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Do The New Army Regulations Unfairly Target Women with Natural Hair?

1:04 PM

Article also available on Black Girl with Long Hair!

Late last night, I was up on Facebook rolling around and clicking through interesting articles my friends were reposting. One in particular caught my eye -- not because of the title, but because of the picture associated used to promote the article (above):

I saw a Black woman and the phrase "twists are not authorized", and I was hooked. I  jumped in full steam ahead, reading up on the newly approved Army Regulation 670-1 and pouring over each slide of the leaked Army Regulation 670-1 Leader Training Powerpoint. Amid the regulations about tattoos, uniforms, and facial hair for men, there were some not-so-subtle hints that the United States Army doesn't take too kindly to natural hair. Take a look at these two slides in particular:





Apparently, the new regulations seek to create a uniform professional and clean-cut image across the board for both women and men. I have no qualms with that goal (in theory), but rather how it is defined.  As with most definitions of "clean-cut" and "professional", the regulations seem to specifically target Black women -- those with natural hair in particular. Twists and locs are out the window. Women with short to medium length hair are allowed to wear it out -- except for if the bulk of your hair protrudes more than two inches from the scalp. That automatically discounts anyone with any sort of naturally textured hair. Our hair doesn't hang until it reaches a certain length (and even then it tends to extend far beyond two inches from our scalps) -- and it most certainly doesn't lie flat unless straightened. Here's what the Army Regulations say about wearing hair loose, as a point of comparison:

And for those ladies with hair that is considered long? Bun regulations stipulate that the bunned hair itself cannot protrude more than three inches from the scalp, and cannot be wider than the with of the wearer's head. Again, another slight toward women with thick, dense natural hair. It should be noted that cornrows and individual braids are permitted, but there are of course, strict regulations on the size, length, and styling of these braided styles.

What I find the most interesting is that weaves and wigs are permitted. Can someone please explain the rationale behind it being okay to rock a lacefront, but not twists? And how on earth is it possible for extensions and wigs to have the same general appearance as the individual's natural hair and conform to the AR 670-1 guidelines -- when her natural hair may be unauthorized to begin with?


And lastly, before you just write me off as making a big stink about nothing -- note that "most of the appearance and grooming chapter are punitive". There are consequences for noncompliance. I'd really like to hear from the Servicewomen out there on this one -- because as far as what I can see, these regulations deem natural hair as unfit for women in the Army.

What do you all think? Do the new Army Regulations single out women with natural hair?

To read the full article and PowerPoint presentation on Army Regulation 670-1, visit:
http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140320/NEWS/303200060/New-Army-grooming-appearance-regs-leaked-online


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7 comments

  1. I mean, it all is very militant ... which, I guess, is the point. But, there is a petition which people can sign to object to this regulation. I posted it on my FB page. I tried to sign it, but never got the email confirmation for my registration. You have to register to sign the petition.

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reconsider-changes-ar-670-1-allow-professional-ethnic-hairstyles/BnR900wx

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  2. My daughter and I are concerned about the regulations as she wants to join the military after highschool , but her locs are already mid back length.We saw a you tube video of a young lady documenting her current experience with locs in the military and how she found a way keep her locs.

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  3. I served from 1996-2004, and never had an issue with my bushy, butt-length hair. I french braided it and bunned it (often both) in order to meet the regs. My issue was actually the opposite-- I knew women who were penalized for having their hair too SHORT! It was apparently too masculine-looking, and wasn't allowed. WTH?

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  4. I tired to reply earlier but I think something happened.
    Mesha, I can only speak for the Air Force because that is the branch that I am currently serve every day. You daughter will not be able to join the Air Force with locs. Your daughter will have to make an informed decision about what is important to her. If she want to join the military she will have to conform to those standards. Don't get me wrong, if you see me on the weekend, you would never guess that I am in the military. I wear my hair as big as possible when I am not in uniform. My suggestion is that you and your daughter speak with multiple recruiters in order to receive accurate information about joining the military. I wish you luck in your research and please feel free to respond to this post.

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  5. I posted my response to this on Instagram previously, so I will keep this short.
    I chose to be in the military, I chose to follow the standards, and I chose to
    return to my natural hair. I was well aware of the challenges that I would face
    being in the military with my beautiful kinky curly hair. Serving in the
    military is a privilege and not a right. Also, it is so EASY to end your
    contract in the military these days. If you are personally convicted about the hair standards, just request an early release from your contract.
    I literally selected the name Weekend Natural because I wear my hair in a protective style underneath a wig Mon - Fri. But on Friday evening (oh boy), I release the cracken. Literally.

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  6. Thank you for enriching this conversation!!! I swear, you're the best <3

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  7. I'm a woman and I support us being in the military BUT either you are in or you are out...you cant get in wanting to be different, rules should apply for everybody the same way. And then we complain because we don't get the jobs...seriously? you want to go to war with extensions or a wig?!

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