On August 1, the women of Crunk Feminist Collective wrote a perfect response to the whitewashing of the USA women’s gymnastics coverage that I cannot improve upon here, so I won’t try. The post is called “UPDATE: Gabby Douglas leads Team USA to the gold” and very much deserving of your time and attention. In this space, however, I would like to share what Gabby Douglas means to my daughter–my white, blonde, blue-eyed daughter.
Now, it shouldn’t matter that my daughter and Gabby don’t look alike, but this is America, and it does. Not to Miriam, of course, and probably not to Gabby herself–but it seems to matter a hell of a lot to the people at NBC, who built their women’s gymnastics coverage around 2011 world champion Jordyn Weiber, a pale-skinned brunette. Even when Weiber choked in the qualification rounds, NBC seemed determined that the story of Olympic gymnastics would be hers: would Weiber achieve her dream with the team gold? how does it feel for Weiber to see her dream go down in flames? et cetera.
Miriam, on the other hand, saw in Gabby Douglas a lovely, charming, and massively talented young woman and fell in love.
I am not some goopy hippie stereotype who likes to coo “my daughter doesn’t see color.” My daughter sees color. She’s not stupid. She sees color with the literal eye of a young child who refers to her own skin as pink and Gabby’s as brown.
And as a child, she sees Gabby Douglas as a whole person, not a marketing gimmick. This must be why the mainstream media has been so slow to catch on to what children of all colors understood the instant Gabby entered North Greenwich Arena.
Will that change now that Gabby is the all-around gold medalist? Hey, everybody loves a winner. I try to teach my kids to be gracious in victory as well as defeat, but I think if I were Natalie Hawkins I’d give my golden girl permission to say to NBC: