Jessica Sims: The Woman Who Refused to Cut Her Hair for the Navy
Jessica Sims is a former Navy hospital corpsman who made headlines in 2014 when she was discharged from the military for refusing to cut her dreadlocks. Sims had been wearing her hair in dreadlocks since 2005, and claimed that they did not interfere with her duties or her ability to wear protective gear. She also argued that her hairstyle was in compliance with the Navy’s grooming regulations, which allowed for “neat and conservative” hairstyles that did not protrude more than two inches from the scalp.
However, in 2014, Sims was told by her superiors that her dreadlocks were unacceptable and that she had to either cut them off or wear a wig. Sims refused to do either, saying that her hair was part of her identity and culture. She also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the Navy’s policy was discriminatory against black women. She said that she had seen other women with similar hairstyles who were not reprimanded, and that the Navy’s standards were based on European norms of beauty.
Sims was ultimately given an honorable discharge from the Navy, but she lost her benefits and her chance to reenlist. She said that she did not regret her decision, and that she hoped to inspire other women to stand up for their rights. She also said that she planned to pursue a career in nursing or public health.
Jessica Sims’ case sparked a debate about the role of race and gender in the military, and the need for more diversity and inclusion in its ranks. Some praised Sims for her courage and integrity, while others criticized her for disobeying orders and disrespecting the uniform. The Navy later revised its grooming regulations to allow more flexibility for hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locks, as long as they were neat and professional.
Jessica Sims is not the only woman who has faced discrimination and harassment in the military because of her hair. According to a 2017 survey by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), more than a third of black women in the military reported having negative experiences related to their hair, such as being singled out, ridiculed, or punished. The survey also found that black women were more likely than other women to change their hairstyles to conform to the military’s expectations, and to spend more time and money on their hair care.
Many black women in the military have expressed frustration and anger over the lack of respect and understanding for their natural hair and cultural heritage. They have also challenged the notion that their hair is unprofessional or unkempt, and have advocated for more representation and inclusion in the military’s leadership and decision-making. Some have also shared their stories and experiences on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, using hashtags such as #BlackHairMatters and #DontTouchMyHair.
While the military has made some progress in updating its grooming policies and addressing the concerns of black women, there is still room for improvement and dialogue. Some experts have suggested that the military should provide more education and training on diversity and cultural sensitivity, and that it should create more spaces for feedback and communication between service members and their superiors. They have also urged the military to recognize and celebrate the diversity and contributions of its members, regardless of their race, gender, or hairstyle.