Have you ever had people touching your natural hair without asking for permission first? How do you react when that happens?
I’ve recently started to let my little mane free (long story short, technically I’ve always been natural, but I’ve only recently started to free myself from misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about my hair, which is why only now I can show my hair for what it really is without feeling deeply uncomfortable).
So, the first time I went to school rocking two-strand twists, all my classmates went “Oh, how beautiful!” and “Aww how cute!”, which was nice, and they all started to touch my hair, which was… not.
The same thing happened when I rocked a wash-and-go style. I didn’t want people to mess with my hair because it would have lost its nicely round shape (and also because I didn’t want people complaining about oily fingers, but hey, nobody asked you to touch, right?). Just one of my classmates asked for permission (1 out of 16) and the others pretty much invited other
people to come and touch and feel
how soft my hair was.
Okay, I get it, I’m the only girl of color in the whole university and natural hair here is an unusual sight.
But although I wasn’t too happy about it, I didn’t get mad when people started to touch my hair – just slightly annoyed. Only afterwards I wondered: had I been just another white girl, would have all that people touched my, I don’t know, freshly permed hair without even asking
Hmm. Somehow I don’t think so.
Then I read a couple of articles about this very subject, and it made me think.Today I have the confidence to loudly proclaim no you may not touch my hair. I am not an animal at a petting zoo. I will not be your path to the exotic. Even worse than the ones that ask, are those that assume that they have right to touch me without permission. I believe that part of this urge stems from the fact that black women like so many other WOC, have historically been denied even the smallest forms of bodily autonomy. […]
Today white people still feel that they have the right to our bodies. It can be a small act like touching our hair without permission, to a heinous act as serious as sexual assault. In each case it is an assault, and an affront to our bodily integrity. My blackness and your curiosity does not give you the right to touch me.
Link: Can I Touch Your Hair? Black Women and The Petting Zoo In an interview with Spalding, Beiber reached out and touched her hair without asking. I suppose he thought it was fine, because he told her that he liked her hair, but it was an absolute violation. You don't just reach out and pet someone. […]
Even as he was touching Spalding's hair, she returned the compliment and said that she liked his hair. At no time did she attempt to touch him. I think this is very indicative of the fact that White men control the environment around them, and their personal space is inviolable. To Beiber, Spalding is an "other". Though he may not see his actions as both racist and sexist, that is exactly what they are. You don't pet people that you think are your equal. […]
Is it really surprising that the same kid who does not believe that women should have control over their reproduction believes that he can touch a woman at will? Everything in his life has taught him that he has privileges, which he is in no way entitled to. He doesn't have to think about the best way to negotiate a space, because he is a part of the dominant culture. With added privilege of celebrity and wealth, Bieber has no social censure on his behaviour.
Link: Justin Beiber Pets Esperanza Spalding's Hair
I don’t agree with everything that is stated in the first article, but they both had a point. So, how do you react when people do that? I admit I can’t be really firm when it comes to tell people off, because I know my friends don’t mean to be rude - they just don’t realize they are being inappropriate.
Also, to be fair, I have to add that I, too, have touched other people’s hair without permission.
But it was my friends’ hair, and I knew they didn’t mind. There’s this girl with waist-long, straight hair in my class (guess what, her nickname’s ‘Rapunzel’… LOL) and I LOVE playing with her hair. But she loves when I do that, I mean, she has often asked me to. (And she starts making these
content little sounds when you pet her hair, her eyes close and she goes all “Hmm, yes… oh, yes…”.
Yes, I swear. It’s hilarious
(Crossed posted at naturalhair