Last month, I came across this interesting video entitled What Not to Say to People With Afro Hair. I’ll save my opinion for after the video.
If the video doesn’t load automatically, you can watch it here.
While I do agree that some of the questions posed could be inappropriate or offensive, I really don’t get this Don’t Touch My Hair philosophy. Personally, I will take a curious non-Black over a racist and biggotted non-Black any day of the week.
I grew up in a Black-majority country, which means that non-Afro hair was a minority. Even so, I am one of the few people in my maternal family with kinky hair; and had many friends of Indian, Chinese, and White backgrounds with loose curls, waves, or straight hair.
Most of them certainly wouldn’t like a stranger coming up and invading their personal space by attempting to touch their hair, but family and friends had free reign. We loved touching their hair!
I can’t imagine how offended we would have been back then, if they all started walking around with T-shirts declaring Don’t Touch My Hair! Or calling us racist because we wanted to know what curly spirals or bone-straight hair felt like.
In short, having lived on the flipside of the coin, I think the whole Don’t Touch My Hair mantra for any other reason than maintaining personal space is ridiculous. I don’t believe someone is racist because they want to see what my hair feels like.
I know my hair is fascinating and fabulous, and yes, you can touch it. You can read my full thoughts on this in a 2016 post entitled Go Ahead – Touch It!
What are your thoughts on this? Tell me all about it in the comments below.
44 thoughts on “Can I Touch Your Hair?”
Yes, your hair is indeed beautiful and I would love to touch it, with your permission. Perhaps you could start charging for the privilege: you could make a fortune! I have very straight hair, except for when it’s wet and windy, when it acquires some curls, which I prefer, so I have always been attracted to curls. Enjoy! 👍
I love curly hair! If I could have picked a hair type for myself, that’s what I would have chosen. My mom has very curly hair, and hates it – haha. The gods must be laughing at the two of us.
And thank you, Fatima! Maybe I should charge haha. I wonder how much money I could make from that!
10 cents a go for your favourite charity!
Haha, that sounds like an excellent plan!
We never seem to be happy with what we got!!! Why???
Grass is always greener on the other side!
Interesting – I have never thought of that question before. I believe the wanting to touch is a positive thing really – that person obviously likes your hair and of course have nothing of the kind himself/herself. My son was very blonde as a child, and when we went abroad, southern countries, people often asked to feel his hair. I do not think it was because they did not like him or his hair, but rather the reverse. If someone asks politely and of genuine interest – why worry?
I agree, Leya. I take it as a compliment as well — and so did my friends growing up, who enjoyed being petted and pampered by us.
Deny someone to retain your personal space, but if it’s because of their race, that’s racism.
It’s like someone said above about a pregnant woman and touching their belly, I think it depends on how comfortable you are with that individual. If you are comfortable with someone doing it and not have a problem with personal space then go for it. But if a stranger came up and asked to do it I think there would be an issue. I really think it is a personal space issue.
As I said in this article and the other one, I understand denying someone to retain personal space. However, denying someone (especially someone you know) because they are not Black, is racist.
As a woman who has never been pregnant, and doesn’t ever intend to be, I would never equate someone touching my hair with touching my belly.
Hair is on almost everyone’s head. Pregnancy is a personal and FEMALE scenario. It doesn’t compare, and excludes men, when used as an analogy.
I really believe it personal space and people do get offended because of it. The only reason I compared it to having a pregnant belly was because when I was pregnant with both of mine it became an issue of personal space….even with friends and family.
I think it would be easier just to not unless the person was willing.
I can’t speak on it since it has never been part of my experience growing up but I’ve seen nonBlacks asking to touch my sisters or mom’s hair. And it really depends on the individual doing the asking.
I think this is just a matter of personal preference. Nobody likes to have a stranger suddenly coming up to them and touch their hair or any other body parts. But among close friends it should be ok.
I’m a Muslim woman and cover my hair. Not many people would ask me if I have long or short hair, what colour, straight or wavy or curly. But I know, many are curious and maybe one or two would dare ask, and I would reply nicely.
There was one time when I was a student and sharing a house with a Tanzanian girl. One day her sister came to visit and that time my hair was not covered. She was so curious to see my straight hair and wanted to touch it. I knew she was curious, so I just let her. 🙂
Thanks for adding a totally different perspective to this one, Ai! I never considered it from the perspective of a Muslim, or anyone woman who typically covers her head for religious and/or cultural reasons.
I do agree that women (and men!) should retain autonomy over their bodies, and should never be forced to submit to anyone’s touch. I understand people saying no, you can’t touch my hair, because it invades their space. But to deny someone (especially someone you know well!) because they are White or Asian etc, in my opinion, is racist.
I would never think to invade someone’s space like that.
I have no hair and no one asks to touch/rub my head. Lol
I have no problem with people asking curious questions about my hair. If they do want to see how it feels I prefer them to ask can they touch it.
I’m glad we can agree on that one!
Your hair, your rules.
True. But if the reason for the rules is based on the race of someone else, I call BS.
I have often done that to my friend Reshaud, because he has a big glorious afro. However, I’ve often done that to many of the dudes with long hair that we worked with regardless of their hair type. I get it though, on a “don’t invade my personal space” level. Also? We should all have control over what happens to our bodies, whether it’s hair or a uterus or whatever. So I get it if people are offended by that type of question. I also get it that some people aren’t offended. Both reactions seem normal to me, since we’re all wired differently and perceive things differently. I think it’s cool you take it as a sign of curiosity or desire to learn about each other.
Also, possibly related: when I was a guest at the gated community, we all helped each other out with our hair. I’d help black women put the conditioning creams on their hair and scalp, and they once did my entire head in micro-plaits (which took two full days to do because my hair is ridiculously thick and “slippery” according to the 2 ladies who did it). I guess touching other people’s hair so much in the gated community was a way to connect with each other’s humanity in a place that treated us like we were all subhuman; and the behavior stuck with me after I got out (hence asking all the stagehands with long hair “can I play with your hair” whenever we had to stand around and wait)
I totally understand from a personal space stance. But I don’t understand from an only-non-Blacks aren’t allowed to touch my hair stance. To me, that’s racist. Like I said, I’ve lived on the flip side of the coin.
I’m glad you had the experience to touch our hair and get yours braided haha. That was definitely one of the ways we connected in Jamaica with each other, and learned to appreciate each other’s differences. 😊
It seems that its like asking a pregnant woman if you can touch her belly. Comes across as rude to touch someone that way. Asking just comes across as creepy too.
I don’t agree with that analogy. Not everyone gets pregnant. Almost everyone has hair. Pregnancy is temporary. Hair is basically permanent until you go bald, shave it off, or die. Pregnancy is definitely a more private experience and tied to skin that has feeling. Hair has no feeling.
I can also understand that if the person is a stranger. But I’ve seen this said to family and friends. That makes no sense to me.