THE BLOG
08/09/2012 05:12 pm ET Updated Oct 09, 2012

Why Criticism of Gabby Douglas Should Serve as a Wake Up Call to Hibernating Mama Grizzlies Everywhere

In my view, one of my main jobs as a mom is to provide encouragement and support to my kids as they explore their passions and pursue their dreams.

And there is nothing more satisfying than watching a kid take flight once she finds something that inspires her -- an interest that means so much to her that she is willing to work tirelessly and make huge sacrifices to follow that dream as far as she can.

So when Gabby Douglas stuck the landing on the international stage at the London Olympics I wasn't just mesmerized by her obvious talent and skill; the mom in me was mindful of how Douglas's own mom must have felt to see her baby girl accomplish so much at such a young age.

But before Douglas had time to feel the tug of those gold medals around her 16-year-old neck, the weight of unfair criticism began to pull her accolades down. Suddenly, when it came to Gabby Douglas, the main topic of conversation wasn't her breathtaking performance or her grace under pressure. Rather, it was her hair and her leotard. Instead of getting praised for her professional performance, she was getting pummeled for her personal appearance.

As the mom of an 11-year-old girl, even if the remarks about Douglas's looks had been glowing, I still would have found it irritating that national attention was fixated on her appearance rather than her accomplishment. But the fact that the chatter was critical took me from grumpy to outright angry.

I don't know how many times I have to tell you people, don't poke the bear.

The last time I remember being upset like this was when Rush Limbaugh led a national attack against Sandra Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute. At 30 years old, Fluke is not a teenager, but she is like Douglas in the following way: She is an accomplished and poised young woman who had the courage to do something challenging.

And like Douglas, rather than receiving cheers for her willingness to take on something difficult, Fluke was insulted and demeaned in a personal way.

To be clear, when people of any age or gender take on a difficult challenge and step into the spotlight, I believe critiquing them is fair game. But the criticism should be directed at the substance of what they are saying or doing.

Don't think Douglas deserved the gold because another gymnast tumbled better than she did? You have the floor. Disagree with Fluke's assertion that employers should be required to provide insurance that covers birth control? Let's have a healthy debate.

But when young women who step up are ridiculed for things that have nothing to do with the subject at hand -- things that are as irrelevant as their hair and clothes or as personal as their private sex lives -- it sends a chilling message to girls everywhere about the perils of putting oneself out there.

And the message is this: No matter what you do or what year it is, at the end of the day, you will be judged by the 1950s sensibility which dictates that women's biggest responsibilities are to be chaste, look pretty and not step out of line.

Consider this a call to arms to fellow mama bears everywhere. [And feel free to insert your own joke here about the right to bear arms.] The time has come for us to update the rules that are imposed upon our daughters. It's up to us to insist that the criticism surrounding their performance is substantive. And it's our responsibility to object when the discussion loses its way and wanders off into superficial or demeaning territory.

For those of you who are not willing to band together on this for the sake of our daughters, let this be your warning: Things are going to get grizzly.