On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the Pentagon will open all military combat roles to women. Finally, women are eligible to do any job a man can do in the military. Young girls, their mothers and Women’s Rights advocates cheered.
On Friday, the White House announced that, given the Secretary of Defense’s decision, it needs to review whether women should now be eligible for (read: forced into) Selective Service, aka “the draft,” as well. A collective, “Wait, what?” was heard throughout social media.
I wrote about women and the draft a couple times (here and here) this fall, once it occurred to me that my three sons will be forced to register for Selective Service when they turn 18. If they don’t, they face fines, jail time and ineligibility for Federal student loans and grant programs. So even though an active draft that forces men into service has not been enacted since the 1970s, the penalties for not registering are very much still in effect today, and they don’t yet apply to women.
Since the draft’s inception, women have not been required to register. The legal basis for this largely rested on the fact that women were not eligible for combat positions anyway. All of that changed overnight with the Pentagon’s decision, which of course created an immediate, new legal problem: now women have access to all the same positions that men do, but under current Selective Service laws, they do not face the same requirements or burdens.
It’s an interesting dilemma for anyone who thinks there is a War on Women, and judging by the feedback I received from my first two columns, many women are not too happy about me, a woman, pointing that out. But we can’t have it both ways. We can’t say that the system is working against us, when all this time, the “system” has partially been saving us from some of the unpleasantness—like Selective Service—of being male. And if we want full equality with men, we have to accept everything it brings.
It’s also an interesting dilemma for anyone who strongly believes in a women’s right to choose. If the laws regarding Selective Service change to include women, females are about to be forced into the greatest lack-of-choice scenario: the ability to decide whether one wants to join a war and possibly lose one’s life for our country.
However, what considering women in the draft does most prominently is highlight injustices that men have quietly accepted all along. For instance, after my first column ran, a reader replied that not all women are cut out for the military, and just because a few want to be in combat doesn’t mean we all do.
Can’t the same be said about men?
Someone else said that it would be harder to lose the nation’s girls because human reproduction, and therefore the survival of the nation, is more dependent upon them. This might be biologically true, but arguing the point will send many progressives right back to the 1950s. Which side will they be on—the side that states women are in fact different from men, or the side that says we are all equal and women should be forced to die for their country, too?
Also, try telling the mother of a son that her child would be easier to lose.
Some will argue that women need to stay home to take care of babies and raise families, though they won’t want the same argument to apply to civilian work situations.
Some will say that not all women are physically equipped for combat, but they will assume that most men are.
Some will say that we can’t draft both men and women, because what if a husband and wife from the same family are forced into service through the draft? It’s a very real consideration. But at this point in our evolution, how can we automatically assume, through legislation, that it’s the man’s job to go?
Of course, all of this might be for nothing. If we look at the state of today’s millenials, with their micro-aggressions and need for “safe spaces,” I’m not even sure how our government could pull off an active draft—for either gender.
In case it wasn’t clear before or now: I am not in favor of compulsory Selective Service registration for men or women, despite my family’s long tradition of military service. But for years, no one cared to take up this fight. So I look forward to the possibility of women being considered for the draft, if only because of this: Hell hath no fury like women who think they are facing an injustice. While men have accepted Selective Service for generations, we women have proven that above all else that we like to have choice.