Pentagon reviewing hairstyle regulations for black women

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The Pentagon is reviewing hairstyle regulations for black women serving in the military, according to a letter Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent to Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) on Tuesday. 

The decision came after female caucus members said the Army’s new rules on soldiers’ appearances, including female hairstyles, unfairly singled out black women. 

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Hagel said that within the next three months, each of the services would 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 services’ requirements.” [READ THE LETTER]

“I want to thank Secretary Hagel for his thoughtful response to the concerns of Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and to many women of color currently serving in our Armed Forces,” said Fudge in a statement Tuesday. 

“Secretary Hagel has committed to careful review of each Service’s language and grooming policies to ensure both are clear of offensive language and are respectful of the diversity within our Armed Forces,” she wrote. 

The Army’s regulations prohibiting dreadlocks defined them “as any matted, twisted, or locked coils or ropes of hair.” 

“Braids or cornrows that are unkempt or matted are considered dreadlocks and are not authorized,” the Army’s regulations, which were updated March 31, said. 

Earlier this month, Fudge and female caucus members wrote a letter to Hagel that said “the use of words like ‘unkempt’ and ‘matted’ when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased.” 

“The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities,” they wrote. 

 

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