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When I saw the You Can Touch My Hair conversation buzzing on Twitter I thought… this cannot be a real situation. But it was! For two days, naturalistas gathered at Union Square in New York and allowed strangers to touch and gawk at their tresses. Just so you know, this sounded like complete horse sh*t to me. But, because I am all about the non-judgmental side of thinking, I suggested that we (me and my boo Danielle) head out for day two of this movement and see what all of this hoopla was about.

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Photo Credit: (oh hey Taren Guy)

If you were a dude looking for a hot date–you should have been there! I was greeted with an array of gorgeous brown girls all with fabulous curly afros, twist-outs, and locs. What I didn’t expect was the conversation that would lead me to think heavily on self-esteem, good vs. bad hair, and race relations in America. The main topic, on whether touching our hair should be ok or not, was split. One group of girls were totally ok with people touching their hair (with permission that is). And then there was a group of very aggy girls who felt the idea of strangers touching their hair was degrading, disrespectful, and had the same intentions of a petting zoo.

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My opinions lies somewhere in the middle of this conversation. People often just stare at my hair, and some muster up enough nerve to ask can they touch it all while reaching for my curls. Talk about annoying! But I still smile and thank them for all of the compliments that they really feel are original thoughts that I haven’t heard all day. But to say I felt disrespected is a bit of a stretch. I tried asking one of the girls why she felt this way. She explained that no one is walking around touching white people’s hair, and she also questioned why we should have to educate other races about our hair. I think this thinking is just ignorant. And it’s what will always keep up separated as races. We are different. Plain. And. Simple. So let’s learn about those differences and celebrate them. I mean, in an intimate setting of good girlfriends, I twirl my white homies hair all the time. It feels different. Not good, or bad–just different.

I’d like to see where this conversation takes us all. What do you think? Can they touch your hair or not? Chime in below!

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  1. Milaxx
    June 8, 2013 / 9:34 pm

    It’s not for me. I was on vacation in China and found myself surrounded by people touching my hair & asking questions. Granted, other than TV there weren’t many black people around, at least not African American’s. Honestly at the Empress Summer Palace people were putting their children up to us and taking pictures of them. Anyway, at one point I somehow managed to draw a crowd and they were touching and asking questions, it it did indeed feel uncomfortable. I was literally being stroked and petted and felt on display like an animal in the zoo. Based on that experience alone I would not participate in any social experiment to allow people to touch my hair. I can’t say I would be offended or feel disrespected, but it would feel like an invasion of my personal space.

  2. sherrie
    June 8, 2013 / 10:37 pm

    If we are friends I have no problem with you touching m hair. Now strangers, regardless of race need to ask first. You never know this experiment could’ve helped the mother of a biracial child get some info about what she could do to maintain her childs hair.

  3. June 9, 2013 / 12:04 am

    While I think “You Can Touch My Hair” was an interesting way to prompt dialogue about black hair, I don’t think it’s “ignorant” for a black woman to exert autonomy and agency over her body and personal space. As someone who has had her natural hair touched/grabbed without permission, and who’s been asked to have it touched (for the myriad of odd reasons), it’s an awkward and uncomfortable space to be in. Noting and respecting someone’s differences is important; but to do it in a way that makes a person feel like an anomaly, is counter-productive and invasive.

    While black women have the right to consent to having their touched, and may not feel bothered by it, those of us who are discomfited by it, have the right not to acquiesce, without being made to feel as if we *should* or wrong for not doing doing so.

    This exhibit has encouraged a noteworthy discussion about the politics of black hair… good, bad, and ugly, but I think it’s important to note the historical context/implications behind having our hair touched, in this discourse. And I believe that history and being constantly made to feel as if our hair isn’t good enough or “normal” enough, is what has caused the separation, not us saying “no” to someone’s query to touch it.

  4. June 11, 2013 / 11:45 am

    I found it odd that some felt a need to stage an anti touch my hair protest. Look I don’t want ANYONE randomly walking up and touching my hair, and I would have not volunteered to do this. However after being in the Natural Hair community for about 10 months now, I find some (not all) women to be intolerant of other women with natural hair and their own personal choices i.e. if you blow dry, flat iron, color, press etc you not a “real natural” and now “how dare you let these folks touch your hair”. If this art exhibit has answered a question for someone, or cleared up any confusing then it made some level of progress.

  5. j
    June 13, 2013 / 2:34 pm

    I’ve only been natural for about 3 years now. I’ve never had anyone put their hands on my hair or even ask for permission to. Just a lot of questions about maintance. However I can relate in another way…I have three children, and in each pregnancy I’ve encountered some random person who feels the need to touch my pregnant belly. And after having my children I’ve dealt with people that may take their hands and touch my child. I’m a very polite person so I would handle both situations in a nice way, my husband on the other hand doesn’t play that and may be vocal about it if you catch him on the wrong day, lol. But it normally happens outside of my race, becuase they seem fascinated about the differences, when I know that I wouldn’t be able to do the same if it was the other way around. Nor would I have a desire to do that. It’s one thing to understand each other’s differences it’s another to be made a spectacle. I wouldn’t have an event asking everyone to touch my hair because I know they want to, but I also wouldn’t waste my time protesting the fact that people are willing to go through all that. Both actions seem unnecessary

  6. June 13, 2013 / 8:20 pm

    I just feel that at this stage in MY life, I really do not care how you, them, us or anyone else feels about me OR my hair. Someone else’s curiosity is none of my business. If you do not have a close friend, a really good co-worker relationship or something like that with a black woman who just so happens to be natural….oops, your bad. I have no desire to give in to anyone’s curiosity or their inability to be comfortable in the same room as my hair. So no, you cannot touch my hair.

  7. July 8, 2013 / 9:10 pm

    I don’t like for people to touch my hair. I have enough issues with finding random things in my fro that I don’t need germs from someone’s hands added to the mix. It does get annoying that people often ask if they can or better yet just man handle my kinks. But obviously most people, Blacks included, are amazed by the beauty that is Natural hair.

  8. Comet
    July 10, 2013 / 7:39 pm

    I an not a Twitter follower and found this by following a Plus size link—I was interested to see this post tho! As a caucasion (do I even know HOW to spell that???) woman –and handicapped–I get the touchie feelies all the TIME as some feel that if you are handicapped you are some how “Public property”. Kinda like the pregnant thing!

    I would admire some ones hair–and ask where or how they did it–we are always looking for new colors or styles here in the wilderness!–but I cannot imagine asking to touch some one elses hair! Maybe see something they had in their hair closer up but–hands off! My “natural” color is a platinum “blond” and when I was in Texas women were always coming up to me asking where I got it “Done”–I just finally told ’em God did it. Now it is auburn cause–I hated it!

    And with two grandkids who have a strange need to collect EVERY germ on the planet we have fought a losing battle on touching kids. My 6 year old grand daughter has extremely LONG hair–she can sit on it–and it has a hot pink wide streak in it. People do seem to feel the need to touch this. We do try to be polite but she has learned to speak up for herself on this!

    That said–when I was a kid we were on a flight to Jamaica with friends who had grown up there. I remember that the woman we went with had very styled and processed hair–this was 1969 after all!–but there was a couple on the plane who had huge afros. Gorgeous! My mother was in a seat behind them and altho she would NEVER have asked to touch their hair she said that one of the women brushed past her going to the aisle and she was surprised at how SOFT her hair was! So–there are misconceptions on this.

    Now us gimpy people should do a “Touch my_____” handicapped body part installation like this! Can you touch my faux leg? Hmmmmm—–

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