For many, the mere thought of a video game reminding grown folks not to touch other grown folks’ hair might seem a bit…excessive. But for those who actually experience unsolicited petting and grabbing of their carefully coiffed crown on a regular basis, it’s an ongoing reminder of our “otherness.” Also, hello communicable diseases because WHERE have your hands been?
For many women of color, particularly black women, the hair reach is but one of many items on the list of the microaggressions we face both inside and outside of our communities. Believe me, we get that our hair is magical and a wonder to behold, but we take pride in it and some of us spend a lot of time and money getting it to look the way it does. Don’t come reaching unless you also plan on sliding some coin over for a new hair appointment. Also, this ain’t a petting zoo.
Despite the numerous calls to keep one’s hands to one’s self through song, online discussion, and even public demonstrations, the message still seems lost on some folks. So Wieden+Kennedy art director Momo Pixel created Hair Nah!, a provocative travel game created to address the issue of people reaching for and touching black women’s hair without permission. As an ’80s baby, the graphics of Hair Nah! make me reminisce back to a time where blowing into a game cartridge was an actual tech work-around. If you’re wondering why the throwback nature of the game, Pixel tells Allure, “I’m an 8-bit designer. Pixel is my last name. Pixel is my life. I make pixel accessories. If you go on my Facebook, if you go on my Instagram, I’m pixels. This game is just my personality. ”
But the overall gist of the game is to get your avatar (you get to choose from an array of skin tones and hairstyles) through her day without missing her flight and reaching her destination.
In a recent post, Pixel told On She Goes, a digital travel platform for and by women of color, “Clearly you shouldn’t invade someone’s personal space. But who I’m really hoping to get 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.”
I mean, is it so much to ask to not be touched?
When asked about others who may see the need for Hair Nah! as being a non-issue, Pixel remarks, “There are a lot of things that are unimportant, but if I think it’s important and if other people think it’s important, then it’s important. Also, you can only think it’s unimportant if you aren’t a black woman. So, it’s just unimportant to them, which is aight. I appreciate your disagreeing self.”
If this seems trivial to you because there are bigger things to worry about or you have a black friend who says she doesn’t mind you touching her hair, let me gently remind you that a teacher cut a little black girl’s braid in front of her class. Or that the military in 2014 rolled back strict rules on acceptable hairstyles that seemed to disproportionately affect black women only after they experienced strong backlash. Or that many microaggressions like these add up and contribute to the abysmal pay gap among black women.
If anything, a game like Hair Nah! shows that society still has a long way to go when it comes to normalizing black hair and accepting it for what it is. Hopefully, Pixel’s game will help more people understand that.
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