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Hair Petting 
10th-Jul-2011 08:34 am
Natural hair & Coke
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 first?
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 orgasmic 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 :D).


(Crossed posted at naturalhair and longhurrs).
Comments 
10th-Jul-2011 08:20 am (UTC) - I hate it!!!!!
I had to comment on both post lol!!!

This is by far one of the most annoying things i have dealt with in my 2 years of going natural, especially because my hair is about 2 inches about APL and i like to rock a twisted fro! I didn't read the 2 articles you gave but I'm going to go on a semi-rant so I apologize, and i hope it makes sense! lol

ok First of all i think every woman who is natural has gone through this at some point, so welcome to the club. I think you can take it two ways when this happens(at least I handle it two different ways when it happens to me).

The first: you can let it go but with a warning. This warning does not have to be harsh to get your point across. I often say something along the lines of "if you don't mind, can you not touch my hair" or "no offense but i just don't like people touching my hair". These are both polite ways to assert your power without being rude. Personally I don't even let my best friends touch my hair, and I don't go around touching others hair unless they want me to-like in the case of your orgasmic friend lol. This is also an opportunity (esp with friends/class mates-ive done with both groups) to make a joke out of it by saying something like "no fingers, i have to keep my hair fresh" or "hey, you don't see me messing with your hair", something that is playful that your friends will laugh at.

The second: Now this one is when i know people are being stupid or just overly ignorant in an offense way, not in the innocent way which would most likely result in the first option. Now i will say I do this when i'm annoyed or just pissed off- just to warn you! When someone touches my hair(especially older white women- i don't know why but they have a serious problem when they see my hair, they love to stroke it like i'm some damn "thing"--sorry i had a flash back, lol!) I will stop what i'm doing turn to that person and start to touch theirs. Promptly after that I ask "now did you like me touching your hair as much as i DISLIKED you touching mine?" That always gets a confused look. Now at this point before they walk away i say something along the lines of "Just to let you know my hair is personal, thus not to be touched by strangers, its disrespectful and you wouldn't do it if i was white, the next time you try to do that the person may not be as nice about their personal space".

Now the my second option might be a little bold, but i feel that if a person is that bold to touch a strangers hair then I am fully in my right to be just as bold back. Not only that but they would not be coming up to me "petting" my hair if i was white. People need to learn that natural hair is not a trend as some like to call it, it is apart of who you are. If you choose to Rock your natural then i feel like at some point you are going to have to defend it. Either way its just down right disrespectful for someone to come up to you and touch your hair!!!!

ok I know I kidda went all the way to the left with this, but this literally happens to me at least once a week and the stuff kills me!!! And to be fair I've used both ways on all races, not just white people. I've had plenty of black relaxed women think my hair as a novelty. Either was it pisses me off!
10th-Jul-2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
Until I went natural and started reading boards and comms, I never knew that people took issue with having their hair touched.

I've always liked it when people touched my hair, from when I was a little girl, from when I got it relaxed, and now that it's natural. It doesn't bother me.

I supposed it's different strokes for different folks. I was also the preggo-mom-to-be who didn't mind it when people touched my belly, but I know some are very adamant that you stay the hell away.

But I'm a touchy-feely kinda girl. Just last night, I was playing with one of my yoga instructor's hair. A white male. I just love hair, and I love to play and I love having mine played with.

And if i were Spalding, I would have STRAIGHT up touched Justin's hair back! LOL.
10th-Jul-2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
I should probably also say that my decision to go natural wasn't a political one. It was because I realized that I liked curly hair and that it was stupid to pay all this money to relax (and damage) my hair, only to use a curling iron to make fake curls when I HAD CURLY HAIR. In addition, I hated all the damage that relaxers did. Now I have a head of healthy, beautiful hair and I love it and will not go back to a relaxer ever.
12th-Jul-2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
GRRR ARRRGH.

Why yes, i've had problems w/ this. Not recently but. Yes.
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