AR 670-1 regulations on hair styling for women.
Some of us view the natural hair movement as just that, a “movement”, while at the same time there are many of us who believe that the right to wear our hair how we choose is simply a personal decision. I sympathize with both perspectives but what I have trouble grasping is the idea that how we choose to present ourselves (our clothes, our dress, our hair) is not some reflection of something deeply personal and powerful. Simply put, I believe the personal IS also political.
I have recently come across some information regarding the U.S. Army and new regulations that will impact how soldiers, mainly African American women, are allowed to wear their hair. What I’m referring to is known as Army Regulation 670-1 but I’ll come back to that.
For me, the decision to wear an afro was a profoundly personal one. Admittedly, when I first embraced the fro, I didn’t understand why anyone would choose not to wear one if you could (aren’t they AWESOME!?), but time and temperance has reemphasized for me the ever so important idea of personal choice and that is even more critical for those whose voices have been criminally ignored such as African American women.
While I embraced the decision to wear my fro as a reflection of my heritage and fashionable pseudo non-conformity, I realized more and more that the reactions to my hair ran the gamut. It took me a little while to realize that my hair not only meant something to me, but it meant a lot of different things to different people and trust me, it wasn’t all good.
You see when I walk out of my home with my hair in a fro, sometimes a big obnoxious one and more palatable at other times, I’m making a decision to bump the status quo. Whether it’s cultural or racial norms, or even gender ones, the fro speaks for me. It says “I am not like everyone else.” And that’s precisely what I love about it.
My issue is that there is a current pending regulation that will keep African American women from wearing natural hairstyles such as twists, afros, locs and the like. Moreover, the powers that be have decided that these styles are in someway inappropriate for service.
While a lot of us walk around with our fros letting them do the talking for us, “I am proud” “I am different” “I am brown” “I am beautiful as I am” there are service women who may no longer have the opportunity to let their hair do the talking. That is, their fantastic fros, cornrows and twists may no longer be able to say those empowering messages that we speak to ourselves when no one’s listening. And that’s precisely why I encourage you to consider voicing your opinion about this Army regulation recently put into place.
The soldiers and service people who help us by serving may no longer have the option to wear their hair as they see fit. Unfortunately a petition asking for the Obama administration’s reconsideration of the bill did not meet the signature requirement (100,000) for consideration but that doesn’t mean that the fight for personal freedom is over . Please don’t forget that whether you intend to or not, wearing your hair in whatever state you choose is a bold act. It’s both a personal and political statement because no matter who you are or where you go, your “look” always means something. Your look is both personal and political. The only question is, what does that mean for you?
Further suggested reading on Army Regulation 670-1:
Congressional Black Caucus Urges Rethink of Army Hair Rules (NPR)
Female Army Solider Petitions White House on ‘racially biased’ Grooming Regulations (Washington Times)
New Army Regulations Pose a Problem for Women with Naturally Textured Hair (Refinery 29)
Army’s Ban on Dreadlocks, other styles, Seen as Offensive to some African Americans (CNN)