Hair Nah Is a New Game for Women Sick of Saying ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’
When someone touches your hair without permission, it’s a violation, but one that’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it yourself. That’s why Hair Nah, a new video game created by Wieden + Kennedy Art Director Momo Pixel, is such a big deal. The game illustrates—in charmingly retro eight-bit style—exactly what it feels like to be accosted by strangers who can’t keep their hands to themselves. I can’t stop playing it. Twitter can’t stop talking about it. And the reason is simple: It’s a powerful cultural statement in the guise of fast fun.
The game came about from Pixel’s own experiences with having her hair touched without permission, an invasion of her personal space that started when she moved to Portland. “Once I moved here—my gawd! It was like every other day! Once it was 10 times in a day. After that, I was like nah…hell nah…Hair Nah! I needed to do something or say something so that people would stop doing it. Because it’s not OK and I’m not OK with being violated.”
As someone who quit working in retail because I couldn’t handle having random women reach out and grab at my curls while I was minding my own business, straightening hangers or folding shirts, I relate to Hair Nah in a way that’s hard to succinctly describe. Black women have a hard enough time dealing with their hair being policed—in classrooms, the workforce, and on the cover of magazines. We don’t need folks reaching out and prodding us too, but it occurs all the time. When it happens to me, I freeze up. The beauty of Hair Nah is that it allows you to rewrite that experience, one that Pixel goes through too, a mission she explained to me in a quote that really has to be read in full to appreciate.
“I wanted women of color, black women, in particular, to feelempowered. I want them to finally be able to protect their peace,their space, and their hair. Because oftentimes in real life we don’t.When someone touches my hair, I experience shock. You’re unpreparedfor it and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for someone to invade mypersonal space. Then I’m usually ashamed of myself because I didn’tstick up for myself or say what I wanted. I always wish I had made theperson touching my hair feel as uncomfortable as I am, but I neverdo.”
Not only do can you reclaim your space without fear in the game, but the more you slap down strangers’ hands reaching for your hair, the faster you level up. It’s also incredibly easy to play. Even the avatars are fun, with hairstyles inspired by Black Twitter. “When I was thinking of various hairstyles,” Pixel said, “I kept imaging which styles Twitter would clown me on, and which they would be hyped about so there’s one style that is made to look like Maxine Waters, Meagan Good, one to look like ya auntie, and one is the ‘big chop.’ Others I put in because they’re classic to us: Bantu knots, the Afro. You can go through them and just get ya life.”
Maybe best of all, it’s not just a neon-bright cathartic experience for black women, but also a damn useful tool for anyone who can’t control their hands around someone else’s hair. “It’s an uncomfortable topic and it sucks when it happens,” Pixel said. “Oftentimes, you don’t know what to do. So for women who have had their touched without permission, I hope the game gives them a laugh, some love, and something to relate to. Now for those who be touchin’: All I want is for them to stop. Gain some insight, see how this looks, imagine how this feels, and then stop. That’s it. Super simple. Keep your hands to yourself.”
— Sabrina (@sabrinapierreny) November 16, 2017
If you’ve had your hair touched without permission, play this game. If you’ve touched someone’s hair without permission, play this game. If you’re at your computer and have use of both your hands—you get the idea.
You can play Hair Nah here.
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