Women and the draft: examining equality in the military

The United States military has been around longer than the United States itself. Like all things in the US government, the military has been slow to adapt to the changing modern world. The military was racially desegregated in 1948, but its relationship with women has been much more fraught. It was only in 2015 that all combat positions were made available to women, and women still do not occupy all levels of military hierarchy. However, things are now progressing more quickly than they did in the past. This year’s annual defense policy bill includes wording that would require women to register for the Selective Service. This bill has already been passed in the House, and the Senate should be voting on the bill in the next couple of days.
Unlike more established gender equality issues, the concept of drafting women is not exactly cut and dry. Some Senate Republicans are opposed to this portion of the bill due to the fact that it further blurs the line between gender norms and erodes family values. Some Democrats support the bill on the grounds of gender equality. That being said, it seems both sides are struggling with the tension between gender equality and potentially requiring women to occupy a space dominated by men. When speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Senator Mitt Romney said, “I believe in the equality of women and I want to communicate that men and women are equal. At the same time, I don’t want to put women in harm’s way in a way which would impair their safety. So these conflicting sentiments have kept me from reaching a final decision.” Many Senators seem to grappling with similar sentiments; Senator Ted Cruz is opposing the Selective Service portion of the bill due to his sense of the biological differences between men and women. Senators like Joni Ernst and Kevin Cramer believe that leaving women out of the Selective Service indicates that women are not as valuable in the context of the military as men.
Additionally, this issue has created some unlikely coalitions. Representatives and Senators who hold far-left antiwar beliefs oppose the draft in general and oppose requiring to women to register for the draft in this instance. On the other side, far-right Republicans believe that it is morally wrong to require women to fight the country’s battles, appealing to traditional gender roles. More moderate Democrats and Republicans have also come together on the grounds that women could bring lots of different skills and expertise to the military, especially in non-infantry areas.
Setting aside the disposition of Congress, it is important to look at the issue based on the data available. Research done by the Department of Defense indicates that requiring women to register for the draft would increase military preparedness and defense effectiveness. Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute also cites the reality that, “It’s insulting to suggest America’s mothers and wives and daughters couldn’t contribute, whether the need were rebuilding levees after a natural disaster or repelling an invasion from our shores. America’s daughters should be slotted into service as their physical and emotional suitability proves capable of, just like America’s sons.” Additionally, according to NPR, seven out of ten Americans are ineligible to transcripted, so increasing the potential pool of recruits would better allow the branches of the United States’ military to protect the United States in a time of crisis.
That being said, there is also the question of whether or not people should be required to register for the draft at all. Since the executive branch is actively able to wage wars through executive orders, people have been required to fight wars that were not declared by Congress, which functions as “the people’s voice” in the U.S. governmental system. Some people may be willing to fight wars that are sanctioned by the U.S. people, but not wars that are just sanctioned by the President, which poses an ethical dilemma for Americans like this who are drafted. It is also important to note that men and women have physical differences, which matters when it comes to the military’s physical activities and strength requirements.
On the bright side, this situation shows that perhaps not all is lost between our politicians, and that there are issues that can shift the status quo and party loyalties. It would be good if the members of Congress were more willing to think critically and less dogmatically about issues like they are with this one, especially when it comes to gender equality.

Katie DeReus (‘22) is the Beyond section editor this semester. She is a political science major and is the class of 2024’s Nykerk music coach. Katie’s favorite parts about working at The Anchor are the relationships that she’s been able to build, and the opportunity to present the unique viewpoints of Hope students to the rest of the student body.

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