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Petition Demands Army Rethink New Hair Guidelines

By Bridget Naso and R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Apr 3, 2014  |  Updated 3:33 PM PDT
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Petition Demands Army Rethink New Hair Guidelines

The need to wear specific headgear is one of the reasons for uniformity in hair styles, according to an Army spokesperson.

An online petition is demanding that the military reconsiders its most recent guidelines regarding soldier appearance, saying the new rules for hair length discriminate against women of color who choose to wear natural hairstyles.

Under the new guidelines, certain styles are prohibited because, according to the military, they can interfere with headgear and other equipment.

For example, women in uniform cannot wear locks and twists, dreadlocks, buns or braids with loose hair at the end or multiple braids not braided in a straight line.

"These new changes are racially biased, and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent," the petition charges. "This policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles."

Stylist Deborah McCampbell knows firsthand the struggle between trying to balance a professional look that is within military regulations while at the same time, keeping a style that’s efficient for busy women and not too expensive.

“I really understand the plight, you know. It is a struggle,” McCampbell told NBC 7 San Diego.

She offered to put the petition in her San Diego salon as a show of support.

The petition was created March 20 and needs approximately 89,000 people to sign it to reach the goal of 100,000 by April 19.

According to The Grio, an Alabama woman who serves in the Georgia National Guard launched the online effort.

“I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear,” Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs told the Army Times.

McCampbell agrees, saying that natural hair can and should be considered a professional look.

For African-American women, natural hair length needs to be longer than what's considered regulation for short hair (2 inches from the scalp), according to the stylist.

“What is the problem with our natural hair?” she asks. “It’s not straight by nature. It comes in curly.”

“When you’re telling me this is not acceptable, you’re telling me I’m not acceptable,” she said, referring to her curls.

The Grio also points out that many women serving overseas don't have access to the chemicals and procedures to straighten or relax hair.

One customer in McCampbell's salon said she was newly natural and can sympathize with those women who may be having difficulties with the new regulations.

“I can’t imagine having to be put in a box or compared to other people who might have a different hair texture,” she said.

Army spokesman Paul Prince told the Army Times that grooming guidelines are necessary to maintain military uniformity.

“When you start censoring a person of who they are, then they can’t be who they're supposed to be,” McCampbell said. “Serving my country should not be about me having to be disrespected for who I am."

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