Black Female Soldiers Say the Army's New Hair Rules Are Racist

The Army published new regulations Monday regarding how women can wear their hair when in uniform, and women are already up in arms. Specifically, thousands of minority women who say the service is discriminating against "ethnic" hairstyles.

So far, more than 7,000 people have signed onto a White House petition asking the Army to reconsider those changes, part of a larger update to the branch's grooming and appearance standards that was detailed Monday in the Army Times (emphasis added):

The update to Army Regulation 670-1 was published Monday, and among the rules are clarifications for Army-appropriate hairstyles. For example, the Army does not allow twists or multiple braids that are bigger than a quarter of an inch in diameter. The reg also bans dreadlocks of any style, and cornrows must be uniform and no bigger than a quarter of an inch.

Twists and dreadlocks have been prohibited since 2005, but the regulation at the time did not clearly define the specific hairstyles, Army spokesman Paul Prince said.

...Leadership training released in mid-March, published before the reg was official, includes photos of a number of unauthorized hairstyles, several of which are popular among black women.

Soldiers who violate the regs can be brought up for "non-judicial punishment," anything from extra duty or an informal reprimand to a reduction in rank and pay.

Black Female Soldiers Say the Army's New Hair Rules Are Racist

The Army's new codified standards seem to bring it in line with similar rules set up by the Marines late last year, which banned locks, twists, buns, and braids as examples of "HAIRSTYLES CONSIDERED TO BE FADDISH OR EXAGGERATED AND THUS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR WEAR IN UNIFORM." But the Marines are... different, in that they already cede a much larger share of their individuality than soldiers for a very different mission and ethos.

The Army's new push doesn't jive for soldiers like Georgia National Guard Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, the White House petition's creator, who wears her hair in twists and tells the Army Times that she's "at a loss now with what to do with my hair":

Jacobs said twists are the go-to style for black female soldiers going to the field because it "makes it easy to take care of in the field," she said.

Her hair is naturally thick and curly, making it impossible to pull into a bun, Jacobs said.

"Most black women, their hair doesn't grow straight down, it grows out," she said. "I'm disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they've white-washed it all."

...The changes are "racially biased, and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent," she further states [in the petition].

The Army's move—announced by Sgt. Major Ray Chandler, a white man—is slightly tone-deaf, given that the service just relaxed beard and turban standards for male soldiers on the basis of their faith.

As with that move, the new debate over womens' hairstyles will probably reinvigorate conservatives who just wish all these people would shave their heads and bleach their skin, because America loves nonconformity, as long as you explore the myriad ways there are to be a white dude.

Black Female Soldiers Say the Army's New Hair Rules Are Racist

[Photos via DOD]