A piece in today’s Telegraph:
Female soldiers in the US Army can now breastfeed openly, tie their hair in a ponytail and even wear lipstick after new guidelines designed to make the career more appealing to women came into force.
There are currently 127,000 women serving in the Army and National Guard, making up around 15 per cent of all soldiers, but there is a recruitment drive underway to attract more.
The rules were rewritten to make the military more accessible, and for the first time, include guidance on breast-feeding, with specially-designed t-shirts created for soldiers with babies.
Breastfeeding is now permitted anywhere a soldier and a child are otherwise authorised to be and women do not have to cover themselves or their baby.
Kate Germano, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and former head of the Service Women’s Action Network, an advocate group for women in uniform told the New York Times: “It’s a matter of national defence. We just don’t have enough male candidates to do the job.”
The changes can’t come soon enough for active soldiers, who have at times felt encumbered by strict hair policies.
Previously, women had to have it cut short or tied in a tight bun.
Captain Jawana McFadden said the bun pushed her helmet forward over her eyes, so that “when you got down in a fighting position, you couldn’t see.”
She had to use gel and a hot comb to comply with requirements.
Now, hair can be tied in a ponytail, coloured with highlights and hair extensions are allowed, something that has been particularly welcomed by the army’s significant black community.
Nearly a third of all women in the military are black, even though they make up only about 15 percent of the civilian female population.
The changes are “long overdue,” Captain McFadden told the New York Times.
“It shows that the Army is recognising we can be soldiers and still be ourselves, that being a soldier and a black woman is valid and valued.”
All soldiers must still follow certain rules on hair and “extreme, eccentric, or faddish haircuts or hairstyles are not authorised,” according to the guidance.
“If Soldiers use dyes, tints, or bleaches, they must choose a natural hair color,” it adds.
But colours that “detract from a professional military appearance” are prohibited, with purple, blue, pink, green, orange, bright (fire-engine) red, and fluorescent or neon colours all banned.
Women can apply clear nail polish or wear acrylic nails “provided they have a natural appearance,” but men may not.
“Females will not wear shades of lipstick that distinctly contrast with the natural color of their lips, that detract from the uniform, or that are faddish, eccentric, or exaggerated,” the guidance adds.
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