Two weeks ago, my nine-year-old came home from school in tears because people wouldn’t stop touching her hair. We live in a rural town that is lacking in diversity. Her kinky, curly, amber tresses are quite unusual. She understands that what makes her unique also makes her a subject of curiosity. But my child is not a pet and people invading her personal space serves only to bring out the mama bear in me.
I wrote a long note in her agenda asking the teacher to keep an eye out for inappropriate behaviour and to support my daughter in this regard. She reported the next day that the teacher, without singling out my daughter, addressed the class with a big discussion about consent and respecting personal space. My daughter said she was satisfied with the discussion and subsequent results. That’s a polite response to such invasive and ignorant behaviour, but what can you do?
Enter Hair Nah. Created by Momo Pixel, (@MomoUhOh on Twitter), Hair Nah is a web-based game where you play as a black woman, Aeva, trying to get her vacation on while fending off an onslaught of reaching white hands. “Can I touch it?” they ask. “Is it attached to your head?” “It’s so fluffy!”
My daughter immediately jumped in and created a character that resembled herself. She embraced the cathartic power of slapping away the offensive hands and quickly slapped her way to victory in the first round by filling up the “NAH!” meter in less than the allotted 60 seconds. “That’s exactly what it’s like!” she cried. The second round proved to be more frustrating for her, with more hands attacking faster than she was prepared for. She decided that she’d gotten the point and didn’t need to press on. Had she done so, she’d have found that there are actually only three rounds of the slapfest to deal with.
Winning the three rounds gets Aeva to her destination. But, while the short game has come to an end, the problem of people touching black women’s hair without permission still exists. “Who I’m really hoping to get,” says Momo, “are those women and men who may not really be paying attention to their actions or don’t see them as offensive. I hope they see themselves in this game and be like, ‘Oh my God.’ And then from there stop doing it.”
Over 70,000 people have played the game and have shared their personal experiences since Momo tweeted about its creation on November 15th. Will this public service game teach people that their curiosity does not trump respecting someone’s personal space? We can only hope…