The Pentagon is reviewing its hairstyle regulations after the Congressional Black Caucus complained that the Army had unfairly targeted black women in its new rules.
Examples of the new rules included bangs that hit above the eyebrows and pony tails that center on the back of the head. Extensions and wigs are authorized as long as they conform to the standards and look like natural hair.
What caucus chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and her colleagues objected to was the Army’s usage of certain words.
“The use of words like ‘unkempt’ and ‘matted,’ when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased,” Fudge and her colleagues told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of the Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities.
Hagel replied [http://cbc.fudge.house.gov/uploads/SecrretaryHagelResponse.pdf] assuring Fudge and other members that no one in the Pentagon meant to “discriminate or disparage” black women in formulating the Army’s new rules.
“Secretary Hagel has committed to careful review of each service’s language and grooming policies to ensure both are clear of offensive language and are respectful of the diversity within our armed forces,” Fudge wrote in response. “The secretary’s response affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving within our armed forces.”
On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Hagel has ordered the military services to review their appearance regulations for black women and ensure their “standards are fair and respectful to our diverse force while also meeting our requirements.”