After much outrage and criticism from service members and lawmakers regarding its restrictive hairstyle requirements, the U.S. military has responded by relaxing the rules that seemingly targeted popular black hairstyles, the New York Times reports.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), that all military branches, with the exception of the Marine Corps, would broaden their criteria for acceptable hairstyles to include cornrows, braids and twists.
In the letter he issued this week, Hagel said offensive languages such as the terms “matted and unkempt” will be omitted from both the Army and Air Force grooming guidelines, notes the newspaper.
“Each service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements … informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force,” Hagel’s letter reads.
This decision follows a policy review Hagel ordered in April in response to complaints received from 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus who took issue with the new Army regulations prohibiting cornrows, twists and dreadlocks.
Fudge praised the military’s policy adjustment in a written statement on Tuesday. “These changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet their unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our armed forces,” Fudge said, the New York Times reports.
The Marine Corps hairstyle guidelines are scheduled for further review this summer, Hagel’s letter stated, according to the New York Times.
Read more at the New York Times.