“I don’t understand why I have to cover up my natural hair,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Cherie Wright, who has locs and wore wigs to hide them because of the Marines Corps strict hair policy. But this act was giving her headaches, she told MarineCorpsTimes.com.
Wright decided to speak out, which has led to the Marines Corps now allowing those in uniform to wear thinner locs and twists. The military service is the first to approve locs. The new order was handed down on Dec. 14. Initially, military leaders believed the styles would interfere with wearing headgear and were not professional.
Furthermore, two-strand twists can only be worn with medium-length or long hair. Locs must not be thicker than 3/8ths of an inch and must have rectangular-shaped partings.
"For some, this change is culturally liberating, has financial benefits and is simply convenient," Wright said in a statement released by the Corps. Wright challenged the policy by compiling a thoroughly researched report showing the psychological and financial burden the policy has on women in the Marines affected by it. After several presentations to leaders, her proposal was approved.
“There are a lot of people who feel like the water is fine just the way it is. It is up to you to sway them and let them know that it can be made better,” Wright said in statement issued by Marines.
Last December, after pushback from Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the Army, Air Force and Navy reviewed their hair policies and began allowing servicemembers to wear two-strand twists. Last April, the Army banned twists, locs and large cornrows in Army Regulation 670-1. In August 2014, Jessica Sims, a 12-year Navy veteran, was honorably discharged after refusing to cut off her locs. She was told that the style violated military procedure.
These changes will largely affect Black women, including Black Hispanics, who are more than 31 percent of all women in the military, a Pew study revealed in 2012. More than a third of Black women refrain from using chemicals in their hair, a survey from Mintel reported in 2011.
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(Photo: Jennifer Boggs/Amy Paliwoda/Blend Images/Corbis)