Thousands of soldiers are up in arms over the Army’s new list of regulations that are being described as “racially biased” against “ethnic” female hairstyles.
On Monday, the Army posted new regulations stating how female soldiers can groom their hair and what hairstyles are appropriate. According to the new rules, twists and multiple braids that are bigger than one-quarter of an inch in diameter are banned. The rules, which apply only to women and not men, also ban dreadlocks and require cornrows to be uniform.
Twists and dreadlocks have been prohibited since 2005, but these regulations go further into detail about the size and specific hairstyles for women in uniform, as Army spokesman Paul Prince told the Army Times.
“More than 30% of females serving in the military are of a race other than white,” the petition states. “As of 2011, 36% of females in the U.S. stated that they are natural, or refrain from chemically processing their hair.”
“These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent,” wrote Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia Army National Guard who started the petition against the Army’s new regulation.
Sgt. Jacobs told msnbc’s Tamron Hall on her show Wednesday that Jacobs’ natural hair and her hairstyles have never interfered with her head gear.
“You can have neat dreadlocks,” said Jacobs, who has been in the military for six years. “That would allow you to wear your hair properly. You can have flat twists that would allow you to wear your head gear properly. So, there are several hairstyles that are neat and professional, and allow for the proper wear of the uniform that are now unauthorized.”
Last month, the Army released a PowerPoint presentation that showcased the unauthorized hairstyles before the new regulations were announced.
Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, told The Huffington Post that the Army wanted to clarify and update its policy and that an additional concern with suitable hairstyles had to do with the proper fit of head gear.
“The requirement for hair grooming standards is necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population,” he said. “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.”
Sgt. Jacobs said that she is “at a loss now what to do with her hair,” and will most likely wear a wig.
“Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary; however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair,” Jacobs wrote in her petition.
“I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all,” she told the Army Times.