UNITED STATES’ GABBY DOUGLAS ALL AROUND GOLD IN WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS AT THE 2012 OLYMPICS! LIKE A BOSS!
I know, damn P&G making us sob again.
Then there was McKayla Maroney’s kick-ass vault during the women’s gymnastics team event. It was so jaw-droppingly fantastic that two of the judges screamed HOLY FLYING HELL, WHAT KIND OF TRIPPED-OUT CGI NINJA SHIT WAS THAT?
Here’s the inimitable (and Thank God, right?) Bela Karolyi with the debriefing.
Her perfectly executed vault was so freaking dangerous, that when Chuck Norris watched Maroney’s two-and-a-half rotation Amanar in perfect air position, he pooped in his pants a little. Her vault was so inspirational, that for 24 hours after she stuck the landing, Maroney polled higher than both Obama and Romney as front-runner in the November Presidential elections. Maroney is a powerhouse of every cliché about powerhouses, and then some. (Deadspin has a crushing super slowmo replay of the vault. Watch it and wonder what you were doing with your life at age 16.)
But enough about elite athleticism. Let’s talk about girls’ hair. (ALERT! Turn down the accompanying music while watching this, or you’ll feel like a dirty old man. Or lady.)
Okay, let’s not talk about girls’ hair. Let’s talk about people talking about hair. Twitter and darker corners of the Internet were awash with it. Maroney’s hair is messy. It’s a rat’s nest. She looks like a sorority sister morning after a frat party.
16-year-old Gabby Douglas’ hair has become a lightning rod for political and cultural debate and ohmyfreakinggod really?
I get it, First Amendment , opinions are like buttholes, blah, blah, blah.
I’m not going to rant on about feminism when it comes to critiquing appearance over talent at an athletic event. Gymnastics may not incorporate the graceful dance moves of the 1970s and1980s when Russians put on floor exercise clinics worthy of the Miriinsky Ballet, but—like figure skating—it’s still a performance sport that evaluates personal expression and artistry. It is what it is. Sport plus theater. Check out the bling on the American team leotards. And Russia’s Aliya Mustafina layered on the glittery eye shadow with Cleopatra lining that scored a 9.8. Add a hip wiggle, a pirouette, and a flashy smile and some judges go ga-ga.
Their technical elements on bars, beam, and vault are nothing less than X Games outrageous. Aly Raisman wears an avant-garde hair twist, not a prim ballerina bun. Maroney and Douglas arrange their tresses Mad Max style. Female athletes shouldn’t have to lop off their locks if they don’t want or need to smooth them in a neat Sandra Dee ponytail because that’s what some other girls did forty years ago.
Girl, boy, win, lose, whatever…you allow your athlete heroes the trappings of 21st century rock stars, if that’s the talk they can walk. And if another team goes the route of classical elegance, I say there’s room for more than one aesthetic. The judges can decide the rest.
When you’re making a show of just what feats teenage girls are capable of beyond the sometimes limiting expectations of culture-at-large, a whacked-out ponytail can make perfect sense.