Why The US Navy's New Policy Regarding Natural Hair Matters

It's something Black servicewomen have been requesting.

On Tuesday, July 10, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, and Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) Adm. Robert Burke, hosted a Facebook Live all-hands call. During such online events, people can ask questions about everything from uniforms to personnel matters.

At the end of the recent video call, the CNO and CNP brought in a group of Black servicewomen who had been providing feedback on female grooming standards.

According to Associated Press (AP) News, Sailor Yeoman First Class LaToya Jones had the "honor" to reveal that the CNO and CNP had authorized policy changes regarding the way servicewomen can wear their natural hair. 

The policy represents an important effort to make the U.S. Navy a more inclusive space as it allows different hair textures, helps to eliminate distraction, and enables people to keep their natural hair texture as opposed to having to undergo chemical processing.

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Jones explained locs, buns that are as wide as the back of the head, and ponytails would be authorized for service, working, and PT uniforms, subject to work hazard safety concerns. 

The move comes after the U.S. Army lifted its dreadlocks ban in February 2017, and according to the policy update, the changes are "effective immediately."  

Capt. Thurraya Kent, who has been with the navy for almost 26 years, is the senior member in the working group who requested the changes. She explained to that her hair had been an issue throughout her career, and she'd been asked to take out her braids even though they were technically allowed. She said she feels this latest policy update is encouraging. 

Lt. Cmdr. Jess Cameron commented, "[It] may seem like a small thing, [but] it sends a larger message."

The change is so important as natural hairstyles are too often seen as outside the "norm." Racked points out that it's even still legal for some workplaces to impose dreadlocks bans. Thankfully, things are changing to be more inclusive with people standing up to restrictive policies, increasing visibility, and overcoming limitations to celebrate their hair.

"I think it's a step forward," Lt. Cmdr. Jess Cameron told AP News. "They're getting more female feedback in the service and updating what I think are somewhat antiquated guidelines that maybe no longer serve their purpose in today's society, today's military."

Women of color on Twitter are also commenting about the policy change, including servicewomen and how they navigated previous policies. Some are noting that some natural hair styles were previously allowed, but that this updated policy allows for more Afro-centric styles. 

The new policy update is a move in the right direction. As CNO Richardson explains, the group had their suggestions, they were listened to, they were connected with the right people and the whole thing was "actually pretty easy."

(H/T: Popsugar)

Cover image via  GANNA MARTYSHEVA I Shutterstock

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