June 11, 2013

"I'm still not entirely sure what to make of 'You Can Touch My Hair,' an interactive public art exhibit put together by Un'ruly..."

"... which actually encouraged people to touch the hair of black women and ask questions about it."
Basically, three black women with fabulous hair —a poofy 'fro, long locks and what appeared to be a lengthy straight weave — stood in New York City's Union Square Park over the weekend and held signs that announced, "You Can Touch My Hair" to perfect strangers....

Though I'm sure the exhibition's organizers were annoyed, I actually have a greater appreciation for the three women who showed up to the park and staged a silent protest.... One carried a sign that read...  "You cannot touch my hair"....

33 comments:

sydney said...

For some reason, the thought of touching someone else's hair just to see what it feels like repulses me a little. It is too intimate an act for me.

SteveR said...

I'm picking Statement #2

gerry said...

The model with the poofy hair, Malliha Ahmad, ultimately described the experience of allowing strangers to fondle her mane as "amazing" and "empowering."

"I normally don't let people touch my hair, but I had to step outside of myself and immerse myself in the experience of the social experiment of this art exhibition"


Are we living in the Weimar Republic?

Can't these people actually do something productive for a living?

Chip S. said...

Not sure if it's the woman in the 'fro or the 'fro itself--or the combo--but I like that style.

edutcher said...

Can I rub it for luck?

gerry said...

Are we living in the Weimar Republic?

No, the 33% voted for Der Fuhrer, so we're past all that.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the project works as a promotion of the natural hairstyle, since it must feel best, so even though it plays on the idiocy of white people who ask black people if they can touch their hair, it might be effective as an argument, to black people, to keep the hair natural. Those are 2 reasons -- not just one -- why a black person might want to view this art project in a positive way. Not that it's my role to say what the political reaction to racially oriented performance art ought to be.

On the gender aspect however -- where my opinion might matter -- there's the concern about women inviting strangers to touch them. About that, I just want to say that that's a very old performance art gambit. I associate it with Yoko Ono in the 1960s inviting people to use scissors to cut off parts of her clothing.

Basically, as art, it's been done.

I gave this post the "bad art" tag, because I'm not impressed by it as art. It might be a good political performance though.

Chip S. said...

Real art would be "You Can Touch My Pubic Hair".

Not sure where you'd find the exhibits, tho.

YoungHegelian said...

This "hair-touching" business crosses all sorts of ethnic lines.

When my sister-in-law was a teenager in Brownsville, TX she had a full head of blond hair. She also played French horn in the high school band.

When the marching band would play across the border in Matamores, Mexico, her classmates would stick her on the inside columns, because otherwise Matamorans would run out from the crowd & touch her hair as she marched by.

Apparently, it was a good luck kind of thing. Remember, those folks didn't see an awful lot of blond hair, and what they saw most often was on angels on the paintings at church.

gerry said...

This may be helpful, as well, something we learned during our foster parenting days.

Strelnikov said...

No, thanks.

Balfegor said...

Re: Althouse:

even though it plays on the idiocy of white people who ask black people if they can touch their hair

Is . . . is this a thing? Why on earth would one want to touch a stranger's hair?

Strelnikov said...

How much of my tax money went into this "art"?

Mitchell the Bat said...

Doubtless many of us would benefit from touching the results of an unreconstructed double mastectomy.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...which actually encouraged people to touch the hair of black women and ask questions about it.

Does it match the carpet?

Artist said...

I used to teach at a minority majority high school. The black girls loved touching the hair of the white girls.

Personally, I found it a bit creepy. But I just figured it was vibrancy.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is . . . is this a thing? Why on earth would one want to touch a stranger's hair?"

Apparently it is.

I think there's the notion of the other... with notably different-looking hair and a weird social transgression -- that means whatever it means -- of wanting to see if it feels the way it looks.

Mary Martha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Martha said...

I have really curly hair which was copper penny red when I was young (it has moved into more of a brown over time).

Many people of all sorts have asked to touch my hair. Traveling in Asia was interesting (particularly with my blond friend) as a positive it also got me to interact with people.

Black friends at Girl Scout Camp who wanted to know if my curly hair was like their curly hair would touch my hair (and I would touch theirs)

Curiosity about others is natural in children... but it's really annoying and creepy in adults.

There is always a point in the evening when I am out in bars when I MUST put my hair up or drunk men will just kind of fondle it.

Peter said...

... the primary issue in this discussion is the entitlement and privilege of others who think it's OK to ask to touch it"

Well it may be rude but it's not criminal. Although it may be a civil violaton if you do so in your workplace.

But, umm, these women explicitly gave permission to touch their hair. You might or might not want to but if someone explicity gives you permission to do something then I don't see why you should not feel entitled to do it.

And I don't think it's peculiarly American- people all over the world find visible differences fascinating, at least if they're not used to seeing these differences in person.

Methinks the author of this article is just being crabby.

Synova said...

When my brother was a teenager he visited Mexico (we'd had three exchange students from there and he spent a week with each family) and when they were at a museum in Mexico City some girls asked to touch his hair. He got all flustered and said "no!" but when he got home he thought it wouldn't have hurt anything and he shouldn't have freaked out.

It violates personal space in a major way but on the other hand it is something that people *want* to do because they're curious; if your hair is white-blond and extremely fine or if it's black and super kinky.

Methadras said...

The woman with the fro is beautiful.

Gene said...

This exhibition is playing off another phenomenon among black women. Chris Rock made a documentary about how much time black women spend getting their hair the way they want, how expensive it is to style. Apparently a lot of otherwise wonderfully desirable black women tell their boyfriends when making love the one thing you can't do is "touch my hair." Mussing their hair is like keying their car.

ironrailsironweights said...

You all know what I'm thinking.

Peter

ironrailsironweights said...

Real art would be "You Can Touch My Pubic Hair".
Not sure where you'd find the exhibits, tho.


You'd need a time machine. God damn it.
[It occurred to me that almost no men under age 30 or so, even those who are very sexually active, have EVER seen a natural woman.]

Peter

meep said...

Eh -- when I lived in Queens, kids would come up wanting to touch my children's hair, as my kids were blond and blue-eyed. It's like Barbie dolls had come to life for these other kids, who had brown/black eyes and black or dark brown hair. I also had women wanting to touch my hair when I visited Japan (I have light brown hair).

I didn't think it was a good luck thing, but maybe I was wrong.

Sorun said...

"The black girls loved touching the hair of the white girls."

No no no! All indignities suffered by American blacks are theirs alone.

Crunchy Frog said...

You can dance if you want to
You can leave your friends behind
Cuz your friends don't dance
And if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine

Crunchy Frog said...

http://movieclips.com/Vd2X-saturday-night-fever-movie-watch-the-hair/

Just watch the hair!

Amartel said...

Black people frequently pretend that they are under constant assault from white people wanting to touch their hair. That's what this is about. Furthering a myth.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

This "art exhibit" is about as cutting-edge and necessary as "You Can Feel Around For Horns," an interactive exhibit where strangers can touch the head of a Jew and see if they feel tiny, vestigial bumps or maybe actual horns... or maybe nothing! Line up! Line up! The NYT says, "Groundbreaking!"

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

When I was a kid, I lived in the Middle East and every time we went out in public the local kids would giggle and try to touch my hair (long and light blond).

When I had small children of my own, we lived on a Pacific island that saw a large number of tourists from Japan and Korea. They didn't try to touch my kids' hair--two blondies and a curly redhead--but they would squeal and giggle and ask permission to take pictures of my kids.

Banshee said...

People are curious. I don't see anything wrong with encouraging knowledge. Playing with people's hair is certainly something that women are able to do with other women.

I think it's weird to call it art, that's all.

Jullie Smith said...

I agree with sydney,
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