I normally have no interest in sports, but I enjoyed the Olympics so much that I’m sad to see it end. The swimming, diving, and gymnastics were my favorites, though I liked track and field too. I preferred watching the women’s competitions. You can catch men playing sports on television every day but where besides the Olympics do you get to see so many female athletes? Not only that, but this was the first Olympics in which every participating country had women competitors.
Therefore, like U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney, I was not impressed by the negative commentary about the Olympic women.
Some of it left me feeling as mournful as Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina often looked.
I was irritated by several women on Twitter who criticized the perfectly normal hairstyle sported by U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, even as she became become the first African-American to win the gold medal in the Olympic women’s individual all-around gymnastics event.
I immediately regretted being one of the many people to draw attention to the relatively few bad apples in one of my previous posts because we gave those fools a lot more attention than they deserved, both on social media and in mainstream media. It got back to Gabby (my advice to anyone participating in a major event, athletic or otherwise: stay AWAY from your computer!). Between the hair nonsense; all the other attention, ranging from speculation about her potential endorsement deals to reports of her mother’s bankruptcy; and the punishing physical feats she had to accomplish, no wonder the 16-year-old was too drained to perform well in her final two events.
Two days after Gabby won gold despite her hair, the New York Times published a story about U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones, which I thought deserved a special gold medal for viciousness. Here are the first two paragraphs:
“Judging from this year’s performances, Lolo Jones seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold.
Still, Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.”
The story by Jeré Longman criticizes Jones for posing nude (like other athletes) and sharing stories about her tough childhood (like other athletes). I came away with the impression that she was a total fraud who somehow whored her way onto the racetrack without breaking her hymen. My eyes were glued to her during the 100-meter hurdles because I was sure she was either going to fall over the first hurdle or come in in last place. Instead, she came in fourth — a disappointing showing, but not the picture of total failure that the New York Times painted her to be. Maybe she has been overhyped. Maybe she does get more attention than she deserves. I understand why U.S. medal winners Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells would think so.
Maybe Harper and Wells should hire Jones’s publicist. I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t blame Lolo for crying over that article.
While Lolo stood accused on getting by on her looks, other women were told they were unattractive. I admired the gymnasts’ powerful legs and the track-and-field competitors’ defined abs, particularly because all those muscles were built up during the pursuit of excellence, rather than for show. To me, strength is beautiful. When I saw the U.K.’s gold-medal heptathlon winner Jessica Ennis, I briefly wondered if it would be worth giving up Cadbury Dairy Milk bars to get in such great shape. (The answer: nothing is worth that.)
I’m surprised by how many people disagreed. The Turkish columnist Yuksel Aytug who criticized the female athletes’ muscular bodies in a piece called “Womanhood Is Dying at the Olympics“ is one example, but there were thousands of equally nasty tweets and website comments. Plenty of folks agreed that Olympian women should be evaluated in part on whether their appearance conforms to traditional notions of femininity. I’ll let U.K. weightlifter Zoe Pablo Smith reply to that.
In a blog post called “Thanks (but no thanks),” Smith wrote of the male critics:
“…we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence. Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant.”
“Why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place?” is something I’ve been thinking a lot lately, especially while I’m on Twitter. Twitter constantly reminds me of a quote from TV/movie writer Aaron Sorkin: “While everyone deserves a voice, not everyone deserves a microphone.” For instance, this weekend, I saw one very young lady call another one fat and then defend the tweet by saying, “You shouldn’t be hurt by my opinion!” Well, no one would be hurt by your opinion if you kept it to yourself, dummy. There’s a reason we don’t blurt out every thought we have: it’s called “manners.” Learn some.
I’ll end where I began — with gymnasts’ style. Men (and women) criticizing women’s bodies for being too strong is the worst, but I was also irked by style-snarking. Yes, the gymnasts employ an unusual number of hair clips.
If I were leaping around four feet off the floor on a four-inch-wide balance beam, I’d want to keep every single strand of hair out of my eyes too. Nor did I think anything was wrong with the gymnasts’ sparkly eyeshadow and glittery hair. (Mustafina was the queen of glitter!) In fact, I love it. I can hardly wait to see what kind of spangly look they’re showing off. That’s the style for gymnasts these days — it’s part of the culture of their sport. They’re not fashion-magazine editors or bloggers and they don’t have to imitate them if they don’t want to. Remember high school? (A couple of you are like, “Remember?! I’m still in it!” I promise you: It gets better.) The jocks didn’t dress like the Heathers or the Plastics. The Olympians might look silly to you from a style perspective, but plenty of us would look just as silly to them when we’re decked out for a fashion show or an Outfit of the Day post. We’re all entitled to our opinions. We can’t help them. Hell, every day I see about 10 people on the street who make me think, “You look realllly bad.” But I think it without saying it. Manners, people. Manners! (I do sometimes speak up if I think someone is fabulously dressed. I’m a fan of random fashion compliments.)
Speaking of manners, singer/actress Miley Cyrus would like you to brush up on yours. While I was working on this post, I saw people retweeting Miley who wrote:
“If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all. my hair is attached to my head no one else’s and it’s going bye bye :)”
Hmmm! I had to see what this was about. To my surprise, Miley got rid of her Hollywood starlet topknot …
… in favor of an edgier, ’80s-style ‘do.
She followed up by tweeting , “Never felt more me in my whole life.” I’m impressed. Go on with your bad self, girl!
Faux Fuchsia says
I am sick of people delivering bitchy put downs with the “just my opinion” caveat. Methinks they can dish it out but may not be able to handle it themselves.
Hair snark is very annoying x
sulky kitten says
I loved the Olympics! Didn’t get all the bitching over Ms Douglas’s hair,and I liked all the sparkle of the gymnastic outfits. It drives me crazy when idiots criticise sportswomen for their physiques. They need muscles to propel themselves into action and beyond. They are athletes, not models. We should be celebrating their outstanding achievements.
I was totally shocked at the snarking on the appearance of the women athletes. I don’t remember in the past or maybe people just didn’t have a way to broadcast it. I mean, that’s how gymnasts have worn their hair forever. I was especially pissed about the weight criticisms about that one swimmer. Hello! She qualified for the fricking Olympics! Shut the hell up. I love Twitter but maybe it was a mistake giving so many rude and immature people a way to share their petty thoughts.
It’s also interesting to point out that much of the comments were about women and women’s bodies, not the men. If someone can snark on Gabby’s hair, where’s the guy snarking about Michael Phelps?
They’re athletes! They’re going to be fit, muscular and I’d LOVE to have a body as fit as theirs.
As for Miley, it’s her hair! She looks lovely- I think she has the charisma and beautiful genetics to showcase a shorter style.
I was disgusted by some people asking what Liam though. Who care what Liam thinks?! It’s her hair! And why are all these women/girls being equated to nothing more than pretty little girls? They’re smart, athletic, strong, innovative, and pretty.
Lest we all forget, of the 46 gold medals the US won, 29 of those were won by women.
I’m so sick of the commentary on women, tearing down for their looks or for experimenting, commenting on how they don’t look “womanly.” Why is it OK to comment on women/girls, but not on men? I don’t see anyone freaking out when a guy shaves his head, or commenting on his hair during the Olympics. Ugh!
Ashe @ Ash in Fashion says
“Why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place?” is something I’ve been thinking a lot lately, especially while I’m on Twitter. Twitter constantly reminds me of a quote from TV/movie writer Aaron Sorkin: “While everyone deserves a voice, not everyone deserves a microphone.“ For instance, this weekend, I saw one very young lady call another one fat and then defend the tweet by saying, “You shouldn’t be hurt by my opinion!” Well, no one would be hurt by your opinion if you kept it to yourself, dummy. There’s a reason we don’t blurt out every thought we have: it’s called “manners.” Learn some.
Yes! Lately I’ve been saying, through more personal channels, that I feel like the worst thing to happen to the internet is the comments section. This? Very eloquently explains why (thank you, Aaron Sorkin).
All the more fitting that my captcha is SILENCE. Thank you, I’ll take 2.
Really really great post.
I think that, on the whole, the British press has been pretty supportive of all of the athletes and, in particular the female athletes but it seems senseless – and rude – members of the public, on twitter mainly, have been the perpetrators of horrible comments.
However, I think it was summed up brilliantly the other say, on BBC news that it is truly wonderful to see women gaining fame and recognition for something which has taken years of dedication – and often, failure along the way – and happen to look good as a result of this, not as the only thing they’re famous for. That is something that I hope inspires young women and girls who have watched the Olympics over the past two weeks – that achievement comes from hard work – and that 15 minutes of fame for frivolous reasons is not something to wish for.
Again, great post.
Miss Cavendish says
Oh! I hadn’t seen Miley’s most recent crop beyond the bob. Good for her; looks great! Loved 80s hair and last night’s Madness & Pet Shop Boys of the Closing Ceremonies should put eveyone in an 80s frame of mind.
Oh my. Wendy, this is such a beautiful article and I think that women everywhere will appreciate it! Thank you! It definitely touched a nerve with me since I have been an athlete all my life. As a preteen and teen I was too boyish and skinny (but muscled!) and then my body switched quickly into a more voluptuous athleticism — both of which I was teased or criticized for. A girl can never win! I am disgusted by ANY negative comments re. the Olympic athletes. It’s just sick and ridiculous. People have no concept of the dedication, training and sacrifice involved. 99.9999% of the population couldn’t possibly endure it, but are also not gifted enough to perform at the elite level. So, how can we criticize someone who is? And fourth place in the Olympics?? Pretty fucking outstanding!
PS — I’m finding myself suddenly liking Miley Cyrus!
I think that anyone who can win a gold medal at 16 should be able to wear their hair any way they please.
i watched all of the women olympians in awe and stayed away from social media comments
anyone can make anything horrible and i always ask myself why???
as for miley…that was some super trust she had in the hair stylist i must say!
Love Miley’s hair, love our female olympians, appalled by all the criticism and hatred. It’s mind-boggling. These women dedicate their lives to become world-class athletes and observers are pissed they’re using hair clips and have muscles.
Here’s my opinion: all gymnastics hair is bad and I could not understand why poor Gaby was being singled out. And I say this as a former competitive gymnast and coach. In fact, when I was coaching, I required my girls to all wear the same hairstyle – a slicked back bun with no clips and loads of hairspray. Someone had to show them the way.
“If I were leaping around four feet off the floor on a four-inch-wide balance beam, I’d want to keep every single strand of hair out of my eyes too.”
Amen! I get annoyed when my bangs fall into my eyes as I’m salsa dancing or working on the computer, or when they cling to my forehead on a hot summer day. (Hence the bobby-pinned bangs the past couple of months.) For an Olympic gymnast, having hair in one’s eyes is probably much more annoying and risky.
i can’t even believe how much criticism the athletes were subjected to. i was watching some of the diving w/boyfriend and his kids, and when one athlete got a 7.5 or so, bf was saying, “YOU SUCK” to the diver. i went OFF saying, “i’d like to see YOU do that dive!!!!” cripes! these people are humans! they work their asses off to try and win and do their country (country’s? whatever) proud. just watch them. just admire them. just be proud when they win, and try and cut them some slack when they do not win. and who fucking cares how their hair looks or if they have multiple clippies in it! CHRIST!
Susan Partlan says
I thought all of the women were drop dead gorgeous.
I think the gymnasts’ hair being pulled back so tightly is actually part of the rules for competition now, as well as preventing hair from flying in their eyes!
I am in total agreement with everything you said. And I think I’m in love with Ms. Cyrus and her new ‘do. I’d cut mine in a heartbeat if I could look that cute. I love athletic bodies on women, sleek or bulky, or anything in between. I’m in awe of anyone who works that hard. They all deserve a medal.
If I’m not mistaken, women won 66% of Team USA’s gold medals this year. Take that critics!
Make Do Style says
The women made the Olympics!!
I think you got Olympic fever due to large amounts of Pimms at the bar next to the Olympic Park. xx
PS am pleased with your Topshop update
If the U.S. women were to be considered a separate Olympic team they would have placed 5th in the medal count, right behind Russia. Amazing! Take that, you ignorant a-holes! Personally, I would LOVE to be in shape even half of that of Jessica Ennis! I hope little girls are inspired by these women and can ignore the stupidity of people like that Turkish columnist. Thank you for another thought provoking post, Ms. Wendy!
Because we don’t have cable, we have to watch our tv over an antenna. And our antenna doesn’t pick up NBC, so we had to watch our olympics on Telemundo, good thing we speak spanish. But the male commentators always had some comments about how the women were beautiful, had great bodies, etc. And not in a good way, like a macho way. It made me so furious! It’s all like the Go Fug Yourself people go to the Olympics.
Ondo Lady says
Those comments about the female athletes annoyed me as well. It was ignorant and pathetic rather like the people who made them. I have been watching gymnastics for many years and I have never heard anyone comment on the gymnasts’ hairstyles. Their backflips, floor routines and dismounts yes but never the way they wore their hair. Such nonsense. The situation with Lolo Jones was ridiculous as well – people seem to forget that four years ago Lolo was the world’s leading hurdler and had she not fallen on the last hurdle in Beijing she would have been the Olympic champion NOT Dawn Harper. To dub Lolo, the Anna Kournikova of Track and Field is totally incorrect and quite clearly a remark made by someone who does not know much about Track and Field. It’s also really sad to see Kellie Wells and Dawn Harper so upset like that, it does not help the sport at all.
I couldn’t believe the nastiness of that Lolo Jones story — if you think the other female athletes are being overlooked why not write about them? I would have been happy to read about Harper and Wells!
“Everyone deserves a voice but not everyone deserves a microphone.” This is hands down the best quote I have heard all year.