Touching hair is a controversial topic within the natural hair community. Several women with natural hair have to deal with unwelcome touches or various requests to discover what their hair texture feels like. Some are perhaps happy to oblige but most compare the experience to feeling like an animal at a petting zoo.

An editorial site that focuses on the black hair experience, is exploring the touching phenomenon in an unconventional way. They are launching an interactive public exhibit called “You Can Touch My Hair,” which will take place today and on June 8th, 2013 from 2-4pm in New York City’s Union Square.

The exhibit is being touted as their effort to “take one for the team and explore the tactile fascination with black hair.” As part of the project, “strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair” on live models.

It will be fascinating to see how the participants feel about their experience once the exhibit comes to a close. What do you think about “You Can Touch My Hair,” Clutchettes?

RSVP here and get more information about the exhibit here.


  • Yvette

    This sounds like another way to fetishize black women.

  • adub

    I know the purpose of this is to start a dialogue but … something about this just makes me sick to my stomach. I’m kinda disgusted by it…

  • monniej (@monniej01)

    ridiculous. *smh* why must everything black women do subjected to some deep philosophical inquiry? no, you can’t touch my hair and no i don’t want to touch yours! can we just leave it at that? sheesh…

  • Ronisha B.

    Confused. What are they using to emulate the texture of “black women’s hair”? I don’t know anything that truly matches the way my hair feels and its ever-changing nature. My hair can be supremely soft and moisturizing depending on the product or it can be hard and dry if I use gel but it has never felt like wool (even if it looks like it).

    But hold up…why the hell is there an art exhibit appeasing white women’s desire to touch my hair? So what if they are curious? Is it the black woman’s job to bend over backwards in an attempt to explain ourselves everytime a person of another race acts like we’re aliens? This is stupid stupid stupid.

  • nettrice

    That’s nice but they still can’t touch MY hair!

  • AJMD

    And I will continue to allow you to be befuddled on how I can go from my natural curls, to bone straight weave, to braids and short to long. Get over it and stay off my head!

  • wbilal

    Disturbed. My hair is personal. Actually I cover my hair when I go out and although it is because of a religious command, I have always been happy to oblige that command for just this very reason. White fascination with black hair is an intrusion — when will they learn this?

  • tina

    They will use live models with various textures of hair. Actually once I stopped perming my hair it was other black women who wanted to touch my natural hair. I guess because it had been so long since they saw their own. They were also amazed that natural hair could be styled in different ways and just wanted to know about it and how it felt.

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  • Evangeline

    I am not okay with this. I for one do not understand what is the big deal with touching our hair. Reading this made me think that this exhibit is likening us to some sort of forest species that posses hair not previously discovered until now…like what the hell is that about? Our locks have been since before history was recorded; is it because the youtube phenomenon (which I definitely am not opposed to lol as it has definitely helped me understand my hair better and grow it) of women publicly embracing their natural tresses that this fixation is now becoming mainstream? I am not okay with this exhibit. I am not okay with it at all. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

  • Lillian Mae

    RE: Actually once I stopped perming my hair it was other black women who wanted to touch my natural hair.

    I get that a lot!

    Let’s not pretend this natural hair isn’t a foreign concept for (a lot of) black women as well!

  • Lillian Mae


  • Me

    THIS sounds like another non-black woman trying to justify ignorant and insulting acts towards black women.

  • J

    it’s not only black women…

  • ScriptTease

    I always have black women wanting to touch my hair… Every now and then if we are discussing hair at work, then some of the white women may cop a feel. For the most part, I’m complimented along with hair feeling, not sure if they do it to confirm it’s real, or what.

  • Niesha Gourdine


  • everythingl

    This aint about weaves. Youre trying to derail. Even still, women with weaves arent invading anybodys personal space. Their head, their business.

  • RJ

    The only people who can touch my hair are my hair dresser and a man who is simultaneously giving me pleasure!

  • Pseudonym

    but the selection of hair that has absolutely NO resemblance to your natural hair texture is extremely black woman-specific. This is seen in non-black women on very rare occasions.

  • ScriptTease

    @Me, the truth hurts, regardless if BeReal is white as snow or black as charcoal, black women obsess about hair, and skin color too. Check out some previous posts. India.Arie rings a bell.

  • Pseudonym

    (and I agree, let’s not turn this into an attack on women who wear weaves)

    To the article: I say get it over with so I can walk around in peace.

  • Pseudonym

    True. The funny times are when the little sneaky wenches actually dig into my roots/scalp to verify that my hair is actually mine. You ain’t slick, gyal!

  • BloominLotus

    I understand what this exhibit *might* be trying to do…but this still won’t stop people stop quickly reaching over and sneaking a quick feel of my hair! This happened to me just last week. I wore my hair out in a twist out and was really enjoying my length, curls, and shine. A co-worker, excitedly, came over and just touched my hair. When I expressed my discomfort she said, “Oh are you afraid it’s going to fall out?” (insinuating that it wasn’t all mine!). I said, “No, I just don’t like people touching my hair.”

    My question is, what gives anyone the right to touch someone else without permission? Is it a cultural thing? Do white women touch the hair of other white women and is that why they don’t see a problem with it?

    Maybe I should I ask my co-worker…I just might…

  • Treece

    “Some are perhaps happy to oblige but most compare the experience to feeling like an animal at a petting zoo.”

    This exhibit is just like treating us like animals at a petting zoo. I can strangely imagine White people taking thier children to come pet the Black lady’s hair on a family outing….its weird. Black people on display for other races to ogle and touch. Doesn’t sound right at all. I would almost rather just let a stranger touch my hair after asking nicely. This exhibition stuff doesn’t sit well with me

  • Baking

    I cringed the whole time reading this so that should tell you how I feel about it. I feel bad for the models who will have to be treated like zoo animals for 2 hours.

  • MimiLuvs

    When it comes to my scalp and with my hair, I am a germaphobe. Just thinking about having someone touch my hair causes my skin to tingle.

  • arkado

    Who else other than black women are shamed for wearing our hair in its natural state though? Black women are having to deal with what is “acceptable,” and that is based mainly of off racist and close minded beauty standards. So when the predominant message is that our natural hair is not an abomination or a curse, then ask me about wearing a weave, until then, kindly be quiet.

  • CoiledCoif

    Is it strange that I don’t mind people’s curiosity about my hair or anything else not familiar to them? I just cut my hair a few months ago to reveal my natural,kinky, coiled, dense, and coarse hair texture. There have been some who touch with permission, some without, but I understand the fascination. I do not feel like a zoo animal or insulted. How many times do we see certain textures in our environment, be it a piece of fabric or a flower and we want to reach out and get all our senses involved? I touch my friend’s straight locks at times because of it’s alluring nature without even thinking, just being drawn to want to touch it to compliment my visual perception. I think an exhibit like this is informative and for those who do not appreciate having their hair touched, could perhaps be thankful as this may dissipate the curiosity of some and deter them from further exploration.

  • arkado

    @ScriptTease you need to ask your self why black women have such an issue with skin tone and hair. I’ll give you a hint racist eurocentric standards of beauty. A great starting point would be to consult google. Race Gender and Politics of Skin Tone would also be informative. If you’re constantly receiving the message that your hair and skin color are the absolute least desirable, what on earth do you think is going to happen? Get a clue.

  • MLI

    ITA. I don’t know where your hands have been, I don’t know if you wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap for the CDC recommended 20 seconds, so NO you can not touch my hair.

  • Me27

    It’s seems like an interesting exhibition. However, I can’t stand when strangers touch me…so I couldn’t imagine myself participating in this.

  • dusttracks

    Hear! Hear!

  • Starla

    Interesting “…the tactile fascination of Black hair”. Maybe I should go busking with that and charge a small fee for people to touch my hair.

  • danii

    you seem to not really have a clue as to how things actually work dude. seriously, educate your self as to what really goes on. your ignorance is not a good look, kid.

  • Lillian Mae

    If the women who signed up to be ‘felt up’ don’t feel objectified, more power to them.

  • substinence

    This was my most shared FB post ever—I wish I was there.

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  • BeanBean

    I know it’s “art”, but I think it’s a little weird. Why don’t we hear about white women opening exhibits to have blacks explore their hair??? Blacks know what black hair feels like, let’s leave it at that. The fascination with black bodies hasn’t evolved much in the past 200 years. I don’t like the idea of blacks feeding white people’s obsession.

  • enlightened

    I’m sorry, the fetishization of black hair is disturbing and overtly racist to me, especially in a time when black women are just now casting off the chains of our predispositions to try and “fit in” with white culture by wearing weaves, submitting to the “creamy crack” and undergoing many unnatural processes to allow our hair to grow as it normally does and should (which at one time was unacceptable as a sign of not being part of “civilized society” not considered acceptable. THIS is the reasons black women began using weaves and the creamy crack, because of the need to be accepted for jobs, and other areas of society, while many people want to attack black women, they don’t want to admit the root cause of the problem.) This is essentially treating these women as “pets” in a zoo who are gawked upon and oohed and aahed over. Shame on the exhibitors, and the women who have willingly signed on to be the “living exhibits”. SMGDH, when will the exploitation of black men and women stop? Yes, our hair is unique to us, no other race grows as ours does, but STOP trying to treat us as outcasts. Women, stop this, pay more homage to Hottentot Saaraje Baartman, and if you don’t know her, do some research!

  • Desiree

    This “exhibit” makes me livid. But BeReal is also right. Many black women fetishize other women’s hair. Let’s all stop the fetishizing!

    Also, if you are in NYC and disagree with this spectacle, you should go to Union Square and voice your opinion! I will be there because I hate being touched by strangers. And I hate that these “models” are condoning it.

  • everythingl

    Black people, especially men, who idealize white beauty standards, then pretend like they dont know how/why women do can miss me. Black women sure as hell arent the only black people obsessed with long straight hair, light skin, etc. Besides that, the exhibit features natural haired women. Obvi they love their hair. People are trying to derail the conversations with irrelevant topics. Even black women who clearly love their black features cant get a break from the black women police.

  • everythingl

    When white women can get fired from their jobs for wearing hair in their natural state, or have to deal with hate from THEIR men about short and/or kinky hair, THEN we can compare.

    But even still, tho, you know what kind of plastic surgery has been skyrocketing with white women recently? BUTT IMPLANTS. Thats right. Funny how no ones as quick to check them for wanting to emulate what aint theirs.

  • Apple

    Probably because you can buy their hair at the store and feel it

  • Safisha Hill

    sounds like the auction block,…where our Ancestors were placed in chains while dirty, wrinkled pale hands touched their hair , face, teeth, breast and genitals..

  • jamesfrmphilly

    this is NOT art. it is a petting zoo.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    The honest dialogue needs to start with us. I find it ridiculous that folks think that this will change something. Once we as a people change our mindsets how we see ourselves then we won’t have to look for others to give us validation and acceptance.

  • Sumiko Saulson

    I don’t like it at all. When me and my brother were little kids, strangers would approach my mom asking to touch me and my brother’s hair and talking about how they’d never seem mixed kids before – it was weird and made all three of us uncomfortable, and yes it did make me feel like a pet dog. What is wrong with people?

  • MCasey13

    I’m 100% sure that white women do indeed touch each others hair and I have seen it. Even black women do this. Some people are just touchy-feely. I have seen people of all races comment on someone’s hair and then touch it without asking for various reasons (the person just got a new weave, new haircut, hair looks soft, wanted to touch natural hair, etc). I don’t do this and I would not want a stranger to touch me, but if I know the person and they aren’t intentionally trying to be rude or offend me I wouldn’t be that upset. Whether you agree with the exhibit or not I don’t understand why so many people are acting like this something that only white people do.

  • Tess

    I completely agree that it is totally inappropriate to ask to touch a woman’s hair. No matter what the intention it objectifies her and identifies her as “foreign” or the “other,” and is made even further insulting in light of historical (and sadly not so historical) treatment of black women by whites.

    However, though wholly inappropriate, I believe that most people who ask to touch a woman’s about natural hair have completely innocent intentions. As a white woman living in Japan I am often asked to have my hair touched, and it is most often by small children who are simply curious about seeing and touching something that they haven’t seen up close before. Although I have mixed feelings about the NY Exhibit, I hope that it can at least start a dialogue about how we as human beings tend to objectify other races based on differing physical characteristics, and how this objectification, even if subconscious, is detrimental and dehumanizing. I hope this event can lead to a productive discussion and help people come to terms with their own stereotypes and prejudices.

  • Kacey

    Wow. I’m really shocked and angered by this and the people who agreed to participate in it. This is such a violation of one’s humanity – being treated like a curiosity or an animal in a petting zoo. I will be really interested to know how these models feel after this is all said and done as well. To me a stranger asking to touch my hair is the same as them asking to touch my breasts or genitals, or them wanting to rub my skin to see if the color comes off. This is really sick.

  • hairunruled

    Wold love to know what everyone thinks about the article that lead up to this…

  • ScriptTease

    @arkado, I totally agree with you, and the clue I got was not to sugar coat it. I also blame black men, but have been smacked down for the suggestion, but I don’t back down. Black men like to blame black women for numerous things when it comes to destroying the community, and I somewhat agree (comfortable on welfare, fatherless sons, daughters repeating the cycle), and I blame them for contributing to our low self esteem. We can’t keep blaming them, but just like Mr. White man played a roll in black people hating each other, we cannot continue to blame, we have to be held accountable for our on actions and decisions.

  • Colorfulkinks

    you can also buy black hair and feel it. Never been to a beauty supply have you?

  • ScriptTease

    Some people just don’t like the ugly truth…. Miguel I feel ya!!

  • enlightened

    Asking to touch someone’s hair is entirely different than putting someone on display, that’s stating that someone/or something about them is “abnormal”. I would NEVER place someone on display like an abnormality, this is dehumanizing, just as the “tours” of the “ghetto” to gawk at the poor people of America are, and to try and justify it is wrong, period.

  • sheila Williams

    This shows why we don’t progress as a people, what a great way to educate someone from a different culture. This is why there is so much racism and ignorance in our country because we don’t know enough about each other. This will help to educate someone and to shut down misconception about our hair. I am always open to learning about other peoples cultures. I worked with a friend that is native American and when I hear something about her people and their culture, although there are many different nationalities of American Indians, I still hit her up to educate me on something I have seen or heard, this is how we learn about each other and then we began to understand each other, which makes the world a better place. I agree no one should touch a person hair or anything else without asking first. It is not rude to ask a question, this is how we learn. I think it stupid that anyone would ask a person of a different culture to touch their breast or genitals, I think the statement is stupid and no one thinks anyone color would rub off because if it did, I bet it would be a lot less people of color in the world because some of my people would have rubbed all the skin off white folks. Come on black people, we should want to educated people.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    it is not our job to ‘educate’ others.
    it is our job to educate ourselves.

    IMO : any black person who would consent to this has some mental issues

  • enlightened

    so, after years of being told our natural hair was so abnormal, we needed perming and weaves to create normalized looks (like white people) you are now saying we should be grateful to educate someone else by being exhibits in a museum like animals in a zoo; Did you really just say that? And are you really black?

  • enlightened

    Fwetishizing another hair would be the interest in it to almost a physical pleasure of it, as though it is an abnormality that exists and excites you; Black women do not do that. And, I don’t see you even considering the underlying cause, years of black women being told to conform, by changing their hair grade and type to fit into larger society and be able to support their families.

  • Mademoiselle

    Hottentot Venus … I bet white people love it when we degrade ourselves for them. Many hands make light work, right? It gives them a chance to take a break from treating us like property so they can focus on reaping the benefits. Stuff like this is why I don’t mind the angry black female stereotype — I need strangers to know at all times that touching me is off limits.

  • Teronda (@skinnydcwriter)

    Sometimes I don’t even want to touch my own hair and today is one of them. So heck no, no one else can “pet” mine.

  • Eve

    I don’t get the venomous responses to this. You should be proud that people are so amazed with black culture and damn near all things black. I think that other cultures have always been fascinated by black folks and continue to be to this day. While we burn our scalps to walk around with ridiculous weaves and split ends, Asians are paying to texture their hair to match ours. White women want bigger behinds and we know what white men want. No one forced us to fit in or conform, we did that. We caused shame in our own communities and continue to do so to this day. We are the biggest consumers of all things not created by us and not reminiscent of our ancestry. We wanted long flowing hair and we ridiculed those who didn’t conform. We are our biggest critics and opponents. Look at the attacks coming from us at Gabby Douglas. While we sit obese and drowning in record numbers cause we can’t learn to swim or we might mess up our hair, we find time to ridicule this Olympian because her hair wasn’t “done” while she was winning Gold medals. When I decided to stop relaxing my hair I was laughed at and called names by black men and women. My own family ridiculed me. They wanted me to “do something” with my two year olds hair too. Neat, cute, and age appropriate wasn’t enough, they wanted it straightened. The white people asked me questions about how I got it to do different things from one day to the next and yes, some even asked to touch it. Then they’d compliment it and go on their way. I have never had any non-black person ridicule my hair and everyday they my white coworkers praise my hair, my skin, anything they can. We try sooooo hard to claim our victimhood and label everyone racist and anyone who doesn’t hold that mentality is a sell out or a zoo animal. Stop it. Be proud that other people see our beauty, our unique features, our swag and they want to touch it, they want to be it. We seem to be the only ones who don’t.

  • Eve

    Really? How is it degrading to allow someone to genuinely admire something that they want and can’t have? That’s like saying I keep my new car in the garage because people be looking at it and wanting to ask me questions about it and touch it cause it’s nice….think about it.

  • binks

    This all day every day!!!

  • Ashley

    Tess, thank you for your comment. Truly insightful.

  • Mademoiselle

    Admiration and groping aren’t the same thing, and one does not explain nor justify the other. Anyone with enough money can purchase a car they want. How much would it cost to purchase one of you?

  • enlightened

    Yeah, remember the auction block, where they “admired” our bodies on display

  • http://facebook Joy De-Shong

    I love my natural locks and will keep them till I die. I love it when young people, black and white comment on how lovely it is.At work I make a point of telling black children, with natural hair how lovely they look. There are so few of them that I feel it’s duty to encourage both them and their parents. It’s way time that we stopped being slaves and started claiming our inheritance.

  • Nadine

    Your car is an inanimate object without thought it feeling. Someone wanting to touch, feel or admire the look or feel of your car is immaterial because your car has no voice or say so over who can own or covet ownership. The fact that you compare strangers wanting to admire something you own that has no control over who can possess it with HUMAN beings screams loudly of the problems inherent in objectifying blackness as something other cultures can “have” or “touch”. It’s dehumanizing.

  • BloominLotus

    I understand what you are saying. I shouldn’t have just written “white women.” However, the only people who have touched my hair *without* my permission have been white women.

  • Lillian Mae

    RE: At work I make a point of telling black children, with natural hair how lovely they look.

    Whenever I see children in public w/ natural hair, I do the same thing! They need as much positive feedback as possible!

  • nehcole

    i want to be your friend :)

  • nehcole

    i guarantee you don’t remember it because you weren’t there and 15 generations of your people weren’t there either. way to prove this comment right :)

  • enlightened

    Forgetting/ignoring the past will allow people to repeat it. NO no one will ever treat me as abysmally as my ancestors were done for over 60+ years, I LEARNED from it, and will never allow anyone to even CONSIDER being so ignorant and disrespectful to me! History still shapes today, but nice try, unless you’re willing to be displayed and petted on as an animal, don’t expect e to

  • enlightened

    Each person should determine their personal space and the respect they expect of it; my objection is to the display like an inanimate exhibit

  • Ms. Vee

    Completely agree! This exhibit has an undertone of disrespect. What needs to happen is that our natural hair is displayed like a gem behind glass….you can see it, but you cant touch it!

  • Ken Kojei

    My locks broke jail in 1998. The first length was maybe 7 inches before I cut them to “represent” in corporate America. Right!!! What a joke that was!!! What a tool I was!!! So after my enlightenment, I broke jail again and let the locks grow. This time they responded with a vengeance. Now past my waist and gathering speed, the locks are amazing. I get stopped for pictures. I get requests to touch. I get so much attention for my hair from a most universal variety of people, it amazes me. Fortunately, I am an easy-going guy who really loves and enjoys people so people feel comfortable to have a conversation about my hair, to touch and marvel at it. Nothing but a positive experience for all concerned.

  • Ms. Vee

    When i go to an art exhibit/museum the artifacts are usually encased in glass or are behind some sort of fencing. But this art exhibit allows touching of our hair on display? Did i miss something or is this a petting zoo? I for one would not stand for random strangers with their dirty hands up in my scalp. Its disrespectful and an invasion of my personal space.

  • Beliefs

    It was once believe that your hair/locs possess power and energy. If people touch your hair, they could leave negative energy that could effect your spirit.

    I still believe this even in general to people touching me period. I wouldn’t participate. But I have let people who I “know” touch my hair.

  • L.Hoskins (@cherubicnerd)


  • L.Hoskins (@cherubicnerd)

    I don’t understand the need to touch black people’s hair. I don’t have straight hair or red hair or long hair but do I want to touch those types of hair? no. there’s something wicked and creepy going on. curiosity,my foot.

  • Leo

    If we can’t see our own humanity and beauty, then no one else will. People believe and see what they want to regardless of what they see and know.

    I see nothing groundbreaking, self-empowering, enlightening, liberating and self-defining about this.

    As a human being my hair grows in tight coils that I find beautiful and I’ve never needed someone to tell me that in order to define my beauty or existence.

  • Leo

    This is not a step in progress, it’s a step backwards. We can learn from everyone, but attempting to see black people as some kind of exotic creature is dehumanizing.

  • NOitAll

    My question is, do these people wash their hands before they touch somebody’s hair?

  • Me27

    It’s degrading because it’s dehumanizing. Your own comment proves it. You compared admiring a person to admiring a car. The two are not in the same category.

  • Kesi

    This is pretty disgusting. While I admit, I can see the bigger picture here, it’s still a no for me. “most compare the experience to feeling like an animal at a petting zoo”….. This is basically setting up the zoo. These textures hair grows out of our head just like straight hair might grow out of a non African-American’s head. what’s up with this? people need to change their mindset. why is this so hyped up? why can’t we walk the street without being pointed out? & the fact that these girls are promoting being pointed out, and “it’s okay”, is ridiculous. I understand it’s interesting and I am very interested in natural hair, but not just that, hair in general. I’m fascinated by the diversity of it, more like the impact of a miniscule difference in a gene. Would I want to walk up to someone & grope their hair though? hell no. I don’t know if it’s clean, other people put their germs in it too and it’s just plain weird! … This is just another health hazard and overall insulting gesture and step in the WRONG direction.

  • Azure

    I was an art student for years so I’m not really surprised by this. There are art exhibits where the public interacts with the people who are apart of the exhibit. This could also be apart of a social experiment as well. I mean the article did say the artist is going to ask the girls how they feel about strangers touching their hair. I get the piece but I also understand who some may find this to be offensive.

  • Christiane

    WHO IS THE WOMAN IN THE TOP PHOTO! I see pictures of her on tumblr and various other places. I think shes the same woman in the pic were she’s wearing a long thin skirt and a top that is light pink and green and, in the back ground, three white ladies are looking at her with envy? Who is this woman does she have a website? I see her everywhere. Just curious, thanks.

  • Sweed

    I am Chinese-American and went to school with mostly African-Americans while growing up. I had different hair than everyone else and I literally did not go a day without unwarranted hair touching. It’s awful and invasive. What’s really interesting to me is that I never knew this was a prevalent problem for Black women. I guess it’s really a matter of how much in the minority you are in your environment.

  • Me27

    It looks like Cipriana (i think that’s how her name is spelled) from Urban Bush Babes

  • KemaVA

    I dont think every white person that wants to touch black hair is trying to treat blacks like cattel. I myself have seen fro’s so glorious that I felt like I just HAD to touch (with permission of course). So naturally when someone wants to touch my locs I dont mind because I understand how beautiful they are. We cant get mad that others know nothing about us and then get mad when they want to know.

    On the other hand… I dont like the idea of black hair being ‘exhibited’. I probably would have felt better if they included all types of hair. But it being just ours makes it like our hair is a circus freak. I no like

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  • gee

    Ken Kojei, great comment!

  • chido

    I agree, i grew up being the only white kid in a township primary school in Zambia and a rural high school in Zimbabwe. Most of the times my “otherness” was explored was purely on genuine interest. There only rare situations when it was unwarranted and hurtful. By isolating the subjects based on race does seem to suggest there is an assumed “other.”

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  • sixfoota

    @Christiane – Ladene Clark

  • Pseudonym

    So funny! Just yesterday (the same day I posted the above comment), I was doing a liquor promo and two black women came up to me complementing me on my hair. One asked what I did to make my hair “look like that” and I just looked confused and finally answered, “Genetics?…” and she then reached her hand out, touched my hair, and then gave it a little tug as if verifying that it is actually growing out my my head.

    So, as much as commenters on this site act like it’s just white people wanting to touch random black women’s hair, it is not. Black women do it as well and when they do it, it’s not often a touch out of curiosity (“Ooooh, your hair’s amazingly soft and nothing like mine or anyone I know!”) but out of hateration (“I bet you that ain’t real- Oh!- that is your real hair.”).

  • Kesi

    that’s not Cipriana

  • Lady A

    Yay lets treat black women like animals and some kind of separate creature because it’s not like black people and society do it enough already…

  • cp

    I know there are people with questions about natural hair, but I don’t know how I feel about this exhibit. Personally, I’ll let you touch my hair if you ask, but I end up getting more random touching than asking. When I straighten it’s the worst. Black women are really interested in touching my hair, but when I let them touch , they were practically pulling my hair and feeling my scalp. Other than that, black women are mostly curious, besides that, white men.

  • Tamara

    Okay, so we’re really going to act like Black people just woke up one day and thought: ‘hey we’re going to choose to conform!!!1′

    You clearly haven’t studied the history of racism AT ALL because you’d find that:

    1. Black people and other people of colour have been FORCED to assiiminalte into European culture for centuries. Think about how to this day, black women’s natural hair is still seen as “unprofessional” and “unpresentable” not because we chose to make it that way, but because black people have been told since the beginning of the mid-atlantic slave trade that out hair is a ‘problem’ for not looking like white people’s hair.

    Remember that clutch article about the news presenter who was FIRED for telling a white guy that phoned int to complain about her natural hair that he was wrong?

    Black people and other people of coulour have been forced to buy into Eurocentruc standards of beauty for centuries. Why do you think bleaching is so popular in Indian culture? Why do you think some chinese and japanese people get surgery to alter their eye shape?

    And think about the brorwn paper bag test in the 50s and 60s.

    2. While white women are altering their bodies for ‘trying to look like us’ or whatever, black women are still being ridiculed for our bodies anyway. Rember when that tennis player (forgot her name) made fun of Serena williams’ bottom?

    3. Please don’t try and come for women that perm their hair and wear weaves. It’s their perogative. You don’t get to claim some kind of superiority because you choose to wear your hair natural. As long as their wearing their hair to PLEASE THEM and no one else, there is no problem.

    4. I still think this exhibit is a bad idea. It’s exotifying and objectifying black people as ‘other’. I guess if they want to do it then more power to them, but i feel like white people are gonna walk away from this exhibit thinking: ‘wow, black people really are different’ and not in the positive way. I’m not really keen on people touching my hair; i once had a white boy back me into a corner and force his hands into my hair much to my horror. I told him to stop various times but he wouldn’t. That’s worst case scenario but anyway.

    I really feel like you need to read up on history or something before you start making commentary like that.

  • T.A

    Girl, did you really just compare human beings to a purchased car? This is exactly the problem I’m talking about. I cannot.

    And I really want them to interview white people after the exhibit and see if they don’t say some fetisihizing, racist, exotifying ish.

  • T.A


  • Nicole Brooks

    It’s not a phenomenon. Women have been wearing fake hair since the 20s. Black women are more likely to wear fake hair now of days because we’ve been taught for so long that our hair has to be straight, either through relaxing or covering it up in a wig or weave. That is not the same as wanting to go up to someone and examine their hair like their some new species. It’s not bizarre to wear weave.

  • Nicole Brooks


  • Nicole Brooks

    It’s not White folks hair in the store. It’s straight, but it’s not White.

  • Moionfire

    Black women do not. Buying fake hair and going up to Indian women(or white women) and asking to touch their hair are two completely different things. I have never seen a black women do this. Hell sometimes white people just touch black womens hair without even bothering to ask.

  • Lillian Mae

    There is si much faux outrage! How many of us have been weave checked by other BLACK WOMEN!

  • Jay

    I guess I’m in the minority here, but I don’t see the big deal with someone touching my hair. Obviously not rubbing fingers in the scalp, but a quick feel to see how soft it is, who cares. It can (and should) be washed if needed. I understand that some ladies are annoyed by it, but it might be worth exploring exactly WHY? I don’t think of myself as a zoo animal or that it is an insult, so I am not offended by it.

    At the same time, I AM confused by black people who always feel the need to actively educate others about blackness. Why are you so eager for the approval and understanding of others?

  • AfricanAmericanFemme

    I accidentally gave this comment a thumbs up after intending to do the opposite so now i feel the need to comment.

    You wrote “No one forced us to fit in or conform, we did that.” Um are you kidding me? Have you read any black history? Or are you intentionally ignoring the forced acculturation of black people carried out by slave masters then prison-labor laws then Jim Crow, tactics that still today lead many African Americans to hate on their self and other blacks, that still make some people feel like they have to conform to mainstream standards of beauty/everything (See white) to be truly worth it. This pathology doesn’t exist in all black people, so it’s not really fair or true to say “we seem to be the only ones who don’t” see our beauty. Some people like the gorgeous woman pictured up top get it. Not every one will, so all one can do is try to shrug off the ignorance and continue to heal.

    But if you really don’t get why some people are upset by this exhibit, read this:

  • harlequinplease

    I guess I pretty much live in a progressive bubble because I’ve never gotten the question from whites, or black people in America either. I have gotten it a couple of times from curious Jamaicans when I go back home though, but it’s mostly complementary.

    My take on it is don’t. If you are white, I won’t contribute to your fetishizing my race/people and making me feel like the perpetual other. I also find myself doing a double take when white people say it’s just “curiosity”. What? I’ve never been curious as to the texture and feel of white hair. If I see someone’s really beautiful hair, I think: “Wow! That’s beautiful! Can I get my hair like that?” Why someone would want to put their fingers into a stranger’s hair is beyond me. I’m terribly sorry, but you won’t do it to me. You put ypour hand on my hair and I WILL slap you.

    And I don’t like it when Black people do it either. I’ll wear the “Bougie bitch” label, thanks.
    Compliments are fine. I love them! But they are still delivered via mouth, if I’m not mistaken.

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Because when people aren’t educated (also known as being ignorant), it leads to assumptions, entitlement, harmful commentary, and, yes, racism.

    They educate because they’re sick of people knowing literally jack shit and doing harmful things, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result.

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    I’m biracial, half-black and half-white, and this is really gross.

    I’ve had plenty of white people touch me without my permission, pulling my curls and patting my head like I’m some cute dog they encountered on their way to the grocery store. The arrogance is absolutely astounding to see on display and now it is LITERALLY BEING PUT ON DISPLAY.

    On one hand, you could argue that using mannequins saves black and mixed black people the trouble of dealing with roaming hands and it could possibly solve curiosity and create understanding. On the other hand, who gives a fuck.

    In a multicultural country, there’s literally no excuse to still be ignorant about things as simple and common as different hair types, unless you isolate yourself in middle-class suburbia. If you want to learn, then go out and actually learn, instead of waiting for a museum to put black images on display for you to fondle, coo over, make the occasional ‘benign’ racist joke toward, then inevitably forget about the next day.

    This isn’t education: it’s objectifying and degrading hand-holding.

  • Gabrielle

    Is it strange that this is how I felt too when I first read the article. I see how this may be a real problem for many people, but at the same time it is not offensive to me as a natural haired woman. I don’t particularly like people touching my hair, but I’m not going to flip out at people either. I know many black women like to touch each other’s hair especially if it looks really well moisturized and they want to know what products you’re using etc, but I definitely wouldn’t want a stranger touching my hair.

    Also, what would you all do if you went to a country with very few black people and somebody touched your hair without permission because they’ve never seen anything like it before. I don’t know what I’d do, but I expect that walking around might feel kind of like this exhibit, on display as some kind of weird unknown creature.

  • Gabrielle

    Yeah. I feel like a better exhibition would be one that had people (men and women) of all ethnicities on display. Still weird, though

  • Jay

    So you agree with this exhibit then? I don’t see how letting someone touch your hair will make them any less ignorant.

  • MommieDearest

    This exhibit has a Sarah Baartman quality about it. It’s creepy as hell. *shudders*

  • talaktochoba

    um, does ANYBODY sidle up to Becky and ask to touch her hair?

    so, um, just what is the purpose of this–todraw attention/make money/so-called “art for art’s sake”?

    once upon a time they called this kind of degrading objectifying to make money prostitution;

    so what’s the PC term for prostitution these days–alternative lifestyle, maybe?

    i’ll be the first to admit help…

  • Folasade

    I think its great! If some asks to touch my hair, I’ll take It as a curious mind who has never touched Afro-textured hair. I heard this happens quite a lot to sisters working in Asia as English teachers. I think there is still a lot non-blacks don’t know about in terms of the variety of textures and skin colors we can have. I think this is a very interesting social experiment.

  • Nyala

    This is too much, I think the natural hair community is turning a bit too haughty and bragging a bit too much over their tresses. I bet a lot of people personally don’t give a damn what our hair texture feels like. I don’t want to insult anyone who has had the inconvenience of touching their hair, but to take to the streets to me is considered annoying and privy.

    We could be taking to the streets for more important ordeals.

    The natural hair community needs to chill out with this.

  • Elayna

    I think it’s fine. Children undergo a sort of curiosity where they use all their senses to determine what something is when they don’t know to collect information….why wouldn’t it transfer into adulthood? It makes sense that natural human curiosity comes into play here. Having only visual and sometimes olfactory information cannot quell curiosity. I feel this is a sort of gateway into it (including other issues we seem to have with other ethnicities) becoming not that big of a deal. While it may seem degrading to some, I see it as an opportunity to learn. The more we learn about each other, the more we won’t have problems interacting with each other. Simple as that.

    For those of you who whine about people not understanding others of various ethnic backgrounds, yet complain against something small like this, it makes me wonder. They’re not touching *your* hair, and others are happy to let people do it, so much so that they created an event for it. Let it be. It’s certainly not hurting anyone or anything except someone’s delicate sensibilities who isn’t even a part of the event.

  • Lillian Mae

    Exactly! Great job using a child’s curiosity as an example! I wish I could thumb this up 1000x’s!

  • Mavis

    This is an interesting exhibit. I’m always happy to let people touch my hair, if they ask beforehand, and they have clean hands. However, i have noticed that a one-time yes seems to count as a forever pass for some people, who continue to touch my hair. I’m fine with the fascination in black hair (if it isn’t your culture), but lacking manners is something else.

  • Ellis

    I see your point in the last paragraph.

    I think that we Blacks as whole, try to seek acceptance from other races to prove that we are not “inferior, ugly” (and every other negative stereotype under the sun). I have a feeling that we Blacks will be trying to seek acceptance from others till the end of time. :(

  • Miss Evelyn

    The woman in the picture really annoys me. I find her hair ridiculous. I am sur eshe thinks it is amazing. Most of us everyday women just wear our hair normal and call it a day. What is with all this art expirement hair? Overcompensating? Attention needing? Yes, I said it. I think black women go out of their way to have outrageous hairstyles to get attention they crave. I wear my hair in a lil fro that I condition and call it a day. When I am home it is braided in a ponytail. I have a job to keep and a kid to feed, I don’t have time for this crazy hairstyle stuff. Must be nice to have that luxury.

  • Lillian Mae

    Ummm…locks are a ‘normal’ style and can be worn in many different styles, lengths, and thickness. She’s an everyday woman and I’m sure her routine is a lot more simple than your own.

  • Fiona

    I am a very reticent person and would never touch a stranger in any intimate way no matter how curious I was about them, and I would not allow strangers to touch me either under most circumstances, but… this is very different. The invitation does allow people to share themselves and explore a bit and I have to admit that I would LOVE to see how the model in this article manages those coils. I mean, I know what natural black people’s hair feels like because I have black friends with whom I’m close enough that intimate touching is fine, but they’re pretty conservative and don’t go in for dramatic styles. If I had seen this happening around me I would have joined in and also allowed the black women to check out my hair if they liked – fair is fair.

  • Alecia

    Great response. Most often other races want to touch afro textured hair, but they never offer to let us touch their hair.

  • thequeenbee

    LOL. Not only do other races want to touch our hair, many TOUCH FIRST then ask as they are touching if their touching is alright. NO it is not alright. People pick their noses, dig in their butts, pick their teeth and touch everything under the sun –touching anything on anyone without permission is molestation. If they want to find out what afros feel like or black hair in general feel like, they can go to the beauty supply store and buy some Kankelon or other afro wig–same with other types of hair, its all there. They can touch it , wear it, make love to it, whatever. Ringworm–a skin disease that causes baldness is passed on by TOUCH in fact many parasitical diseases as well as bacterial that affect the scalp (including the spread of lice a disease more common among whites) is passed on by TOUCH. The LOL was not for this rather serious subject, it is for a memory that I have. When I was 11, I had hair almost to my waist–the majority of people “molesting” my hair were other BLACK GIRLS–who tried to befriend me or hated me on the basis f that hair. BUT when I was 11… I went to stay at my grandmother’s and despite my mother’s instructions, finally conceded to letting neighbor children play in my hair. they had short hair with odd, rough and short patches almost showing scalp.

    Well it was not ringworm–but whatever they had, I ended up with that at the crown of my head. for the next 7 years or so, my hair there could not get longer than 4 inches without falling out or breaking off. My mom took me to drs and no one ever figured out what it was, but it slowly spread until a 2 inch spot became around a 5 inch square area. The weird breakage stopped when finally at age 17 I was allowed to get my first relaxer. I guess the lye killed whatever it was. After that my hair there could grow longer but then I had another type of breakage, that of ignorant hair care (my own and stylist with more talent than hair knowledge) and so, the waist length hair was something ONLY in childhood until I was in my mid twenties, Then, my hair would grow to mid back length only.

    I was over 40 before my hair grew down to my waist again and as I look back, 2 things I know–the water used on hair in each state matters AND people should keep their hands, combs, hats, etc out of each other’s hair and to themselves. Good luck to the models, hope they are using weave and not their own hair or hope they have enough chemicals/barriers on the hair to protect what may be on all those hands.

    We are not curiousities or fads–we are people, white people need to start treating us like people and not something to collect (black dolls/Americana) entertain them (singers, athletes) or as novelties (biracial babies and black sexual experimentation) and it is also time for blacks to underline that we are not those things and behave/respect who we are. As for the white woman who would offer blacks to touch her hair in reciprocity—no thank you–blacks can touch white hair or its simulation by buying most dolls or by going to the wig shop. Reciprocity does not necessarily mean equality or consideration it means a person is willing to exchange what they want to do to others for a like experience, no matter how demeaning.

  • thequeenbee

    or black men. though black men do not seem to mind their popularity to be used to make “pretty babies” nor do many of them seem to understand or care what happens to all those pretty babies that they make after they move on to the next novelty. black men are fetishized to, but they are the flavor of this decade (whites rotate which gender of blacks they like and “approve of” but they never like or approve of both at the same time–helps to neutralize people when you can make them compete and fight amongst themselves)

  • thequeenbee

    There should be an exhibit of other women, allowing all the races to touch their butt implants–fair is fair, they should also exhibit inn their real natural butts so the phenomenon of backs with cracks can be explored and felt too….

  • thequeenbee

    Most skin and scalp diseases that are communicable are passed on by touch. If you are not leery of people touching you or your hair, then you have much to learn about personal space, respect and disease. the 3 foot rule applies to ALL molestations even to a person’s hair. touching anything on anyone’s body without permission IS molestation.

    I think this will not dissipate the curiosity whites will take this as a cue that they can just reach over and begin touching hair. Just a few weeks ago, I was “molested” by several white women who not only grabbed my locks but proceeded to tell me what kind of “weave” I had and how long my “real” hair was–and when they found out my hair was real–of course they wanted to scalp check me. Ludicrous.

    This exhibit will foster even more of the same and other disrespect of black women, much the same as discovering we wear weave has caused most whites and many blacks to assume all black hair that is long is fake–has done.

  • thequeenbee

    familiarity breeds contempt. Just think about the derogatory comments made about black women once whites (and black men) discovered how prevalent weaves are. You should travel around Sheila and let all the whites know YOU and only you.

  • talaktochoba

    through for you, dear!

  • talaktochoba

    tougher than tough!

  • thequeenbee

    I want to be FAIR here and not to get this twisted. I am NOT okay with people touching my hair or body to satisfy their “curiosity” Humans are not here to “satisfy curiosity”.

    but I have to say this:

    1. In 2006 I was in Amsterdam and saw the traveling exhibit of Chinese prisoners that had been used as anatomy exhibits exposing ALL parts of their anatomy. it was not done to expose Chinese people or to highlight prisoners, it was done to show the body, it’s organs, and veins and arteries, skeltons and musculature as art all preserved. It just happened to have been done in China.

    2. For over a century, the art of making things out of hair have routinely been displayed in museums around the world, though none are using live people to show this stuff.

    3. Live models used in art has been done for centuries. Mimes are artists, in places like Paris, and Barcelona, people exhibit as human art, often maintaining poses for hours in outrageous get ups or in ordinary clothes BUT they do so for the art of movement and sculpture and do NOT display themselves as their race or representatives of their race.

    This is a fine point. Had the exhibit included ALL hair from all cultures and had ALL races on display the outcry and resentment, horror would be much less–but only blacks seem to often be displayed not only for their characteristics but for the fact that they are “other” or black. that is the problem. It is never a good thing to objectify people not even to educate them–because the facts are when you can remove the humanity from a person, even for a minute whether through art, books, or media you can then progress to ANYTHING dehumanizing without fear of losing your own humanity.

    This means it is easier to hate, harm, commit genocide, riot, lynch or have pogroms. Prior to any destruction of a people, they must first be stripped of their humanity–they must be perceived as “other” because humans want the comfort of knowing that any “monstrous acts” committed against anyone was justified and so they take away the humanity first of the victim, so that the perp can pretend to keep his.

    Familiarity breeds contempt–the derision against black females has risen exponentially along with the revelation of her use of weaves, make up, etc and her depiction as strictly sex objects in many videos, etc Education has not brought understanding and revelation is not education.

    NO matter what, the people who touch or comment will bring their own prejudices, fears, and hang ups to the exhibit and they will leave with them–the touching will NOT dispel anything, it will only allow those who envy to want it more, those who hate, to hate it more and those who love it to love it more–and each will now (by dint of the experience) believe they speak with more authority now and will pontificate on it.

    I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating and ignorant it is to hear a white woman hold forth about what she thinks she knows about MY HAIR because she has watched black women hair videos on You Tube–it is ridiculous and makes every person think they know it all when they know less than nothing (because they know enough to delude themselves but not to actually have true knowledge)

    so the point is–humans DO objectify other humans or at least parts of them–but only blacks, Jews and indigenous people are objectified for their blackness or native state with the characteristic being secondary–and THAT is NEVER a good thing.

    Never forget what happened to Jewish hair , skin, bones and teeth during WWII–hair was used to make fetishes and to stuff mattresses and to make dolls, teeth were used as inlay in furniture, skin that was tattooed was used in art and to make lampshades and teeth and skulls were used as paperweights–of course all that appropriation required the donor to be dead (killed) in order to get it. Dehumanizing is never a good thing and it ALWAYS starts with cartoons, written articles then proceeds on to exhibits, studies, etc and it also ALWAYS has defenders/collaborators and apologists from the targeted group…..

  • thequeenbee

    LOL. You must have very selective observation skills. Whites may admire our qualities but most DETEST and strive to undermine us as humans. To embrace that approach or not understand the stealth in backhanded compliments means people like you become aider and abettors–the new Pocahantases who help the whites do their dirty work and later generations suffer due to that. Stop justifying the injustifiable. If whites want to touch black hair or know anything about blacks then they should buy anatomical cadavers who donate to science and touch away–not subject live people to that. YOU might not mind the attention or the perceived intimacy, but your predilections NEVER give you the right to dictate to another what they must suffer.

  • thequeenbee

    Racism does not exist due to a lack of education. Racism exists IN SPITE of education.

    Some of the most racist people (from any race) are some of those most exposed to other races and the most educated. Racism often is an extension of personal fears and prejudices and they are NOT dispelled by knowing more. Fear is the by product of competition–for jobs, for genetic offspring, for males or females for everything–so racism is the net result of competition. Our society is based on competition in all forms–ERGO perpetual racism in all forms.

  • KimO

    Wow. That is unveiled vitriol, tinged with a little hint at the resentment that you have not made choices other than – in addition to?- the ones you have made.

    My son and I both have, and enter the world each day, with the hair God gave us, much like you it sounds. Every day each of us is ‘complimented’ on how “awesome,” “epic,” or, alternately, “militant,” (Angela!), or “different” is our hair. We are always noticed, and people feel the need to make sure they let us know.

    I love that you love how you are made, and that you’ve made that choice…to be you. Let others be – creatively, organically, expressively, beautifully, without reproach.

    And maybe try something new on weekends.

  • KimO

    Wow, so now we’re relegating the willful ignorance of Whites in disrespecting personal space and dishonoring the natural existence of others to the innocence of children? That seems a familiar line of reasoning for codifying distinct differences between the races…insulting from the start.

    People are curious, yes. People need to learn boundaries, and to more than just “tolerate” them, but to respect them. When you are an intimate, you can touch my hair.

    At least ask my name first.

  • KimO

    Interesting:”the natural hair community….”

    I’ve been unable to figure out when a special label or place needed to be named or made for those of us who wear the hair we were born with, its texture kissing daylight, its kink winking at sky.

    The sense of divide that I glean from your tone, even while it is instructive and its sense of disdain worthy of a sociopolitical place at the table, is one I have felt palpably in a room with other Black women. That has always seemed a bitter blow to me, and something incapable of being understood.

    Is there now, where you live, in the circles you inhabit, a bitter chasm between … the two ‘communities’? Is there a name for those who are not in the “natural hair community”?

  • Waithira Mbuthia-Protano

    Say WHAT?!! This is the dumbest and most degrading idea I’ve ever heard! As an African woman who has worn her hair mostly natural all her life (locks, for the past several years–I refuse to call them “dreads”–nothing to “dread” or “dreadful” about my hair), I was always polite in answering the often asked questions, “How long does it take (to braid the hair)?” and “Is it your hair?” (sigh) But I later became exhausted with the role of a Walking Encyclopedia for not just my African hair, but for many things African and now refuse to answer these idiotic questions after deciding that, if these people want to know about our people’s hair and whatever other curiosities they have about black people in general, all they have to do is SOCIALIZE with them. Invite them to your social circles–weddings, club meetings, your children’s birthday parties, etc., and get to know them in a “natural,” genuine way. I don’t know about other black folk, but I found it interesting that braids were found to be sexy only when Bo Derek wore them in the movie “Ten,” just as big butts, a prominent characteristic of black women, suddenly became attractive with the rising fame of Jennifer Lopez. .Anyway, I’m glad I missed this “exhibit.” Urrgh.

  • Tiffany

    I’m a black american woman with natural hair. I can relate to the women who got involved in this exhibition. Take a look at the youtube video. These women are wanting people to touch their hair because they are proud of it and its different from the “norm” and they want people touch their hair and experience the soft fluffiness. I bet a lot of them are thinking: ‘Come on … you know want to touch my hair, come here, touch it! touch it!, yeah … you know you like that.’

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