One Writer’s Reaction To Un-ruly.com’s Short Film ‘Can I Touch Your Hair?’

image004Photo courtesy Un-ruly.com

How many black women have been asked the question, “Can I touch your hair?” Especially those wearing their hair in its natural state? I’ve always wondered what the big deal was and why so many people feel the need to touch something we all possess. Apparently, Un-ruly.com‘s founder Antonia Opiah had the same question. When Opiah started the discussion about people touching black women’s hair, she set out to discover why people of other races were so curious about black hair. Little did she know, she had sparked a totally different conversation without getting her answer.

Last June, Un-ruly.com held a two-day exhibit where three black women with different hair textures and styles stood in Union Square holding signs that read, “You can touch my hair.” You can just imagine the questions it raised as people walked passed wondering what those signs meant exactly. Why can I touch your hair? Why wouldn’t it be OK if you didn’t give your permission? And so forth.

By day two, there were women of a different group holding signs that read, “You cannot touch my hair.” And therein lies the controversy about whether people should or should not be allowed to touch black women’s hair. There’s Un-ruly who feels black women should be comfortable with letting people of other races touch their hair because it gives them the chance to educate those on black hair. Then, there are other women who feel no one should be able to touch their hair because their curiosity is based solely on the fact that they’re black. Why are black women the only women judged, characterized, stared at, and profiled whenever their hair is worn in its natural state? Asian women, Indian women, white women or any other women with straight hair don’t incite the same curiosity.

Last night, Un-ruly.com presented the results of Opiah’s social experiment with “You Can Touch My Hair, A Short Film” in partnership with Pantene Pro-V at the Tribeca Screening Room. Once the half hour film ended, it brought on a separate discussion with the audience, Opiah, Michaela Angela Davis and Autumn, a volunteer who participated in the exhibit.

Some women felt they’re asked more by black women to touch their hair than women of other races. Some felt there is a competition between natural haired women and those with relaxers. While others felt there is a beef between naturals and other naturals—those with a tight curl versus those with a looser curl. After an hour of conversation, we all realized that the root of the issue is women loving their own hair and being comfortable with themselves no matter how it’s styled. If you want to wear a weave, swing it. If you want to wear a fro, rock it proudly. And if you want to wear locks or braids, do so fearlessly.

Bottom line, we as women should not let the question of our hair being touched, or the question of our hair being unprofessional, or the number of looks we’ll get from the style of our hair, stop us from wearing our hair the way we feel most comfortable. We should also understand that we can’t expect every black woman to embrace or praise her hair because everyone is dealing with their own pain and perceptions, and each should be allowed to do that in their own time.

 

So my question to you is, can I touch your hair?

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Comments

  • Jackie

    Please DO NOT touch my hair unless I know you and your hygiene routine. I can talk about my hair with anyone until I am blue in the face, but the same way that you cannot touch my shirt, feel my shoes, hug my child- you cannot touch my hair. The things I listed (myself included) are not items on display in a museum.

    • SISTAHNATURAL

      I second this!

  • SISTAHNATURAL

    To answer that question: NO, you can’t touch my hair, I don’t know where your hands have been….SMH!

  • Love my hair!

    Seriously? You three are trying to make us believe that it’s about hygiene. Come on…. Maybe the reason people look more when a black woman is wearing her hair in its natural state is due to so many women straightening their hair throughout the years. I have given up on all of the hair products, straightening, etc. I have always thought that all people look best with the hair in its natural state. Oh, and feel away if you want.

    • JustSaying_IMFO

      Good for you. That’s your choice. But why should women who don’t want to be touched by strangers be shamed for not making a different choice?

  • nagesemag

    HAIR. What is hair? Hair(unlike fur for white people) is antenna to the spiritual world for all melinated beings. Most melinataed people have 9 ether hair which means their hair spirals upward, defying gravity, and is towards God( Real God, not monotheistic religious Bullshit) If most melinated people took the time to study the science of hair then he or she would know how important it is for people not to touch your hair!!!!. Hair is extremely important to health and ones well being… Do not let anyone touch your hair. I dislike videos like these because it is filled with ignorance. Why do melinated women feel the need to let other races in? Its the inferiority complex all over again. Its similar to black men crossing the street because they dont want white women to fear them.. “Let white people touch our hair so they will be comfortable and not scared” If you have 9 ether hair you better rock it or else your suffer from a fate you developed yourself.. BE YOURSELF SISTAHS

    • Alexis

      WHAT? curly hair is caused by more disulfide bonds in the proteins of our hair.. trippin. I HATE people who pretend to be deep

      • Alexis

        Ok i spit out fact and you spit out “spiritual” nonsense @557dcdf1e1a8ccc700dfd53456e0d0fc:disqus

  • JustSaying_IMFO

    It’s not about my hair. It’s about having my personal space invaded, especially by strangers. Or being treated like a zoo or petting farm exhibit. Why should black women be more accommodating to that?

  • akwgreenzbk

    I hate that question. Just like I hate when people ask me if my green eyes are real. Sometimes people really need to put their own foot in their mouths. I was sitting in class one day and this is even before I went natural (2 years strong btw and so proud). My teacher, as she was asking me the question and reaching over to touch my hair at the same d*mn time. (smh can i answer you first) I had just got a roller set and I had pin curled it and then let it down. So it was bouncy and just beautiful lol and she was like “I love it. It’s so nice. What did you do to it”? I know she really wanted to ask if it was mine. But she didn’t have enough courage. I mean I can understand her being intrigued because I used to always wear my hair in a top bun so it was different to see it down for her. But still it’s like people are so ignorant they think just because your a certain race you can’t have this or that. No it’s called taking care of what you got and you too shall reap the benefits. Ugh. the madness. will it ever stop? And no to sum it up you can’t touch my d*mn hair unless you are my stylist, my bf or my mom dukes, but you can enjoy it from a distance!

  • IAJS

    No don’t touch my hair or get in my bubble, I am real big on personal space, it is an intimate thing to me so do not invade it.

    • akwgreenzbk

      nicely put…

  • Meelah

    I have a white co-worker who would often swing by my desk at work and find a way to touch my hair. At first I was pissed until I noticed she got the same hair cut weeks later. I didn’t mind as much after that. I just don’t want to be touched as if I’m some sort of alien species. I’m not your research specimen. If you have a question then respectfully ask but don’t put your hands on my person (to inspect) without permission.

  • QueenShe

    Nope I don’t know where your dirty hands have been near my beautiful clean hair! No seriously tho you can ask but I would rather you NOT just because it causes breakage. I do not touch my hair unless I have to so why would I let you play in it because you are curious as to what afro textured hair feels like. Get a clue and go to the BSS store and touch human hair wigs.

  • nagesemag

    —-IMPORTANT MESSAGE ONCE AGAIN—HAIR. What is hair? Hair(unlike fur for white people) is antenna to the spiritual world for all melinated beings. Most melinataed people have 9 ether hair which means their hair spirals upward, defying gravity, and is towards God( Real God, not monotheistic religious Bullshit) If most melinated people took the time to study the science of hair then he or she would know how important it is for people not to touch your hair!!!!. Hair is extremely important to health and ones well being… Do not let anyone touch your hair except for loved ones (family). I dislike videos like these because it is filled with ignorance. Why do melinated women feel the need to let other races in? Its the inferiority complex all over again. Its similar to black men crossing the street because they dont want white women to fear them.. “Let white people touch our hair so they will be comfortable and not scared” If you have 9 ether hair you better rock it or else your suffer from a fate you developed yourself.. BE YOURSELF SISTAHS

  • Alexis

    They asked a really stupid question. Why don’t White, Asian, Spanish, etc women,who ALL have straight hair, incite the same curiosity among each other? Because their hair looks the same and ours is VERY different. Why wouldn’t someone be curious????? And no, of course someone can’t just come up to you and pet your head, that would be offputting to anyone. I don’t feel any type of way about it, white people honestly think black natural hair and the different styles we wear are cool. Usually people who ask to touch your hair are people you KNOW in some fashion. Why did they have to make a spectacle as if people they don’t know on a daily basis are stopping them and begging them to touch their hair?

    • nagesemag

      inferiority complex. Your one of the people who PRETENDS like everything is peachy keen…

      “Usually people who ask to touch your hair are people you KNOW in some fashion.” -Alexis
      Where hell did you get that statistic from? This article aint about your friends playing in your hair….

      • Alexis

        Inferiority complex? No I’m just not bitter like the rest of you people. I’d rather educate someone then scream discrimination every time someone is GENUINELY ignorant. I have definitely not been in a situation that warranted the “black” card and Im greatful for that. i couldn’t imagine walking around angry all the time, thinking that everyone is trying to offend me on purpose. You act like people aren’t curious about all cultures. The only thing traditional about you all is your hair. If you walked around in the attire or practiced your ACTUAL home religions, people would be curious about that too. You’re wayyy more assimilated than you think. Inferiority complex my a*s