I watched as Gabby Douglas was ranked dead last in her final two Gymnastics events. Lately, in her interviews, she hasn't seem as bubbly as she had, leading up to and at the time of her victories at this year's Summer Olympics. I think it got to her. And by "it", I mean the media and nasty, ugly acting internet trolls and critics.
By anybody's standards, I think I was a pretty sturdy 16 year old. And yet, I was an emotional mess at times. Despite my confidence and irreverence, I, like everyone else wanted to be liked, congratulated, appreciated, and accepted. I was tough, but plenty of people hurt my feelings, even if I didn't show it. I can only imagine how some of the harsh, careless comments about Gabby have hurt her. I think what makes it worse is that so much of it has come from her own people, many of which are women much older than her, who should know better.
A girl's self esteem is nothin' to fuck with.
Not saying that anyone needs to be coddled and told that every single thing they do is amazing. But, being a complete asshole isn't necessary either.
And this is not to say that everyone in the public eye, regardless of race or gender, male isn't at some point on the receiving end of malicious, ignorant, and mean spirited remarks and critiques, but, I feel like Zora Neale Hurston was on to something. Black women do appear to be the mules of the world. It is because of the combined crushing force of racism and sexism that, often times, at least in the media, it doesn't matter what a Black woman does or how great she is. In the end, it will never be good enough.
Maybe it is because I speak from the unique perspective of a Black woman that I am sensitive to the way this chapter has played out for Gabby and plenty others. Maybe no one else sees it. Maybe I'm making it up and nothing is wrong. But I think that the public has done a little damage to her spirit. It is my hope and prayer that it is not a mortal wound, or even one that will leave a noticeable scar... But that it is easily repaired by all who love her.