Hello readers! After a very un-feminist year off I am back at school and excited to tell you what I learned!
It was so easy to be a feminist when I was on campus surrounded by my feminist friends. Living downtown and working 40+ hour weeks in local restaurants? That wasn’t so easy. My values remained intact, but I became a defeated woman. I laughed at sexist jokes. I got a lap dance from a stripper. I kept my mouth shut when someone said men were intellectually superior to women. I called a co-worked a fag (sorry John Prictoe) and said nothing when I was sexually harassed on the job. I got drunk all the time and worried about getting fat rather than my health. I let it all slide by and had almost forgotten why feminism was important when someone started making fun of Gabby Douglas’s hair.
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but the 2012 Summer Olympics kept me enthralled from start to finish. I watched everything from swimming to handball, but my favorite event was gymnastics, and my favorite gymnast was Gabby Douglas. Her smile was bright and her form perfect. She seemed to leap twice as high as her competitors, landing with grace and ease.
Then, the night she won best all-around gymnast, I saw something on facebook saying that her hair looked unkempt. My feminist flame ignited immediately – I texted a friend who I knew would be as pissed as me and we spent the next few hours ranting and watching the debate unfold via the web.
It’s funny to me now that a black woman’s hair is what finally got me riled up about feminism again. After all, I have no experience with Gabby’s plight. I am the whitest kid you know, with thin, infantile hair that slips from barrettes like a child’s. Gabby’s hair looks like it would take four arms, two hairbrushes, and a bottle of hairspray, just to combat into a normal ponytail. Which was what she was wearing….cause she was doing this a lot…..
And she was doing it better than any other woman in the world. The weird things was, no one was commnenting on the white gymnist’s hairstyles, none of which could be called fashionable. I mean, this girl brought her entire batrette collection to London. But no one said a thing.
Gabby’s hair continued to be a sticking point in interviews during and after the Olympics. She handled the situation with confidence, telling reporters that she was comfortable with her look and planned to keep it.
“I don’t think people should be worried about that,” she told the Associated Press. “Nothing is going to change,” she said. “I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.”
I was so proud the sixteen year old’s mature attitude towards the whole situation, which is why I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that she had undergone a makeover. The new hairstyle looks great, but I hoped that Gabby had not changed out of pressure to conform. When it comes to African American women in the sports community, it is true that many women display elaborate hairstyles and impossibly manicured nails.This has always been true of Venus and Serena Williams, and I don’t think anyone could forget this 2012 gold medalist and her Channel earrings.
Sanya Richards-Ross makes a perfect portrait of classic femininity in sports. Her makeup is flawless, her hair features a braid and curls, and her diamond ring was glinting in the sun all the way around the track. But when you are as good at something as she and Gabby are, does appearance really matter?
I think that what bothered me most about the whole hair situation was the fact that most of the people who were making negative comments were African American themselves. I would have hoped that these women would have stood up for Gabby and defended her. It didn’t take long to realize that in my own life, I was as guilty as these women. I might not have blatantly posted an offensive comment, but I had persecuted my fellow women by not speaking up for them or myself. I had allowed sexism to creep into my life and get comfortable. It had to end.
It’s scary to me how closely aligned my feminism has been with academia. I am graduating in May, and will soon be trapped in the “real world.” My feminism needs to know how to thrive in situations that are not the accepting college bubble I am used to. I need to find ways to take my feminism with me and not be afraid to use it. Over the next semester I am going to be making a plan of how to do this and sharing it on the blog. I am going to look for ways that feminism exists in the Harrisonburg community and share it with you guys. And I hope that you, my readers, will give me a lot of feedback and advice of your own.
In the meantime, I am going to throw my hair into a Gabby-inspired ponytail and get to work. I am going for the gold with this feminism thing.