The Dumbest Story Of 2012: The Gabby Douglas’ Hair Discussion

12 comments
December 31, 2012 ‐ By Charing Ball

Gabby Douglas_

While most folks will be ending the year, reminiscing about the most important stories of the year, I want to draw attention – again- to what I believe is, hands down, the dumbest “major” news story to come out of 2012: The stir-up over Gabby Douglas’ hair.

Seriously, the girl flipped, straddled and somersaulted her way to individual Olympic gold, becoming the first Black woman to do so in history, yet for months the nation, particularly Black America, was gripped by the “harrowing” tale of 16 year old Douglas’ ponytail and rough edges. If you were like me, you didn’t care one way or the other about her hair or whoever had something to say about it. However, after the umpteenth time seeing it in your newsfeed, or having it show up in your inbox or being asked about in in casual conversation while at lunch, you were forced to have an opinion.

No less than five people asked me my thoughts on the Douglas “hair controversy,” including my 82-year old grandmother, who said she heard about the story while watching one of her entertainment gossip shows. She thought that “they” should leave that girl alone. Who the “they” was, she didn’t know. And fact, nobody really knew. But eventually major news sites grabbed the baton from gossip blogs and began publishing various articles and columns, not only lambasting these nameless hair detractors but also tie this hair “controversy” into a much bigger conversation on black women and natural hair. Even Douglas, who was still in the midst of competing at the Olympics, was forced to break focus and address these nameless hair detractors.

Likewise, there was a lot of self righteous hair-dignation in the Black blogosphere and Twitterverse. Memes and long diatribes via Facebook, expressing opinions from both sides of the “controversy” did little but to fuel what was an already simmering beef between #teamNatural and #teamWeaveandPerm. At one point my Facebook news feed began to look like Madame Re-Re’s Beauty Salon from Spike Lee’s School Daze. And after a while, the Douglas name stopped being spoken about in reference to this newly christened moment in black history but instead, she became the poster child for some very complex themes, which at times felt a lot more deeper-rooted than a discussion about hair.

According to this story from earlier this year in Ebony, “The story can be traced back to one blog post, quoting all three disparaging comments, that Jezebel slapped a few more tweets on as proof of a trend. Everyone from NPR and LA Times has since weighed in, all seemingly basing their analysis on the Jezebel piece and a small sampling of tweets. Outlets have specifically searched for negative tweets about Gabby, probably ignoring more celebratory tweets. We should question whether the coverage reflects an actual trend, or confirmation bias creating a news story out of a few isolated fools being mean on the internet. It’s possible that the real viral story is the original piece and the media furor it’s spawned. “

I agree that media outlets played a major role in why this story had legs. However there is also something to be said about why a story that amounted to pure “gossip” on Twitter had resonated so much, with so many people, to the point of going viral for months? Does our public discourse on Gabby’s hair change the fact that she is a gold winning gymnast? Of course, we all know that Gabby didn’t need our praise or accolades to win the medal. Heck, most folks had no idea who she was until after she won the gold. But it is just a shame that her name and her history making Olympic win now has an *asterisk next to it. And probably for the rest of her life, she will always have to answer questions about her hair.

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  • Chassie

    Honestly, i didn’t know this was a huge story but then, i hate when the olympics comes around so i avoid media round that time. it could have stayed at a few women’s dumb comments, but nope, media sites had to make it look like black women were hating on baby girl gabby, sms. And maybe i’m unique in this but when i think gabby, the next thought that follows is not “ooo the hair incident” so I’m not getting the asterisk problem. Also has anyone been asking about her hair? Lately all I ever hear about is her father

  • hollyw

    I agree that this was one of thee most dumb stories to have ever been sensationalized, but I’d also like to highlight a very significant, and often overlooked, factor; most of this Twitter nonsense was started out and carried on by underaged, immature girls.

    Similarly, when Hunger Games came out and a slough of racial remarks were made via the same forum over the (apparently suprisingly) multiracial cast, everyone fingerpointed towards the racist Caucasian population, refusing to acknowledge the fact that majority of folks tweeting about not feeling sorry for Rue, the youngest (and biracial) cast member, dying were kids! So when the media picks up these Twitter rants and runs with it without addressing the larger issues at play here, being what we’re still teaching our nation’s children about themselves and others, society at large is allowed to lay blame without taking any of the accountability.

    These little loud-mouthed, ratchet-in-the-making Black teens was tearing Gabby’s hairstyles apart b/c somewhere down the line, their parents (and media, which they weren’t appropriately shielded from) gave them the impression that straight hair/appearances will give you more value than your talents will. In a nutshell.

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    No her win doesn’t have an asterisk by it. The tale of history won’t even mention her hair when its all said and done. Maybe a few web bloggers who need to come up with a story during a slow holiday news cycle will keep it going.

  • Irene Benjamin

    It was only ignorant people that commented on her hair. I think its stupid that people get fixated on stupid things instead of commending Gabby for her talents and her championship. Did they really expect her to rock some 16′ Brazilian hair on the balance beam?

    • Faith

      Of course, Gabby is suppose to have a really nice and fiece hair cut or do while she being on the balance beam, doing the floor exercise, and her other routines. It is ashame on how some blacks focus on this beautiful child’s hair instead of her talents. I believe to this day, she could have won a lot more Gold medals if some idiot didn’t mention anything about her hair. When that came out, she lost her focus. Black media and main stream media ran all the way with it. People need to realize she is a gymnist, she cannot rock a nice hair style.

      • ree

        I also felt that she lost her focus after the hair nonsense.

  • get real

    I wish yall stop with this “Black America” nonsense. It was not black America, it was a segment of dumb ignorant black women. Get it right.

  • SexNdaCity

    Strangely, I would have never known people were discussing her hair if it wasn’t for every media outlet harping on the issue. To me that made something that could have been a potential non-issue into something major.

  • :)

    That’s because some black females are stupid and ignorant. That’s all. (Yeah I said it and I’m a black woman too!) Instead of being proud of this girl’s achievements, they focus on stupid stuff like her hair. Some people just like to focus on small stuff that isn’t even irrelevant.

    • :)

      **typo** relevant

    • Maureen

      I agree with you. Gabby did well y focus on her hair fir goodness sakes.