Media Got It Wrong About Gabby and Black Women

Reports that black women are fixated on the gymnast's hair have been greatly exaggerated. Why? Because of the media's insistence on focusing on difference instead of achievement when it comes to certain groups, argues Ebony's T.F. Charlton. 

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Reports that black women are fixated on the gymnast's hair have been greatly exaggerated. Why? Because of the media's insistence on focusing on difference instead of achievement when it comes to certain groups, argues Ebony's T.F. Charlton.

Reports of Black women hating on Gabby Douglas's hair have been greatly exaggerated.

Articles claiming that Black women have fixated on Gabby's hair have sparked the usual discussion about White beauty norms, hair politics, and internalized racism. But is it really Black women who are obsessed with Gabby Douglas' hair, or the media?

The idea that sisters are paying "more attention [to Gabby's hair] than her gold medal[s]" is exactly the image of dysfunctional, belligerent Black women that the media loves. In the understandable rush to defend Gabby from critics, we've overlooked that this narrative is being pushed by racist, sexist media that can't be trusted to report accurately on Black women's opinions on just about anything. There's very little evidence that hair is a priority when it comes to Black women's feelings about Gabby Douglas.

This story can be traced back to one blog post, quoting all of three disparaging comments, that Jezebel slapped a few more tweets on as proof of a trend. Everyone from NPR to the LA Times has since weighed in, all seemingly basing their analysis on the Jezebel piece and a small sample of tweets. Outlets have specifically searched for negative tweets about Gabby, probably overlooking many more celebratory comments. 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 here is the original piece and the media furor it's spawned.

Read T.F. Charlton's entire article at Ebony.com.

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