I have been hair assaulted.
As many of you may know already from various articles via the internet, Black Girls specifically suffer from hair assault and we get our hair pulled, groped, insulted or fetishized more than others do because it is very unique from other hair textures.
I used to get hair assaulted mostly in High school.
I specifically remember a Spanish class I took where two boys who sat behind me would yank my braids daily. It was so bad that my Spanish teacher asked me if I wanted to move seats but I declined.
If any girl knows in a primary sense what it feels like to get fresh new braids the first day, let alone endure them for the first week, then you know after getting your scalp snatched that anyone touching your hair let alone grabbing it is worth a snap-able reaction.
However I was a very passive and pacifistic dormat of a girl back in my youth, and snapping out at people was not something I ever really did.
My hair was especially unique because I wore colored and multicolored braid extensions. I had every color of the rainbow at some point. I
was so identifiable by them, in the year book I was put down as the girl with the colored hair. It was not dyed but I bought colored weave to install in my braids and I confused many of the White kids for whom did not understand how I changed colors so quickly.
What I will say is that even though I have seen many posts and articles in recent years about how wrong hair assault is, especially towards girls, curlier haired girls and Black girls specifically, back then in the early 2000’s those articles weren’t as prevalent and those memes were yet to be made.
It doesn’t mean that I didn’t consciously know it was wrong, it certainly did bother me, but I didn’t really speak up about it or admonish anything because I didn’t want to be the “Angry Black Girl” stereotype, others would not understand why I was snapping on them, and to be honest, I would have looked like the villain, not the other way around.
It seems innocent but touching anyone anywhere without even asking first is incredibly rude. I’ve had it happen so many times I can’t even count. One of the worst experiences I can remember is when I proudly wore my natural afro puffs to school for Halloween when I was dressed as a disco queen.
It was the first time the kids were seeing my actual hair and they thought it was a wig but when I told them it was real they all came over and dug their dirty fingers in my hair, and pulled and prodded at it like I was a zoo animal or alien because they were so shocked that kind of hair could grow out of someone’s head. They had never seen it before and I felt like a spectacle.
It wasn’t a good feeling of extra special-ness. It was an embarrassing feeling of other-ness. I felt invaded and violated. I swore never to wear my hair natural again to school after that incident. In fact I am almost certain that it was the one and only time I ever did wear my hair natural at school.
In college when I was modeling, a girl came up and just dug her hands in my hair right in front of everyone in the art studio. It was one of those moment where it took me a few moments to even come to the realization of what just happened. This was one of my friends. She didn’t even ask. She just came up and started fingering my afro.
I avoid conflict like the plague which is one of the attributes I hate most about myself because it’s one step away from cowardice. I understand that it is good to be non-confrontational, but there are life moments that call for self defense and hair assault is serious and definitely a an offense that justifies that response.
Back to the boys who did it. I would like to also highlight that girls of all races are told that boys are “boys” and they express that they “like” you through teasing, being mean, and harassment.
When boys “teased” me which was a very overarching term that did include a lot of harassment, I thought, “oh, this is what boys do to express their affection, they are crude, rude, animals, and they are not smart enough to articulate affection properly because they don’t understand their own feelings and they are discouraged by society to do so in more gentleman like manners.”
There is some truth to that statement, but if we really believe that men and women are equals then we need to raise our standards as a society and say we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. If a guy likes a girl, express it with respect.
Of course there are many articles written from the perspective of men stating that they get no play if they go the gentleman route and that women really want the assholes.
There is also some truth to that and there are actually biological nature reasons why but the “bad boy syndrome” is another blog for another day and trust me, I had it too when I was younger but for some other personal reasons.
I had such a strict upbringing at home that bad boys attracted me because I wanted to live vicariously through their rebellion. I could not rebel but at least I could enjoy rebellion in a secondary sense through being around the rebellious attitudes of those whom I admired.
It took “balls” as one would say to challenge authority and that boldness got my attention, especially since I at the time was a very obedient, compliant, goody two shoes, and to a degree I still have many of those attributes, but I am trying to break away from that because it’s unhealthy and detrimental.
What I will say is that again it’s an unhealthy message to teach our young boys that harassment is a proper way to express affection to a girl that they fancy.
It is also quite harmful to say to our young girls that they should just tolerate that sort of behavior and not only that but relish in it because it means that they are receiving attention which means that they are pretty and desired which is one of the perceived ultimate goals of girlhood.
It’s hard looking back as an adult woman and realizing the things I tolerated back then that were both sexist and racist or “sacist” as I like to call. That term sounds even more properly malicious and Black Girls experience both at the same time very often.
If I could go back to every moment someone did this to me I would grab their wrist and push back and say, “Hey! I’m not your pet! I am a human being! Respect my space. I don’t go reaching out and touching you without permission because you’re not an animal and neither am I!”
But I cannot go back. I can only move forward. Hopefully in the future I do not get hair assaulted but knowing how people are it would probably happen again. I know that there are people who do it out of ignorance, but c’mon, if it happened to them, which it rarely does because their straight hair is considered “normal” hair, then they would be terribly offended.
Some of it is disguised as admiration. Some people ogle and stare because they see that kind of hair as majestic and unique. There is no problem in admiring someone else’s appearance but I would hope that the majority of the population knows in their head that staring is and always will be rude and is a visual violation of other people’s space and bodies.
Going on and on verbally about how “alien” afro textured hair is isn’t really a compliment. Yes it’s different, but consider that your “different” is our “normal.”
We are BORN with kinky hair, growing out of the roots of our scalp and it is usually abnormal for us to wake up with straight hair. Sure there are variations and many Black people have mixed heritage but in general, most of us grow up with thick, bushy, afro textured hair or tight coils and kinks.
Our hair ought to be respected and I just wish, in my youth, I had been more assertive about protecting and demanding respect for it.
Because at this point, I REALLY have a low tolerance for hair assault.
I actually LOVE to have my hair touched, but ONLY when asked permission first. I have no problem letting people touch my hair, of course, with CLEAN hands only and no lingering please, then it just gets weird.