The U.S. Army is proposing a few changes to its grooming and appearance standards that many army vets have deemed discriminatory, particularly to women of color.
According to reports, “Army Regulation 670-1” approved on March 6, restricts female soldiers from wearing most natural hair styles including “twists, dreadlocks, Afros and braids”while deployed. For those who do not follow the guidelines, they will be forced to cut theses styles or wear wigs. Army veteran “Tonya” spoke with Al Jazeera and called the new rules, which aren’t officially implemented, “deliberate.” She said many of the natural hair styles serve a purpose for women who are deployed and don’t have access to maintenance products or tools.
“It’s very targeted because we all know who they’re talking about even though they never explicitly say the world ‘black’ or ‘African-American.’ We all know who typically wears these types of hairstyles and then they went as far as to include pictures of black women in the PowerPoint.” “I don’t think they see the health behind it. Getting these extensions, these braids, can put a lot of stress and strain on our hair,” “Tonya” said. “When you’re in Iraq, these hairstyles serve the purpose to protect you.”
The Powerpoint slides that “Tonya” is referring to show Black women and two women of coloring illustrating a few of the “unauthorized” hairstyles that also include “multiple braids,” a “bulk of hair” “exceed more than 2″ from scalp,” and even, a hair part that isn’t “one straight line.” Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the regulations, but Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler claims that the army made various changes to accommodate soldiers.
“We’ve gone through a series of revisions and briefings to try to find something that’s reasonable, affordable and feasible within the Army that aligns itself with our professional responsibilities,” said Chandler’s statement.
The Army may say that they approved the changes to make it “reasonable” for their soldiers, but their solution doesn’t make it feasible for them either. African-American women make up a third of all women in the Armed Forces, according to a Pew research report. To me, that means a lot of women who are otherwise qualified will not be allowed to serve for illegitimate reasons. Aside from the discrimination that obviously singles out Black women (using Black soldiers in your Powerpoint, really?), these rules make it even more inconvenient for them. Forcing a woman serving in the military (that I only assume involves fighting, running and jumping) to wear a weave makes it more difficult for her to do her job. Granted, extensions can be pulled back and tied up, but even then, strands may get in her face or just be uncomfortable in general. Not to mention, tying your hair can take up too unnecessary time; time that’s taken seriously by a soldier who has to fight for her country in the blink of an eye.
If you’re just as annoyed with this as I am or “Tonya,” you can sign this Whitehouse.gov petition that currently has more than 4,000 signatures. But, maybe I’m overreacting. What do you think, beauties? Is this rule discriminating against Black women and making it harder for them to actively serve?