In a controversial move, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked the military to ban cornrows, dreadlocks, and twist hairstyles. Many have raised “concerns that military rules on hair have unfairly targeted black women,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday. Hagel denies the allegations, stating that Marine, Navy, Army, and Air Force leaders carefully weighed restrictions on popular hairstyles “to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force.”
The Pentagon announced intentions to reevaluate the policy for fairness and to eliminate possible bias. The announcement and official review comes after 16 formal complaints and a petition with over 10,000 signatures, The Washington Post continues. “Within the next 30 days, each service will review the definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles contained in each of their respective policies and revise any offensive language,” the Pentagon press secretary, Admiral John Kirby, said in a briefing.
The restrictions, the formal complaints say, force black women to “conform to norms based on the hair of white women,” according to The New York Times. The women add that there is a general lack of understanding about African Americans’ hair. “While black hair comes in all textures, much of it is very curly, making it difficult, unless chemically straightened, to pull into a bun or to let hang loose in a neat, uniform way,” The New York Times adds. The women also note the troubling language used in current military policies. New literature concerning military policies describes cornrows, large brains, and twists as “matted” and “unkempt.”