Do New Army Regulations Unfairly Target Women with Natural Hair?

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Late last night, I was on Facebook clicking through interesting articles my friends were re-posting. One in particular caught my eye — not because of the title, but because of the picture associated used to promote the article:

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:

What about 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.

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

 

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

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Christina Patrice

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

 

189 thoughts on “Do New Army Regulations Unfairly Target Women with Natural Hair?

  1. Women aren’t taken seriously in the armed forces because of sexist jerks like you. People like you piss me off. Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean others shouldn’t. Just because you are a sheep and don’t question authority doesn’t mean others shouldn’t. It is OK to ask why.Especially when the reasoning seems off. How is it vain to question why someone cares so much about vain things? Clearly, the army isn’t doing this for safety because they allow loose hair, weaves, and wigs. This is about looks. This about the army caring too much about appearance. So how is that vain to ask why someone would care so much about your style when you’re just trying to serve your country?

    THANK YOU!

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  2. Actually the ARMY does not conform, there are rules and regulations for a reason. The ARMY is a Volunteer force here is the issue I see you VOLUNTEERED TO BE A SOLDIER THE ARMY DIDN’T PICK YOU, so you need to abide by the Army’s rules and regulations not the other way around.

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    • Well tell your precious military to go back to hiring all white men, fucking moron! Black women like you are the reason why this is even a problem in the first place! Black women probably started these issues with our hair in the military.

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  3. I’ve never had a problem with the Army regs. It’s as simple as getting box braids instead of twists. I rocked a TWA that was in regs and I wouldn’t recommend it. We wear hats/helmets so often it’s not worth the struggle. I know plenty of natural girls who just bun their hair up/lightly twist and pin their hair and drive on. It really isn’t that big of a deal.

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  4. I believe these new regulations are indeed not-so-subtly directed at naturals. There is absolutely no reason that natural twists should not be allowed, but extensions and wigs are fine. Wigs fall off and slide, extensions fall out, and it seems there is absolutely no regulation on length of those items. Faux hair seems more a more likely candidate for being out of reg.

    I can understand afros and SOME locs (because locs come in a plethora of sizes from super thin to super bulky, which may or may not cause issues with equipment even when in a bun, but the natural twists? That’s what makes it just another way to tell Black people our hair isn’t “professional.”

    I could understand if natural twists were still permitted and certain restrictions were placed on locs, such as the diameter of individual locs or ponytails, given that locs can be bulky when braided, but that isn’t the case. At this point, they need to cite specific reasons with visuals for why these styles aren’t permitted.

    As far as white counterparts understanding, I’ve come to realize that the majority of them will never really understand because it isn’t something they go through; they can’t relate, much like they don’t understand/can’t relate to many race issues minorities face.

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    • “As far as white counterparts understanding, I’ve come to realize that the majority of them will never really understand because it isn’t something they go through; they can’t relate, much like they don’t understand/can’t relate to many race issues minorities face.”

      Natural hair battles were fought in the 60s & 70s when afros became popular. Standards for “good grooming” & “professional appearance” were challenged with lawsuits. History repeating itself.

      TRANSLATION: Whites still believe their physical traits & standards are the natural default setting of the human race. Anything that deviates from that is abnormal & must be fixed.

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      • TRANSLATION: Whites still believe their physical traits & standards are the natural default setting of the human race. Anything that deviates from that is abnormal & must be fixed.

        You have an excellent point, and shockingly we blacks believe that as well.
        I’ve been out of the Army for several years and the regulations have always been the same. The men’s hair cannot be long and therefore, that means, Afros have to be really short as well. . But like I stated before, my husband has beautiful,super thick, long curly hair, it’s pretty bushy and he also had to have his locks buzzed off when we were in the military. I have come to find out that many white people have afros as well.

        I wore my hair natural in the military, and I had braids as well. I wore my hair in a low bun that didn’t touch my collar. ALLL the females wear their hair appropriately under their gear.

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      • Thank you for your honest and insightful reply. I know all too very well that other races have no idea what goes into caring for black hair, and especially people with straight hair thinking their hair is the “normal” default hair.

        It isn’t only Caucasian people who think this, I’ve seen it over and over again with Asian, Native American, and Latino people. I was born with curly hair in a straight haired family (mixed Latino and white) and went to this site to learn more about caring for my dry, coarse, 3A/B hair. What I’ve learned is that as much as I’ve abused my hair, one thing is it is not delicate. It will take A Lot of abuse.

        If my hair was finer and/or curlier I would definitely want to dread it or twist it as my regular hairstyle as they seem to be the lowest maintenance hairstyles. You’d think the army would be pro-low maintenance and practical! I don’t think weaves are all that. It’s clearly a bias against natural black hair and totally unfair.

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  5. I served active duty for 6 years and I have to agree with what one person states above, many of the things listed are not changed, they have always been. Locs were never permitted. Twists are added to the list because many a female have skirted around abiding my the regs regarding locs, stating that their sister locs are different from “regular locs” ans should be allowed, their starter locs are only temporary & can be taken out, etc. Rather than to allow exceptions to the rules & having ppl of authority who aren’t familiar with textured hair afraid to call ppl out because they don’t want to be labeled a racist, blanket rules are made. Excessive bulk of the hair was never permitted either. Hair that stands out more than 2 inches from the head is an Afro, and when has that ever been allowed? It interferes with the proper wear of the uniform cover (hats) as well as protective gear. As far as extensions having the same general appearance as the natural hair, it means to say ur extensions are not to be outlandish in color & so forth, just as u are not to dye ur hair a color that is distracting (chunky highlights) or not natural to a human being. As a supervisor, I’ve ordered subordinates of other races with long straight hair to trim their hair too, as the bulk of their bun was out of regulation. The military isn’t a fashion show. The same way certain hair styles aren’t allowed because they distract from the uniformity of the dress, bright nail polishes, glosses and lipsticks aren’t either. The wear of some religious head wraps and facial hair are against regs also, but seeing as how there is no draft, people who join the military are making a conscious CHOICE to enlist and in doing that, abide by the expectations. The rules are something that should be expressed before signing on the line… I don’t think u can justly talk about the military regs being unfair to women of color by focusing on this small piece when the reg in it’s entirety covers situations concerning ALL hair and both sexes. All in all tho, it’s the MILITARY. It’s MILITANT. I’m sure it’s not the only job that has such expectations. Sheesh… Hertz rental cars doesn’t let men have beards because that’s the standard they choose to enforce. If u don’t like it, don’t work there.

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    • Amen!!!
      Clearly spoken by someone who is actually in the military ;)
      Navy has had the two inch standards for years….
      It is what it is–if you dont like it, dont sign on the dotted line.

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    • When I was in the Army we were able to wear cornrowed hairstyles and flat twists. Those are changes you didn’t mention. Why the limit on the number of braids? Multiple braids come out smaller and actually help the hair to fit better under hats etc.

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  6. None of you know what you’re talking about. Number 1 Most of y ou weren’t in the military. You have to look like a soldier and that’s that. Hairstyle should look professional not fashionable.

    There are reasons why the females (black or white) have to wear their hair about 3 inches abover their collar. Reasons you wouldn’t understand. There is a rule for all females whether black or white. White women also cannot wear their hair all over flowing It has to be in a simple bun or tucked in as long as it’s 2 to 3 inches above the collar..
    I know this because I wore my hair natural in the military 15 years ago. I was a natural but I wore it in a neat, professional bun about 3 inches above my collar. The males whether (Black or white) also have to buzzz cut their hair. You won’t see men wearing pony tails or wild curly hairstyles in there either.They buzz their hair all the way own. My husband is white, he has wil curly hair it’s pretty bushy, when he was in the military they had his hair shaved all the way down. I can’t even IMAGINE if he walked up in formation with his “natural” grown out hair. The hair regulations are for soldiers not civilians. You are a GI which means government issued LITERALLY. Civilians honestly have no right or reason to worry about it. I love natural hair, but I DO NOT approve of hair being out puffy and not tucked in under the army gear for men or women whether they be black or white.

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    • You sound ignorant. This isn’t about wanting to be fashionable or not conforming. A white women can wear her natural straight hair out if it is abouve her collar but a black women cannot. That’s what makes this a racial issue. It’s the same as saying women with blonde hair need to dye their hair brown. Totally ridiculous. Too bad most people are too brainwashed and ignorant to see that. This should totally be illegal!

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      • I’m natural, and I just wear my hair in a bun. My hair is long. No big deal. Most of the reasoning is proper fit of head gear and ppe. Black women can wear their natural hair down, it has to be one length or each length no longer than 1″ of the others. There are standards for everyone to abide by, they just limit certain ways that you would wear your natural hair.

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  7. As for braids, I wore braids in the army an so did some of my other black friends. I wore braids for about 2 years in the Army. I never got any flack, because I wore my braids tucked up. If I saw a soldier with her natural hair all out and loose barely fitting under her army gear, I would see her as an impostor, because all female soldiers know that they need to wear their hair up above the collar. In fact white women in the army can’t wear loose long pony tails, it has to be bunned down an above the collars. Also strands of hair are not supposed to be sticking out. All hair should be tucked under gear at all times.

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  8. SIGN THIS PETITION! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reconsider-changes-ar-670-1-allow-professional-ethnic-hairstyles/BnR900wx

    This is outrageous and shows a real lack of understanding for black hair (no surprise since this decision was made by a white man). Again, please sign this petition to show them that Black women should not be treated as an after thought and straight (white) hair is not default!

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

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    • No thanks. There are battles to fight and there are battles to watch. There are too many other things in this world to worry about. The right of black women in the Army to wear two strands, locs and cornrows will not end the lack of social mobility and decrease income disparity.

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  9. They should NOT be able to say “bulk of hair” isn’t allowed because that’s the natural state of many black women’s hair. As a women with thick hair I’m extremely offended and insulted by this and I’m not even in the military! I know my hair can smash flat to my head if I lay down or put something on my head so that reasoning they’re using about head gear is not valid just an excuse. They’re just trying to say black women’s natural hair isn’t professional looking, that’s all. I think they can all go to hell.

    Too bad too many black women are so brainwashed, natural or not, that this issue will probably never be resolved!

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    • Actually the bulk of hair is for EVERYONE white, black, hispanic, and asian there is no one race that doesnt have bulk. My hair when down is bulky and when i had short hair i had to conform to miltary standards, i got yelled at in basic training in 2003 because it looked like it was below my collar when i tried to wear it up it was not enough to fit in a bun. So honestly you dont know what your talking about.

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      • Are you serious? That’s like saying blonde hair is not allowed whether you’re black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. How many people of other races have kinky poufy hair? And how many black women do?? Yea most of them do, and most women of other races do not. I don’t get your comment? The vast majority of black women have that hair type, NATURALLY. Get off of here with your whitewashed BS.

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        • Are you serious? That’s like saying blonde hair is not allowed whether you’re black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. How many people of other races have kinky poufy hair? And how many black women do?? Yea most of them do, and most women of other races do not. I don’t get your comment? The vast majority of black women have that hair type, NATURALLY. Get off of here with your whitewashed BS.  

          Actually I am right. It has nothing to do with the type of hair you have, you can have bulk no matter what race you are. You said your not in the military, so if the soldiers like myself have all stated that the Army put out the New Regulations and we will all conform to the new Standard. If youve been in the military 11 years or more like i have been you would only be upset over Soldier wearing their hair in a pony tail. I am serving in the army currently and you have to realize I know your just complaining to complain.

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  10. I have to agree with Quia. While I understand the issue of natural hair, you have to keep in mind that this is the military and some natural hairstyles are not allowed in the army for safety reasons and uniform purposes. It’s rather ironic that wigs and weaves are allowed but that’s another story. I have been natural for years now and I’ve also served in the army and unfortunately I have to conform to army standards. Twists and locks have been banned for years now. I usually wear cornrows and french braids and no one batted an eye or say anything, once it is in army regulations that’s fine. Many people here are saying that white women can wear their hair out and that is not necessarily true. Even they have to conform to army regulations regarding hair and some even have to cut their hair in order to meet these standards. Compared to other military branches the army is rather generous regarding natural hair so honestly I don’t know what the issue is and the petition really?! This is the army and a conservative environment at that where individuality is not necessarily expressed here and that includes tattoos, nail polishes etc. People sign up to serve this country voluntarily and if they have to sacrifice individuality, including hairstyles to serve so be it.

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    • My question is do they expect you to relax your hair as a matter of course? If you’re stationed way out in the boonies somewhere will you be punished for growing out a fro or do they ship in hair relaxer by the crate full so you can do your hair by some stream or well, polluting the water with nasty poison? I think it sounds ridiculously clueless, like they’re demanding you grow your hair out differently. What’s wrong with cornrows or twists? They are pretty mainstream nowadays.

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  11. Pingback: Natural News // African-American Lawmakers Challenge New Army Regulations on Natural Hair | 2Kinky Ladies

  12. I am currently in the Military, serving in the US Air Force, been in for 7 years. I’m seeing a lot of comments about “the force is voluntary…don’t sign the dotted line if you don’t like the regulations” …What’s missing in this point is that the mission of the armed forces should always be considered when making ANY type of regulation. The regulations are subject to change, and have over the years. If you don’t believe me, please remember that at one point blacks weren’t allowed in the military…. women weren’t allowed in the military…at one point, the Air Force didn’t participate in ground war and at one point pilots drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes in the cock pit. Education was not always paid for, and new services and programs have been developed. REGULATIONS CHANGE BECAUSE THE WORLD CULTURE CHANGES. SO for those who were already enlisted before these regulations were in place, it’s about the dot that was previously signed, not about signing a new one I do agree with the thought of separating if you don’t like what’s going on…. Set yourself up for success and use the military as your stepping stone. If at any point a profession deprive you of authenticity and happiness, it is not worth it to stay around. Personally I am separating, not because of hair regulations but because I’ve met goals that I sought for myself while in the military.

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  13. I’m white and I don’t have natural straight hair that all. My air is frizzy, not curly, but a little wavy and frizzy and I put that shit in a bun. Quit nothing and nut up… I want pretty dirty blonde highlights for weekends when I staighten my hair. Guess what OH WELL BROWN GAIR NICE NEST BUN FOR ME cause I’m a fucking solider not some magazine model.

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  14. I have had black people in the military tell me I should get a perm. My hair when not in braids or a weave is pinned down . At this point I don’t think the issue is about race. The SMA might be white but I can bet on it that there are just as many black people that don’t care for these hair styles in the military. I want equality before I care about my hair type. Women still are mistreated or thought less of in the army still. Sexual assaults and harrasements would not be as high if equality and fair treatment was paramount. I can tell you I served for 10 years and still in and that’s the bigger issue for me. My hair style is a choice not a life changing event.

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  15. I think a lot of you have not experienced what I have experience in the army. I am a soldier first. I love being a soldier. I respect and value my branch and all that comes with it. When I joined in 2007 the only thing that was not authorized was dreads. Now I do agree that this regulation targets black women because we are generally the ones wearing braids, twists, bulky hair, and dreads. That is our culture. That is what is easiest for our hair. The problem though is not the regulation, it is the reason behind the regulation. You want to know why they did this to us? Bc of black female soldiers who wore buns bigger than their head bc of fashion and then get pissed when you correct them. Bc of black female soldiers whose afros are so thick the pc or beret is I’ll formed. Bc of those black soldiers who complain to EO when they are in the wrong. The regulation has always said and I paraphrase “so long as it does not interfere with proper wear and appearance of headgear and protective equipment.” Unfortunately our hair does of not meet regulation unless styled properly.
    No the HMFIC is NOT going to conform to us bc if we die bc we couldn’t get a mask on they the ones have to explain that shit. So while I don’t like being the PRIMARY target of this new reg I can see why. It only takes one to fuck it up for all.
    Now it’s not to say that white or other races is right bc they be foul as hell white tips, shimmery polish, asymmetrical Beckham bobs, and highlights and low lights out of this world, lashes, blue eyeshadow, and I can go on and on BUT they aren’t and never will be the target. That’s just the way life goes.
    So what I say if yall want to see the image of black women in the army be accepted then BE ABOVE THE STANDARD like I always have. I know I can’t get away with honey blond hair though it’s natural color bc im black. The more you show them you are good the more they will relax on us but unfortunately we have NOT presented a good image thus far. Just check us army wtf moments and u will see what I’m saying is true. But until a change comes put it in a bun or cornrows or wig it up and drive the hell on HOOAH!

    *p’s they don’t give a rats ass about your petition ijs the army does what it wants. Real talk. And my hair is natural and yes I’m black.

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