Thousands of Black female soldiers are upset after the military rolled out new regulations many say discriminate against natural hair.
According to Army Regulation 670-1 published on Monday, the Army now explicitly outlaws two-strand twists, locs, braids that are thicker than a quarter of an inch in diameter, and other styles regularly worn by Black women.
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.
The new AR 670-1 clearly defines the different hairstyles and gives soldiers specific guidance on what’s allowed, he 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.
Sergeant Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard said the new rules disproportionately impact Black female soldiers by seriously limiting their style choices. She has created a White House petition, which has garnered over nine thousands signatures, to prompt the Army reconsider the regulations.
Jacobs, who’s been in the National Guard for six years and wears twists, admitted she is “at a loss now with what to do with [her] hair.”
Army spokesman Paul Prince said the new rules about appearance are “necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population,” but many are questioning the Army’s decision given the fact it recently relaxed beard and turban standards for male soldiers on the basis of religion.
Prince explained the new changes: “Many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative. In addition, headgear is expected to fit snugly and comfortably, without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear and without excessive gaps. Unfortunately, some hairstyles do not meet this standard or others listed in AR 670-1.”
Jacobs disagrees with directives, arguing she’s never had a problem meeting the Army’s standards before. “I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear.”
Jacobs, who refuses to relax her hair, said she’ll be forced to wear a wig while on duty in order to avoid breaking the new rules.
“I talked to my first sergeant, and he said we would [face non-judicial punishment] if we’re out of reg. So I either get a wig or be NJPed, all because of the way my hair grows naturally.”
Read (or sign) Jacob’s White House petition here.