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Update: April 4, 2014 – The Stream was the first to report on the U.S. Army's proposed changes to appearance and grooming protocol on March 28. Many have questioned the rules for its restrictions on natural hairstyles of African-American women. The official regulations (known as AR 670-1) went into effect on March 31. Women whose hairstyles are not in compliance have until April 7 to change them.
Following the first report, The Stream also spoke with Jasmine Jacobs, creator of the White House petition calling for the Army to reconsider its new regulations. The petition has now received more than 12,000 signatures. Jacobs says hairstyles that were previously authorized have now been banned, stripping her of all options that would allow her to maintain her hair free of wigs, extensions or damaging chemicals.
"Almost every option I had for natural hair has gone out the window," she said. "The biggest thing people need to know is this is not a fad or some sudden natural hair movement. Having natural hair is quite literally the way it grows out of our heads. It's who we are as black women and the Army is telling us that we're not acceptable."
When asked about the new hair regulations and the assertions that they discriminate against African-American women, Army spokeswoman Tatjana Christian provided the following statement:
"The requirement for hair grooming standards is necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population. Many hairstyles are acceptable. In addition, headgear is expected to fit snugly and comfortably, without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear and without excessive gaps. Unfortunately, some hairstyles do not meet this standard or others listed in AR 670-1."
In response, Army veteran "Tonya," who spoke with The Stream previously about her objections to the new rules, dismissed the Army's statement and asked them to provide specific examples of how natural hair is unprofessional or interferes with the uniform.
"Weaves and extensions perpetuate the Eurocentric idea of what is considered well-groomed and professional," she says. "The Army has people from all different walks of life. If you're willing to accommodate religious freedom by allowing beards and turbans then you should celebrate cultural diversity as well. Grant us the opportunity to provide photos of soldiers who have [dreadlocks] and twists wearing the different kinds of headgear."