Monday, July 25, 2011

Black Women's Hair Ain't Public Property

Woot! Check out two of our favorite bloggers, Tami of What Tami Said and Renee of Womanist Musings, in this CNN piece about people (generally white people) touching black women's hair.

A note about the attempt at equivalency that Renee mentions:
In 2008, Renee Martin wrote "Can I Touch Your Hair? Black Women and The Petting Zoo" for her blog Womanist Musings and said she continues to get e-mails from women thanking her for her post and relaying their personal experiences about their hair being touched.

Some white women who responded, Martin said, shared their stories of their own hair being touched in countries populated by people of color. They chalked it up to natural curiosity and accused Martin of being too sensitive, she said.

But she says she doesn't think the crux of the issue has to do with curiosity.

"I think it's the idea that they have the right to possess black women and they will take any excuse they can to jump over the border, whether it's policing our behavior or policing our hair," Martin said. "I think it's about ownership of black bodies more than it has to actually do with hair."
It would have been nice if the author of the piece, Lisa Respers France, noted that women like Renee and Tami are not tourists in a foreign locale, to really underline how offensive the false equivalency of "My hair got touched by people of color while I was on vacation" really is.

Of course people are naturally curious, etc. But when an adult white person wants to touch a black woman's hair in the United States or Canada, that speaks to segregation more than curiosity. It wouldn't be a curiosity for an adult in a diverse culture that's properly integrated.

And, of course, it wouldn't be an issue if our culture wasn't rife with privilege, narratives about women's bodies being public property (even to other women), and hostility toward consent.