Simone Biles Is a F’n Hero, and We Probably Don’t Deserve Her
I had other stories I planned to finish writing today, but those plans came to a screeching halt when I paused to check in on the newsfeed.
Buzz surrounding the Simone Biles New York Magazine interview is still strong the day after it ran, but so is criticism of Biles herself, and that, as it turns out, is just too much to ignore. I’m temporarily taking off the news hat to have an absolute fit about this, so please stop reading now if the topic is triggering or offensive.
The first thing we need to address is the bullshit notion that Biles somehow failed her team or her country — hell, people act as if she personally failed them. Let’s be clear: She did not fail us; we failed her.
She was expected to compete for the pride of the U.S.A. — all wrapped in and entrusted to the red, white and blue — yet, it was that same country that let her and so many others down when they needed us most.
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The justice system failed her long before she earned the unfortunate “survivor” badge. Case after case of abusers walking free let Larry Nasser believe he could get away with taking what was never his. Victim after victim ignored, dismissed and blamed for so fucking long just reinforced that speaking up was futile, that her personal pain would only worsen out in the light of day. And guess what? She was right.
The FBI failed to act, as did hordes of others who knew something was very wrong and consciously chose to look the other way. Nasser served as the USA Gymnastics team doctor for 18 years! Tell me, how the hell is it possible that nobody noticed and stopped a man who molested and sometimes drugged potentially hundreds of girls over the course of nearly two decades? That, there, is the root of the problem — we sacrifice victims because it’s too inconvenient to protect them.
Our society failed her with our callous judgments, victim blaming tendencies, ridiculously unrealistic expectations and endless crap we project onto others. People are sitting on couches at this very moment, shoveling fast food down their gullets as they fanatically peck out insults against a young woman who worked her ass off every single day to become one of the greatest gymnasts to walk, jump and vault across the face of this earth.
She had quietly suffered for years and pushed through, determined not to let Nasser take everything from her, until it took a physical toll on her body. Yes, even the fittest and strongest among us can be taken down by trauma, and that is a super uncomfortable reality for many people to face. So, instead of compassion and empathy, the most insecure segments of our society vilified her for having the audacity to be a human in pain.
She was just a child, like so many other victims of sexual assault, just an innocent and beautiful child marked for greatness. And the real fucked up part is that despite her overwhelming and indisputable talent, she is not unique in her part as a victim or survivor — she’s just experiencing that very familiar pain out loud in the public eye, because she has no choice. I dare you to think of how many brilliant minds and amazing talents were assaulted and stopped in their tracks long before they could realize their greatness.
She was 16 years old when she won her first major U.S. titles, and she’d already been abused. People are quick to criticize the need to care for herself now, but where are the extra accolades for those insane accomplishments amidst the assault, depression, anxiety and insecurity?
People who call her a quitter, who criticize how she chooses to survive don’t realize that they’re not just judging her, some fallen hero that didn’t live up to their God-like expectations. They’re judging all survivors who can read and hear, and those words cut awfully deep.
If you are one of those people who’ve lashed out against Biles, you, not her, are the problem. You perpetuate the same bullshit that keeps abusers from justice and victims from speaking.
To the millions of assault survivors out there struggling to make sense of themselves and life, who shy from trust and love, who carry burdens of unearned shame and pain, and who are afraid to say so, Simone Biles is a goddamn hero. Standing in the lion’s den of public criticism, she’s bravely showing us that it’s okay to not be okay, that we can take our power back and do whatever it is we need to do to survive.
Anyone who wants to judge that, for her or any other survivor, can really just fuck straight off.