The United States Army’s hair regulations are being criticized as racially biased. Army Regulation 670-1, which was published on Monday, includes numerous rules about uniforms, tattoos, and hairstyles. Although the rules were developed to help soldiers maintain a professional appearance, some soldiers believe the hairstyle standards are unfair.
The new rules are a specific concern for black female soldiers. The regulations specifically prohibit multiple braids, twists, and dreadlocks. As reported by Army Times, soldiers with the prohibited hairstyles have one week to either change their hairstyle or wear a wig.
In anticipation of the restrictive policy, Sergeant Jasmine Jacobs petitioned the White House to review the Army hair regulations. In her petition, Jacobs explains that the “new changes are racially biased” and they “lack regard for ethnic hair.”
Sergent Jacobs explains why she created the petition:
“More than 30% of females serving in the military are of a race other than white… Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner… however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair… this policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles.”
Army Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel S. Justin Platt said the hair regulations are necessary to maintain a professional appearance and to ensure the soldiers’ safety. Platt explains that “headgear is expected to fit snugly and comfortably, without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear and without excessive gaps.”
As reported by Huffington Post, Jacobs said she has worn her hair in twists for six years and it “never interfered with [her] headgear.” For Jacobs, and many other soldiers, twists and braids are the most convenient option.
Women who are deployed have little or no access to styling products, chemicals, and hair straighteners. Although the Army suggested extensions and wigs, to cover braids and twists, neither option is ideal. Extensions can damage natural hair and wigs can be incredibly uncomfortable.
Although many women are complaining about the Army hair regulations, Jacobs’ petition has fewer than 8,000 signatures. The White House will not address the petition unless it receives 100,000 signatures.
In addition to the new hair policy, Army Regulation 670-1 prohibits tattoos on the face, fingers, hands, head, neck, and wrists. Although soldiers with existing tattoos will be “grandfathered,” the regulations will apply to all new soldiers.
The new Army hair regulations are gaining a lot of attention and criticism. However, officials insist they are necessary.
[Image via Time]