A slide from an Army presentation on new grooming rules. (Screenshot)

A slide from an Army presentation on new grooming rules. (Screenshot)

The Army opened a can of worms 10 days ago when it published new rules on allowable hairstyles that, among other things, banned dreadlocks and restricted cornrows. Black female soldiers have objected, arguing that the rules are discriminatory, leaving black soldiers with natural, untreated hair few grooming options. A petition on the White House “We the People” website calling for revisions to the rules has more than 15,000 signatures.

The women of the Congressional Black Caucus joined the fray Thursday, sending  a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging him to reconsider the new rules. They wrote:

African American women have often been required to meet unreasonable norms as it relates to acceptable standards of grooming in the workplace …


Words like ‘unkempt’ or ‘matted’ when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased. The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity to creating a tolerant environment for minorities …


Many African American women put forth great effort in ensuring their hair is maintained in a way that allows them to be acknowledged for their ability and commitment to the tasks and challenges before them, rather than their appearance.

The letter was signed by CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and the 15 other female members of the caucus.

Our colleagues at Military Times have posted the full presentation outlining the rules on grooming. The Army says it consulted with a panel of female soldiers when drafting the new rules.