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event: you can touch my hair

yctmh_jade

For years black hair has been more than just hair in American culture. It’s been a suppressed racial characteristic, a symbol of political protest and political change and most recently the cause of some very awkward and offensive situations. We, at Un’ruly, have delved deep into the question and have shared our thoughts on the Huffington Post. But to take things even further, we’re exploring the tactile fascination with black hair by holding an interactive public art exhibit in NYC.

 

10/24/13 update: you can touch my hair, a short film


Learn more about the film and it’s premiere here.

 

6/18/13 update: what were we thinking?

 

Many have asked, “What were you thinking?!” We explain here.

…You Can Touch My Hair is now over, but the exhibition goes on. Any time a stranger tugs on some unsuspecting person’s hair, a person is put on display. Any time the question, “Can I touch your hair?” is asked, a person is put on display. These barely noticeable encounters that happen everyday is the realexhibition.

People have asked: “You’ve started this conversation, so now what’s your solution?” You’ll find this crazy (you probably already think I’m crazy ;-), but YCTMH is the solution…. Continue reading…

 

For those just joining the conversation, feel free to read the article that preceded the event on the Huffington Post: Can I Touch Your Hair?  And check out our recap of Day 1′s event (video included).

  • Derek

    I am currently striving to a psychotherapist career to speicalize to aid women of color. I also come from line of proud people. How is it this event this weekend will aid woemn of color and yes I plan on attending?
    Sincerely
    DKCK

    • admin

      Hi Derek,

      Thanks for the comment. We’re not specifically looking to aid black women; our goal is to start a dialogue around the fascination of black hair as well as to reduce the unfamiliarity of black hair to non-blacks. However, you never know, good ideas some times come out of good conversations.

      Antonia

      • daniel

        Who care what non-blacks think!

        • PubPro

          Exactrly. So they are doing this to appease non Black PEOPLE? Blacks need to wake up

          • Tenebrae

            Well,

            If you all want a psychological reason behind the concept, I’ll provide one. Chris Rock came out with a documentary called Good Hair, and judging from that particular film…it seems that black women have a sort of insecurity regarding their hair.

            It’s one thing to have an aversion to people randomly coming up and playing with your hair without permission -

            (I have had several black women randomly fondle my hair out in public, an odd experience for a white male who dresses in all black with hair down to his ass.)

            - but it’s another to display such hostility towards individuals seeking to step out of this stereotype and familiarize the masses who are curious about a hair type that so many are extremely unfamiliar with. Why is there anything wrong with this?

            Looking back on my life, it’s very odd to realize that I have never felt a black woman’s hair. Through countless different types of human interaction, I’ve felt many types of hair. However, the hair of a black woman has always been taboo…it’s just something you don’t touch, and everyone knows it.

            I understand the amount of work, and money, that many black women put into their hair…don’t get me wrong here. All I’m saying is that if there are women who wish to step outside of this stereotype, even temporarily, there’s no need to display such hostility or take offense in the fear that people will suddenly believe it’s okay to randomly walk up and grope women’s hair in public. With the exception of one, I’ve only ever had black women start fondling my hair out of the blue in public, and I believe this has a lot to do with their insecurities regarding their own hair.

            Maybe this exhibit will provide people with a greater understanding of a hair type that we, as non-blacks, have always been restricted from. This, however, isn’t what I would like to see as an outcome from this exhibit.

            Maybe, and more importantly, some of the stress placed upon black women will start to subside…and this extreme aversion to a very common form of human interaction will be lifted through time.

            I can’t fathom living my life without letting those who are close to me touch my hair. It’s literally that common of an occurrence…be it through intimacy, roughhousing as a child, or whatever the case. Elsewhere in the comments, the Admin expressed that the majority of those who took the opportunity to touch the hair of their models were black themselves…and I think that goes to say a lot about the problem here.

      • wow

        Could you explain more please? Why do you feel like other non blacks need to be familiar with black hair? Even a lot of black people don’t even know what their natural hair texture really feels like.

        • admin

          The article I originally wrote, which most people seem to not be reading, will give you some context.

          I’ve been holding back from saying that we’re not seeking anyone’s approval because I don’t like to state the obvious.

          I also haven’t wanted to outrightly state this exhibit happens everyday when people ask me or other women to touch their hair. Those everyday “can I touch your hair” moments is really where the exploitation is. This exhibit is just a very literal replication of those moments that usually go unnoticed and its bringing them to light. It’s easy to be angry at this exhibit because its soooo literal but I’m hoping people will connect their reaction to this to the everyday occurrences of it.

          Antonia

          • Regina

            Antonio,

            You said, “Those everyday “can I touch your hair” moments is [sic] really where the exploitation is. “.

            That’s like stating that every day women get asked if someone can touch their butts, and that “those moments are really where the exploitation is”, not our event, in which women actively invite people to touch their butts. Come on. Exploitation is exploitation, whether it happens individually or as part of some “art” display.

        • admin

          Please read the article I wrote especially the last paragraph.

          Also, funny thing is during the exhibit on Thursday there were more black women touching our models’ hair than non-blacks. Out of the 230+ years black people have been in America, natural hair has only “been around” for about 20 years, during the black power movement. So we ourselves are just now really getting to know it. So it wasn’t surprising to see so many black women asking Malliha questions about how she cares for her hair.

          This exhibit is totally not what people think it is. But I don’t blame everyone for having this response. No one likes being othered or treated like an alien. And I hope some of this outrage will be seen by those doing the alienating in everyday situations.

          Antonia

          • http://youthinkwhat.com/now Henry T Gandolph

            I like the idea of the exhibit. I like your site. I read your article.

            Your statement, “Out of the 230+ years black people have been in America, natural hair has only ‘been around’ for about 20 years, ” in response to a poster’s question for more info is incorrect.
            Prior to Madame CJ Walker’s invention natural black hair styles were worn in the U.S.. Check your hair history for details.

          • admin

            Sure, I guess I was thinking more about how during slavery women were told to cover their hair or braid it because white people didn’t approve of it. I was also thinking how overall the images of black women have primarily been of black women with straightened hair. I’m love love loving the natural hair renaissance, as some have so eloquently put it. I’m new to #teamnatural. For 22 years I had my hair straightened and not natural; that’s a long time. So natural hair is new to even me. And it’s what grows out of my own head. Isn’t that crazy!? Like, I didn’t even know what my own hair was like. Being newly natural, I’ve had to watch Youtube videos and read articles on how to care for my hair in this state, because I didn’t know. And I can safely say that other black women don’t know either. And they’re watching videos and reading articles just like me, hence this site and all the other sites like it.

            And I think the fact that women like me have to rediscover this part of ourselves and then have to educate other people about it is an unnecessary cross to bare. But it’s a cross that’s been thrust upon us. When I wear my ‘fro it’s really insane the amount of attention I get and questions and 90% of the time I don’t care to respond to them and sometimes I do. So I figured, f*** it, for one small moment in time, let’s do this in a really literal way and on my OWN TERMs and see what happens.

            Anyhoo, that was a long-winded response lol. Thank you for reading the article.

            Antonia

          • citygirldc

            Like the last poster, I had issues with the “Out of the 230+ years black people have been in America, natural hair has only “been around” for about 20 years, during the black power movement.” While you do add the + after 230 years, I think it’s misleading to those who don’t know that slaves were brought to the U.S. in the early 1600′s which is almost 400 years ago. The black power movement surged in the 1960′s, which is 50 years ago, not 20. Black people have always been familiar with our natural hair. Until the more recent (late 1970′s-1980′s) prevalence of relaxers for women, hot combs were used to straighten hair, which means we knew our hair texture. And even after relaxers became prevalent many women like my mother were still pressing their natural hair. Non-blacks have generally never been familiar with our hair unless they had a personal relationship with us or have been in the hair care industry (which is still rare since many non-black stylists are not required to know black hair) and I think that’s the way it should be. And not having personal relationships with black people even now after 400 years is a reflection of the HUGE social distance that still exists, continued prejudice and discrimination, and lack of media/advertising recognition of hair types other than white. I don’t think it should be the responsibility of black people to educate whites on our hair.

  • yvonne

    this is some MESS.

    i feel for the folks who are going to put themselves through this, thinking it’s a good idea.

    i think it’s weird to have strangers groping your body. yes, your hair is a part of your body.

    just EW.

    • PubPro

      I AGREE Completely Yvonne. ALAS the voice of reason

  • Yeshi

    Ill attend…when I also receive an invitation to an event where I am allowed to touch White people’s hair. Or any non-black person’s hair.

    Until then…I’m going to say No.

  • Colin

    So is this totally like a petting zoo? OMG, you guise are so innovative and conscious of the ways in which blackness can become more familiar/acceptable to non-blacks. Maybe by petting our hair, we will become less like foreign objects to them and more like people! Do you think they will finally learn to love us? #whatsnextanauctionblock?

  • uncomfortable

    as a white male, i find this incredibly gross. this objectification of people of African descent has been ingrained in Europeans and non Blacks for over a millennium, and this event seems to celebrate that dehumanization.

    post-racial fuckery.

    • Education is freedom and power

      I totally agree, respect to you. And all those that are able to overstand this ridiculous farse.

    • Anonymiss

      AGREED TIMES 3892378945737823923567325783!

      This is beyond embarrassing and degrading.

    • Beans

      I agree with you 100%. It is like the hair version of Sarah Baartman. Miss me with the hair petting zoo.

    • wow

      This reminds me of rape culture, don’t do XYZ because THEY will see you as this way. THEY will do this to you. This will make you appear this way to THEM. Seriously. It seems like the same ole mindset to me, walking on eggshells because MASSA… I mean other people won’t like this.

      A person is a person no matter what! Point blank efing period.

      The people that OBJECTIFY any human being, the people that DEGRADE a person and treats them as objects is a bigot hateful fool period. Black woman cover up your behinds and hair because of what THEY think about your kinky hair and your thick thighs. Any human being on planet Earth, should have the freedom to do what they please with out being worried about treated like an “object”. Yet the victims are the ones people run after because of the ” that’s just the way it is attitude”.

      It’s a shame that some Black people feel like they have to cover their behinds, in order to make sure that their not viewed as such and such by bigoted or ignorant fools. If people see human beings as objects the issue on them. Being black I was always taught I couldn’t do what others do because of what others see and think because of my race.

      Black people with ethnic names get mess because of the perception of what OTHERS think about us. No, no no no, America is still racist as heck . I say no, I still think this is a form of oppression.

      A person can not be any less human than they are, it was the slave masters that pushed human beings down to that level, okay. These women have control of their bodies, something for years women period didn’t have and still do not have in many places. It makes me want to stand on a corner because don’t anyone DARE view me as an object because of personal choices, I guess I just tip toe around because of what bigots think.

      These women are black and they felt like doing this for a deep reason, who are you a person who doesn’t know what it’s like be a black women, just like I don’t know what it’s like to be a white man and I couldn’t tell your experiences about like you can’t tell these women about theirs. I think it’s sad they felt the need to stand on a corner BUT they felt it for a reason even if people disagree, there’s something deep going on that needs to start dying out so another kinky hair sister will ever feel the need to do this.

      • admin

        Thanks for this, I think you’re one of the few people that’s honing in on what the real underlying issue is: black people are still being treated as foreigners in America. We’re still a “curiosity” to them and not people on equal footing. I haven’t wanted to say this, because I was hoping people would come to the conclusion themselves, but hair is just the face-value of this exhibit. The fact that we’re still not as “integrated” as we claim to be is the really what’s going on here. This exhibit is a hyperbole of that fact. A fact that a lot of people don’t want to admit.

        I was on the phone with Mahllia, one of our models from Thursday, discussing her experience being part of the exhibit. She told me that at first the experience made her very anxious because she NEVER lets people touch her hair but then as she talked to more and more people about her hair, she started to feel empowered. I suspected that the exhibit would make people uncomfortable initially (because being objectified is frankly more than uncomfortable), but I also suspected that once people got past the initial discomfort, there would be some comfort (and in Mahllia’s case POWER) in the conversation that ensued after.

        Antonia

  • Von

    I’ve never suppressed my humanity all at the expense of my hair texture. I applaud you for having the will to do this, but the main conversation and general acceptance has to begin and end with other black people. No one is going to love you or accept anyone until they learn to do the same things with themselves.

    I don’t understand the message that white people are the ones who have a problem with our hair in it’s natural state, because I don’t see it as them. I’ve lived on this earth long enough to know where the real problem lies. I understand we live in a culture that determines what is beautiful and what is not, but I’ve never conformed to that ideology. Our hair does not make us less than beautiful as other women, even though many believe the lie it does.

    Maybe this can possibly heal those who are looking for validation and acceptance from outside forces, but it won’t help anyone who still suffers from self-hatred and a low self-esteem based on the opinions of others. We have to learn to accept and celebrate our humanity and differences before anyone else will, if not continue to live in total subordination.

    It’s a shame, that even in the 21st Century women of African descent are still struggling with self-identity issues and low self-esteem regarding our beautiful Afro textured hair and have to resort to exhibitions like this in hopes of getting folks to love them.

    • http://makkunaito.tumblr.com/ Melissa McKnight (@Makkunaito)

      Amen!

    • Kara

      I agree with Von. Sure, there are some very straight hair anglos that might be a little fascinated and want to touch (I am a very curly haired anglo and never felt the need), but I think that sentiment comes out of admiration. On the other hand, my boyfriend was relating a tale told to him by a male co-worker (who is African American) about how unpopular you are in the black community if your hair is ‘nappier’ (his words not mine or my boyfriends) and that African American women with more anglo hair are preferred. That makes me sad.
      When I was young, I used to hate my curly hair, but only for personal reasons. If other people didn’t like me because my hair was curly, I would probably want to die. I hope every person of EVERY background would come to see that hair is just hair and we need to ALL move on!

  • admin

    Love that you guys have such strong feelings about this. Reactions like yours are expected. Our aim is to start a discussion and you guys are contributing to that discussion. So thank you.

    You may also want to take a look at some of the reactions people have had on Twitter. A lot of people who attended today’s event Tweeted about it… you might be surprised at the response… https://twitter.com/search?q=%23youcantouchmyhair&src=typd

    We particularly liked this tweet… https://twitter.com/KeilinHuang/status/342711684927991808 but we’re biased ;)

    • uncomfortable

      What is the point of the conversation? What did White people learn after objectifying Black women? Did they know they were objectifying them? I am sorry, I am not as familiar with the (a)politics this type of performance “art.” I don’t see any critical dialogue or conversations.

      Or, are you actually trying to argue that this was all a demonstration of these very tropes? If so, what was the point.

      • uncomfortable

        So, I just read this:

        http://beautycism.com/wordpress/2013/06/06/a-case-of-art-imitating-black-life/

        I am still curious though, for the people that came and touched your hair, were they given the opportunity to be challenged on their motivations and their feeling entitled to touch Black hair?

        I am weary of the impact and scope of such a performance. Who are you trying to engage and have conversations with? How are you measuring success?

        • admin

          I actually thought about that. There are no key metrics to measure the success of this. I think, I, personally, will consider this a success if I can get real insight into WHY people are so curious. I only have theories. And before this not a lot of non-blacks were willing to engage in this convo (especially for the purpose of my article lol). But the models have been asking people why they’re curious and the video footage that comes out of this will show their responses.

    • Kyla S.

      Since these sort of reactions were ‘expected’ it would be great if critical responses were given to the persons who have raised vital points to the continued objectifying of Black women through this…event rather than such superficial responses and redirections to tweets. You wanted this ‘event’ to start a discussion well let’s discuss it then.

      I’m generally a lurker on forums but I just had to come out and say the responses of the admin so far have been lacking any merits and does nothing to suggest that this ‘event’ is anything but an attempt to gain the approval of non-black people on the personal choices of black women as it relates to how they wear there hair. If non-black people are fascinated by the versatility that is black hair that’s great! Google can produce a lot of images on black hair whether natural, loc’d or relaxed and also provide articles and books on the matter. There is no need to set up a petting zoo (as some of the other reviewers have so accurately labelled this ‘event’) as an outlet for their amusement, curiosity or whim.

      • admin

        You’re right. Responding now.

        I agree with what you say about Googling this information; I say that in the article that preceded this exhibit.

        Antonia

  • Carol

    Will they be checking gums and bidding as well?

    • admin

      Yuuuup! (Totally just kidding) lol.

  • Tulip63

    I view natural black hair as beautiful and artistic. Would I like to touch it? No, because I respect you and your personal space, even if you volunteered for an event like this. It’s just too intimate. In addition this does sound like a petting zoo situation…with human beings. Sometimes I would like to tell someone how striking and attractive their hair is but I don’t. They don’t need my admiration, they are fabulous on their own. However, if you catch a short white woman staring at your hair in Orlando, it’s not because I am trying to figure it out. It’s because like any beautiful art it’s meant to be admired. While I understand your point and the reasons you have for this event I could never participate in this.

  • Disgusted

    modern version of Hottentot Venus..they got conversation flowing too..thanks

  • Nikoshia Williams

    Can you come to DC and can I be in your exhibit? Where can I submitt pics of my hair to be considered?

  • Neeka

    I find it interesting that so many are appalled by the exhibit. I, on the other hand, welcome the curiosity, the question and give the permission. My parents, being from the Ol’ South (the 30′s), were not book smart, but educated through others. I learned that when people want to learn, teach them! It’s better to allow them the openness to be curious than to stifle them. Also, I have found that many more Black women ask to touch my locs than white women. It’s funny how many of these posts only address the curiosity of the non-whites, because in my experience, sistas are very intrigued. Even before my locs, they wanted to know if my hair was dry, what products I used, and how to get theirs the same way. It’s not all about stigmatizing black hair, or about objectifying black women, sometimes it’s just plain information they need. You would like to try something before you buy it. What better way to find out if a product might work for you than asking one who uses it and touching their hair? Of course there are those who may have other reasons, but I don’t have the time or energy to figure out what your reasons are… if you want to learn by touching my hair… have at it! Just don’t get too creepy with it :)

    • Ines

      A museum exhibition is not a beauty bar where you get advice, so it is not the place to have that type of interactions you are describing. It seems to me Sarah Bartmaan all over again: people being displayed as if in a zoo. I change my hair all the time, and I have even bleached it. However, no one has ever had the urge to touch it, even though it attracts a lot of attention. Being white, no one was ever curious to feel the texture of my hair, even though they notice my different hairstyles frequently. I would not like to have someone I don’t know touching my hair, since that is a very intimate gesture to me. Satisfying white people’s curiosity just seems plain wrong to me.

      • admin

        Ha ha, this is TOTALLY the place to have this type of interaction and discourse. I’m glad you’ve never had a stranger touch your hair. I have and it makes me feel violated and sometimes even self-concious. It’s absolutely a very intimate gesture. Take a look at the last paragraph of my initial article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonia-opiah/can-i-touch-your-hair_b_3320122.html

        Can you infer my real stance on what’s going on?

        Antonia

    • bored

      As far as I can tell, the point of this event is not to share tips on hair care products. Its attempting to address an issue that has a deep and long history in this country. Folks cannot take on the responsibility of bringing issues like this to an open forum with such a lack of nuance. ugh.

  • Heather

    HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF. WHY OH WHY ARE BLACK PEOPLE STILL BEING PUT ON DISPLAY AS A SIDE SHOW?!

    Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman… “They were fascinated by her large full breasts, big hips, buttocks, and big lips. They stared touched and laughed. She couldn’t really be human because she didn’t look like a white woman. Her skin was the deepest shade of the darkest chocolate. Her hair was a thick black cloud on her head. She was later sold to a circus where she danced naked for the entertainment of white people.”

    http://concreteloop.com/2008/03/black-history-spotlight-saartjie-baartman

    P.S. We need conversations around race that help propel black people in America forward out of the days of institutional racism, oppression and the prison industrial complex…conversations that force white people to look at their privilege and their roles as oppressors. Touching someone’s hair does none of that. I feel sorry for all involved. But especially those that are talked in to once again being white people’s entertainment and something to gawk at.

    • bored

      Right on!

    • Fiberalchemist

      My feelings exactly. People need to know their history and realized that this silly art show is perpetuation of the fact the women’s bodies (including hair etc) are not her own. These women are giving their power away and are inviting, in my opinion, illegal touching of their person.

      I am so sick of white folks just coming up to me and touching my hair (complete strangers do this). They don’t know me, I could be standing in a store and then their goes their hands w/o a word. I put an end to it as soon as I see those pasty ass hands coming up to my head or any part of my body. Sick of their sense of entitlement to make up the other and compare us to them all the time. They are unable to just accept diversity w/o comparing it to their hair as the ultimate torch barer of beauty as the social beauty norms.

  • amani

    meh…they found the most brightest, non kinky fro they could find.

  • bored

    This smells like the work of a pseudo artist peddling pseudo art trying so hard to be provocative. Trying so hard to make a social statement. It was mentioned that the point of the exhibit, and use this term loosely, was to start a conversation, a dialogue. Between whom and for what purpose? As an artist SAY SOMETHING. MAKE A POINT. Don’t throw offensive, poorly thought-out, pointless malarkey out into the world and wait for others to say something smart. Don’t have others do your work for you.

    • admin

      Hahahahaha, I’m totally not an artist. Just a black girl who’s been humiliated in bars and on the street by people wanting to touch my hair. This is my way of taking the issue head on. Lol… artist.

      Antonia

      • bored

        You used the word exhibit. That word implies art, which in turn implies artist. Whether you call yourself an artist or not, this display is irresponsible. It is superficial in its analysis. To think that the root of the problem is lack of information; like how black hair feels, how often its washed, etc. is quite naive. Do you really that believe after someone who is unfamiliar with black hair finally has get a guilt-free pass to touch it, that they will examine their tendency to exotify? Why is the onus placed on black women to step outside of the box of self-preservation? Why must we allow others the privilege of an intimate act for the sake of satisfying curiosity?

        • admin

          Well exactly! Why is the onus placed on black women? As I state in my article, “…Ask [the question] when you understand that enlightening you about our hair is a responsibility no one individual wants to bare…”

          I don’t think we should allow others that privilege. Not unless we want to.

          I don’t know if my methods will work but it’s something I wanted to try. And if it makes at least one person re-examine their exotification (I don’t know if that’s a real word, ha) of other human beings, then awesome.

          At the very least, this has turned my venting to my friends into a collective vent.

  • Anita

    I think the bad part of this conversation is that people seem to ONLY WANT TO TOUCH NATURALS and you will be hard pressed to find someone walk up to a chick who has spent $100 and the last 4hrs of her life in the hair salon and ask to touch HER HAIR!!!! That will NEVER happen. But somehow I think the main population don’t feel naturals actually DO THEIR HAIR, idiotically they think we all just wake up like that and roll out and they fail to understand that “being natural” is a FAR MORE cumbersome life than just going to see Suzie Stylist once a week, so I think this is where the real issue is…people need to understand that “being natural” I AM STILL DOING MY HAIR AND I DON’T (necessarily) WANT IT TOUCHED!!! #justmyopinion :)

  • Fiberalchemist

    Hell no, Don’t touch my hair and don’t ask me to Touch my hair. Keep you dirty hands out of my hair and don’t touch any other part of my BODY w/o out my permission.

    If folks understood that all thought our history Europeans have placed us in human Zoos and side show circuses so we could be prodded, poked, and touched for their fantasies or good luck (in their minds) they would not think this art of Yest you can touch my hair perpetuating the fact the Whit people feel entitled and privileged to do with us as they wish. . Geez, hair is hair, it just has a different texture. We have the same DNA in our hair as all humans, it is just texture differently. People are just so clueless. I had some stupid CEO white boy come up behind me at a business function and started putting and playing with his hands in my dreads. I turned around and he was just laughing. I was so pissed. I told him in front some other people not to do that and that our hair is personal pride and ownership. Then eh started to touch another Black women’s hair (her back was turned to him) right in front of us and said “I fought hair all the time, see?” I told him not to do it and he just laughed it off. Now, there were other white/asian women around and he did not touch them like that. So arrogant.

    I have had to tell some many white folks not to touch my hair. I refuse to answer their stupid questions when they ask. When they ask me “How do you wash your hair, or do you wash your hair, I saw, “How do you what your hair? Water and Shampoo?

    • admin

      That experience sounds DREADFUL.

      In my article I say…

      …Ask the question. But ask it only when you’ve earned the right to do so. Ask it when you’ve taken the time to Google some of the basic questions about black hair. Ask this five-word request when you understand that it carries the weight of hundreds of years of being told our hair is unacceptable and now being told that it’s a curiosity…
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonia-opiah/can-i-touch-your-hair_b_3320122.html

      There’s supposed to be a level of irony in this but very few are picking up on it.

  • sandy

    I guess most people know what “black” men’s hair feels like. Why is the woman’s hair they want to touch?
    Maybe this experiment can be done black on black so little black boys and girls can overcome the stigma that some black folks have about their own hair.
    As far as people touching my hair in a public arena: No. I don’t know where your hands have been. My hair is my clean glory.

  • Ros

    New York City is a very interactive and diverse community especially in Union Square. I recalled when I rocked my Afro there last Summer and people followed me and took photos. {I’m 5’10 1/2″ so I’m no shrinking violet.) Have you thought of bringing this event to Washington DC to the steps of the Capitol when Congress is in session? This would be interesting to see too!

  • fedup

    Admin, your responses are condescending. You keep lamenting people not “getting the irony” of your exhibit, which is what people usually say when they don’t want to deal with the emotional impact of what they’ve put out there. Instead of acknowledging that it was a dumb idea and carried out in a triggering, offensive way, you prefer to insult everyone’s intelligence by pointing out how your oh-so-deep point just went over everyone’s head (i.e. the name-calling with Quevenzhane Wallis). This did not “turn your venting into a collective vent.” THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A COLLECTIVE VENT. This did not start any discussion that hasn’t been going on for years. There is simply no justification for this, and you’re the one who doesn’t get it.

    • admin

      Apologies for coming off condescending. I got caught up in the heat of the conversation 0:-).

      Antonia

  • Zenith

    I think this exhibit is bizarre and in a way, attention seeking.
    If someone is that interested in what ANYONE else’s hair feels like, they should either get psychological counseling for a medical/ psychosocial issue OR go to a beauty school and get an education about different hair textures AND get a life.

    This kind of ‘exhibit’ just encourages the further viewing of black women as some sort of exotic ‘it’ who needs to be studied, picked over, and even petted to be understood. In my opinion, there is just as much wrong with the planners of this exhibit as there is with the ‘museum goers’ who come to pet hair.
    SMDH

  • SPM

    Thank you so much for putting this out into the world. You really made me think about how I as a white woman view these issues. I have been guilty of asking black women questions about their hair and – one time – asking if I could touch it. The context there was that a black friend of my daughter’s was telling us about how her mom had just braided her hair. I asked a few questions about maintenance and then asked if I could touch it. She didn’t seem to mind, but thanks to your insights I don’t expect I’ll be asking that question of any black woman again because I really don’t want to give offense.

    I’ve always been curious about black hair. It’s partly because it’s different from mine, which is an odd mix of soft and coarse and random waves and frizz all over the place. But it’s also because I’m envious. Black women can do so many different things with their hair that look awesome on them but would look absolutely stupid on me (just as I think those braids looked stupid on Bo Derek, popular opinion notwithstanding). Better yet, black women can leave their hair alone for a week or longer if they choose. I’d kill to have those kinds of low-maintenance options. I get mad at just having to wash my hair, and all I ever do is throw it back in a bun or ponytail because I resent having to spend time on it.

    So if it helps, I’m not thinking “zoo display” or “other” when I wonder about a black woman’s hair. I’m generally thinking about how beautiful black women are (far prettier than white women, IMO), how cool that hairstyle is, and whether I could learn anything from you about hair care, like how to get rid of all this damn frizz. But as I said, you have made me rethink my approach and I will be a lot more cautious in the future.

  • Matthew

    I’m a 50 year old white male. This reminds of when I was younger. I grew up “working poor” in the South. When I was a teenager, I took a job as a busboy in a Chinese restaurant. One of the dishwashers was black and had a large afro (it was the 70s). The Chinese staff who just arrived (from Taiwan) were fascinated with his hair and they just “had to touch it”! He thought it was funny and like the novelty. (BTW he was an accounting major at Norfolk State). Thanks for the story!

  • Rosemary R

    What a creative way to draw attention to important issues and start a dialogue. You have a lot of people talking! Good job!