition: she was the first black athlete to accomplish that feat. But right after winning, commentary on Twitter and Facebook became unexpectedly fixated on her hair. The American media immediately followed suit, going all out on a blitz coverage of the phenomenon because, even more unexpectedly, at least for some, the hair criticism was coming from other black women.
The Washington Post asked Tina Opie, who teaches management as an assistant professor at Babson College, for her take on the matter. Opie told the Post that for some black women hair was “a signifier of identity — of class, ethnicity, of gender,” and that when they saw “Gabby Douglas wearing her hair in a way they see as sub-par, they view it as a threat, something that will negatively impact how others view them as well. She’s a representative of the collective.”
When asked directly what she thought about the marked response to her hairdo, Gabby replied that she didn’t know where the uproar came from, and that “nothing [was] going to change,” she’d keep her hair in the same style for her reaming competitions. For good measure, she told her critics, “You might as well just stop talking about it.”
Above, Gabby Douglas shows off her two gold medals while standing next to Oprah Winfrey