Just a few weeks after the U.S. Army tightened grooming standards for women in the services, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is promising to review guidelines that were slammed for being “racially biased” and “unreasonable.”
For African-American women who wish to embrace their natural hair, the U.S. Army’s new regulations left them wondering how they could style their hair for the service.
The ban on twists, dreadlocks, thick braids, and decorated headbands clearly eliminated many natural hairstyles.
After pressure from groups like the Congressional Black Caucus, the Army is willing to give the new guidelines a second look.
Hagel said he would “work with the service secretaries and the military chiefs to review their respective policies, to address the issues raised by members of Congress about grooming standards, particularly for African-American females.”
A spokesman for the Pentagon said that the next few months will be dedicated to reviewing the policies to make sure it is fair for all ethnicities and types of hair.
“During the next three months, each service will review their hairstyle policies as they pertain to African-American women to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force, while also meeting our military service’s requirements,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.
After the review is complete, Hagel will be in charge of making any adjustments to the policies that the Army sees fit.
The controversy over the grooming regulations started in March with Regulation 670-1. The regulation also bans Afros of a certain size and puts strict regulations on short asymmetrical haircuts.
A letter from the women of the Congressional Black Caucus urged the Pentagon to revise the standards and explained why the regulations were being considered “racially biased.”
“Though we understand the intent of the updated regulation is to ensure uniformity in our military, it is seen as discriminatory rules targeting soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair,” the letter reads. “African American women have often been required to meet unreasonable norms as it relates to acceptable standards of grooming in the workplace. Understand that these standards should shift based on each community’s unique and practical needs.”
Hagel has recently received praise for how quickly he is addressing the issue and for taking the concerns seriously.
“Members of the CBC appreciate Secretary Hagel for his prompt response to our letter and for seriously considering our concerns,” said chairwoman Rep. Chair Marcia Fudge in a written statement. “The secretary’s response affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving within our armed forces.”