Friday, August 10, 2012

Thoughts on London: Celebrate the Accomplishments of Harper, Wells, and Jones

When Dawn Harper, Kellie Wells, and Lolo Jones went 2-3-4 in the hurdles, it marked a great accomplishment for USA Track. Sadly, what happened was that a media debate erupted over the relative fame of Harper and Wells vs. Jones and whether Jones is or is not deserving of the attention she has received. Instead, why don't we celebrate the accomplishments of all three of these athletes. They all have worked hard and persevered. Rather than pitting them against each other, why not appreciate the efforts they have made? If they do dislike each other, that's their business. It's not an elementary school playground where we all have to choose sides. Neutrality is a perfectly acceptable option. Track is an individual sport, so their alleged dislike of one another would not affect their ability to compete. Moreover, they'd hardly be the first set of successful teammates to dislike each other.
Secondly, I feel like debating whether or not Jones is attention seeking misses the point. When you judge someone on their desire for attention, you critique them in the same way you would criticize a potential friend. These athletes, much as you might wish them to be, are not your friends. They are not even your work colleagues. If they are working hard, treating others with respect, and staying out of trouble, they are deserving of respect and admiration. All of these athletes fit all three qualities.
And finally, to those of you complaining that Jones is receiving more attention than Harper and Wells because of her looks: Yes, I completely agree that objectification of women is an issue. But don't we, as  media consumers, objectify people in general? Female athletes are hardly the only ones who can receive disproportionate attention for their looks. Are David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo great soccer players? Absolutely. Is their fame aided by their looks? No doubt. And actors? How many Ryan Gosling websites exist now? Those are totally for his acting talent alone, right? For better or for worse, looks are a factor in how people are judged in all arenas. Instead of vilifying an admirable athlete because she takes advantage of a system instead of falling victim to it, how about refusing to fall into the system's traps and celebrating accomplishments where you see fit?

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