Army hair rules: unkempt intentions

The Army’s ban on ethnic hairstyles uses insensitive language and singles out black women


ARMY HAIRDOS: The U.S. Army recently gave its guidelines on approved hairstyles an update. The use of the words “unkempt” and “matted” led some to believe the new restrictions were racist in their phrasing. Submitted

Story by Cori Picard, Staff Writer

On March 31, the Army released an updated appearance policy called AR 670-1. The updates targeted hair styles and textures that are no longer acceptable to wear, including dreadlocks and thick cornrows or twists.

The new regulations even use the words “unkempt” and “matted” to describe unacceptable hair protocol, according to an article published on CNN’s news site. That kind of language could be seen as racial bias.  And to single out black women like that is insensitive and unjust.

The changes came in an effort to keep Army personnel’s appearance uniform, professional and clean. It makes sense, especially in regards to safety. Hair must be controlled to prevent injuries.

But the new regulations don’t take into account the way some hair just is. I am not black, so I obviously can’t speak from experience, and I’m not the most knowledgeable in the subject, but I am a woman, and I understand that a black person’s hair can be different from a white person’s hair.

The new rules are trying to outlaw something some women can’t change without doing damage to their hair, whether it be harsh chemicals or harmful heat. How fair is that?

The offensive language in the regulation is extremely insensitive as well, and implies all black hair is the same, and that it’s bad. Not white. Not normal.  This all stems from the idea that blacks are still outside the white cultural norm. And in this day and age, this really shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

Some people who are a bit more distanced from the subject may think, ‘It’s just hair, what’s the big deal?’  But the fight goes a lot deeper than just hair. This new regulation is just another example of how we are still discriminating against African Americans. Yes, it’s the Army, and they have every right to enforce rules, but regulators need to consider the diversity of everyone in the Army.  The whole institution was created to protect America, a country made up of people from all different backgrounds and cultures.

Affected women are not letting the new regulation stand as is. A sergeant of the Georgia National Guard started a petition in late March asking the Obama administration to look over and  reconsider the policy. And as of April 11, it boasted more than 13,000 signatures, according to CNN.

I think a petition is a great way to bring about change. It shows a lot of people are unhappy about the new rules, and since the Army is a matter of the nation as a whole, contacting the president directly is a smart move to get fast results.

I hope all the outcry and backlash can help fix or restructure the regulation so it’s not directly targeting people of one specific race. Yes, safety and protection are a very high priority, and the Army is not usually assumed to be a place where you get a lot of self-expression, but the hair types and styles the policy is banning are tied to race, and that’s something you really can’t change.

Many women don’t have a choice in the matter. They’re already sacrificing their lives to fight for this country. They shouldn’t have to make ridiculous sacrifices to fit the rigid appearance standards of the Army.