It is safe to say the Olympics held the attention of the nation for the last few weeks.
Coverage of every sporting event graced the covers of newspapers and magazines. From their living rooms, millions watched athletes from around the word compete on a daily basis. The Olympics was an easy conversation-starter for many.
The major athletic event also provided a good lesson for us all. That lesson is we still have a long way to go before we can accept one another for who we are. We learn this by comments made about Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas.
She is a champion. She is an elite athlete. Douglas earned gold in the all-around, becoming the first U.S. gymnast in American history to win the gold medal in both the team and all-around competitions. She is the first African-American gymnast to win her sport’s biggest prize.
But this was not enough to guard her from criticism by the public. She was not exempt from ridiculous comments about her appearance.
Some critics questioned why she didn’t get her hair done before the Olympic games. Really? This 16-year-old makes history and people actually had the nerve to pick on her hair. Shortly after she won one of her gold medals, some spectators took to Twitter and made comments about her hair. Yes, of all the things to comment during this momentous occasion for any athlete, some chose to focus on the outer appearance.
Speech is an American freedom, but in this case it shed light on an issue that plagues American society. It reiterated society is way too concerned about looks. It is in fact blinded by an incessant need to look perfect – something that is impossible to achieve.
Countless studies have been done on obsession with appearance in teens and adults. Whether it’s addiction to plastic surgery, dieting or other means to alternate looks, it is a prevalent issue.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Americans spent about $10.7 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2010. Of that total almost $6.6 billion was spent on surgical procedures; $1.9 billion was spent on injectable procedures; $1.8 billion was spent on skin-rejuvenation procedures; and almost $500 million was spent on other non-surgical procedures.
We have simply got to do better. We have to teach our youth and in some cases, adults, that appearance is not everything. It is what’s inside that makes a person who they are. Appearance is only one aspect of one’s makeup. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can avoid the kind of ignorance displayed by critics of the hairstyle of Gabrielle Douglas.