By Niraja Surendran
By now, you’ve probably heard of the “Final Five” – the group of five gymnasts that has not only represented Team USA at the Rio Olympics but also dominated artistic gymnastics. The group consists of 22-year-old team captain Aly Raisman, 20-year-old Gabby Douglas, 19-year-old Simone Biles, 19-year-old Madison Kocian, and 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez.
Though these girls are all sweet and talented, one of them in particular, Gabby Douglas, has been horribly and unfairly scrutinized by the media. Douglas, who received gold medals in the individual all-around and team all-around gymnastic competitions in the London 2012 Olympic Games, did not even qualify for the individual all-around event this month. She also only placed 7th on the uneven bars competition, leaving her with no individual medals from Rio. Gabby has admitted that she is a little upset over these losses and strongly believes she could have done better, but for the time being, she is really happy with how her team performed in the team all-around competition and couldn’t be prouder of all the other girls’ performances in their individual events.
Instead of supporting this strong young lady, many social media users have criticized Gabby Douglas for absurd reasons, ranging from her facial expressions during her teammates’ competitions to her apparent lack of patriotism because she didn’t place her hand over her heart during a medal ceremony. Many, many Olympians had not placed their hands over their hearts during the national anthem this year and in the past, yet they haven’t received the same sort of backlash that Gabby Douglas has.
This isn’t the first time Douglas has been over-scrutinized by the media – in the London games, Gabby received a lot of criticism for her hair. Women from around the world expressed their disdain for Douglas’s overuse of hair gel and barrettes, accusing her of representing African Americans in a negative way. It truly appalls me how anyone could be heartless enough to call out a teenage girl for the way she styled her hair instead of celebrating her first Olympic victory. Athletes like Gabby have spent years upon years in intensive training to get to the Olympics; they deserve to receive praise and respect, not unwarranted criticism.
Despite the unjustified nature of these critiques, Douglas handles the insults with poise and dignity. She is such a kind-hearted, courageous woman who deserves nothing but the best from her fellow Americans. We women need to unite together to defend ourselves against criticism and hatred. We all love Gabby, and we hope that she doesn’t worry too much about all the negativity that the internet has sent her way.