Debate This: Should Black Women Allow Others to Touch Their Hair?

Unruly "You Can Touch My Hair"

Julie: I also think it’s one of those things that is kind of a weird slippery slope. A lot of people will say it’s no big deal, but I think it speaks to a larger issue of who feels they can access your body and your space at any given time. It’s weird to cater to other people’s totally shitty impulses.

Nicole: Hmm. That’s unlocking a whole new can of worms. Women, as a whole, are disrespected in the most public way. Add this to it? Yes, of course, random person, please come touch me inappropriately because you don’t understand me! Of course.

Deena: Well, I think the curiosity stems from commercials that are primarily for white hair products and magazines that mainly cover white beauty topics and TV shows that mainly feature white characters, etc. But, I think this exhibit channels the right kind of curiosity because it’s not exactly “inappropriate” because we’re giving them the approval to do so. If that makes sense.

Nicole: True. They did sign up for it…

Deena: It’s like saying, “Hey, our hair is different, but it’s still normal.” Touch it and learn why, so to speak.

Julie: I think it just sucks, though, like so many instances before, that black women have to do the educating for ignorant white people.

Nicole: LOL. I was just about to say that — ignorant. I think if you start with this exhibit, you have to do more. I think it’s really just baby steps. Experiments like these hopefully educate white people, so they can go back and tell their friends and families. And if enough minds are changed over time we won’t have to have these discussions.

Julie: Yeah, I suppose it could be a jumping off point to have people start questioning why they accept these notions of “white hair” as normal and “black hair” as a deviation from that norm.

Nicole: Well, you have celebs like Beyoncé who have bone-straight, platinum blonde hair in the media — which is what ppl think is the norm — so, well, viewers get confused. Like, hey, black girl, why is your hair like this and Queen B’s is like Gwyneth Paltrow’s? But that’s a whole other topic.

Deena: Our writer attended the event (she has dreadlocks) and she felt people were very friendly towards the models and they walked away more informed.

Nicole: Because it’s hair, Deena, do you think it’s a little less harmless? If it was like, an ass exhibit, would it be different? Because society certainly has an obsession with our asses. Mine is non-existent, but you know I mean!

Deena: Right. It’s just hair!

Nicole:  But see, I equate it all to being the same. It’s a fetish with us, a fascination … and people should relax. I don’t know. I just want women to have the power back. No more ways for us to be gawked at and “stripped” because people have questions. Like, I’m over it.

Julie: I cosign on that. But I also see what Deena’s saying. And I think that this is where intent and interaction really have to match up. Both the people creating the exhibition and the people participating would ideally be on the same page.

Deena: I agree, I don’t think we should be gawked at, but if someone legitimately wants to learn about our culture and hair, why shouldn’t they be educated and touch it if given permission? Again, to me it’s just hair. This exhibit channels the right kind of curiosity. But perhaps next time let’s open it up to all races, so no one feels ostracized or discriminated again.

Nicole: I’m a black woman with relaxed hair and no (ass)ets. I don’t particularly understand why that would spark questions, but hey, to each their own. Hopefully the exhibit starts a dialogue and the Un-Ruly people get the results they were looking for.