While almost the entire country had their eyes glued to television sets to watch Super Bowl XLVIII, others were paying closer attention to Fox Sports news reporter Pam Oliver’s hair.
The 19-year veteran is one of the few women in sports broadcast, especially among women of color, and despite being an intelligent, pioneering woman in sports news, the only thing the public seemed to focus on was what’s on her head, rather than what’s inside it.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Florida A&M University alum has been under the microscope for her outer appearance. Whether it’s her hair or what she’s wearing, Oliver always seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to respect in her industry.
“Pam Oliver needa be on the field in her lace front helmet,” read one tweet referring to her weave. “All that damn money she got…. Why Pam Oliver have the worst weaves in history???” read another. Others retweeted a photoshopped image of Oliver alongside Chewbacca from Star Wars, suggesting the two resembled each other. There’s even a Twitter account with the name “@PamOliversWig,” which is purposely intended to make fun of her tresses.
The criticisms of Oliver resembles similar criticisms against Olympic gold medalist Gabby Dougas when she competed in the London games two years ago. Like Oliver, Douglas was breaking barriers as a woman of color in a white, male-dominated world, while all people could focus on was her hair.
Black women in entertainment and sports don’t get it easy. No matter how talented and bright they may be, they’re always held to very sexist and trivial standards of beauty. At the surface, women in entertainment (and sports especially) are generally tasked with the responsibility of possessing brain, brawn and beauty. According to society, you can be athletic and intelligent, but you also have to be attractive. But by whose standards?
The most disheartening observation is that most of the condemnation of Black women in the spotlight actually comes from the Black community itself. Black Twitter, in particular, is usually in the driver’s seat of some of the most sexist and racist trending topics about Black public figures.
Hair continues to be a taboo topic among African Americans. At the core is obvious lingering self-shame in the community, so much so that anything that deviates from the European standard of beauty is often viewed as an embarrassment whether it be a woman rocking her natural hair, not having her weave finely combed or having one strand of hair out of place. While these expectations are not only absurd and counterproductive to one’s actual talents and achievements, we see such criticisms every single day.
While in Oliver’s case, the world of broadcast is probably the most sexist industry in the country, it’s great to see the seasoned reporter doesn’t let the haters knock her off her game.
“One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt who said, ‘No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your consent,” Oliver said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal just days before the Super Bowl. “Who has time? I’m too busy to care.”
Good for her.