The US army has issued new regulations trying to establish uniform standards of personal appearance for its troops. A particularly controversial part of the regulations is a list of prohibited hair styles for black women.
In reaction to a new Army regulation banning numerous hairstyles — twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows — popular with black women, the 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked Mr. Hagel to overturn the regulation on behalf of the 26,700 African-American women on active duty in the Army. The regulation comes at the same time as a new Army rule banning tattoos on the face, neck, hands, fingers and lower arms of recruits.
Both regulations are among new grooming standards that critics say are meant to further weed people out of an Army reducing its size from its post-9/11 peak of 570,000 to as low as 420,000 in the years to come. Representative Marcia L. Fudge, the Ohio Democrat who is chairwoman of the black caucus, said she had been struck in recent visits to military bases by how many soldiers — black and white — said they felt they were being pushed out of the military. The new regulations, announced on March 31, have intensified that feeling, she said.
At the root of the concern about the Army regulations, many black women said, is a lack of understanding about black hair, coupled with a norm that uses the hair of white women as its baseline. While black hair comes in all textures, much of it is deeply curly, making it difficult, unless chemically straightened, to pull back into a bun or to hang loose off the face in a neat, uniform way.This reminds me of the claims that were made in an attempt to hold onto the DADT regulations. Being forced to associate with people who were openly gay or lesbian would undermine the morale critical to an effective fighting force. The assumption here seems to be that white men simply couldn't trust somebody who wears her hair in corn rows to have their back in battle. This is just a particularly silly example of how the military remains the ultimate bastion of straight white male privilege.
“Our hair is kinky,” said BriGette McCoy, a former Army specialist, her voice getting angrier as she spoke. “It is genetic, it is hereditary, there is nothing we can do about it. And to have someone tell you that because your hair comes out of your scalp that way, you have to go and change it, when no one else is required to change that about themselves?”
I look forward to the entertainment value of the army's white splaining efforts to establish this policy as a reasonable necessity.