Student comments on gender equality in Selective Service

Published: February 18, 2016

Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons SELECTIVE SERVICE for women has been a hotly  discussed topic in recent presidential   primary debates.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / SELECTIVE SERVICE for women has been a hotly discussed topic in recent presidential primary debates.

Commentary by
JESSICA NICKEL

The Grand Old Party debate last week in New Hampshire touched on a variety of controversial issues, however there was one topic that stood out enough to inspire a piece in the “The New York Times.” This topic is the growing conversation of mandating that women register for the draft.

Registration for the draft has been a legal responsibility for all able-bodied men aged 18 to 25 for decades. Our armed forces have a long, proud history of young men defending our freedom and protecting our country from harm. It is a new phenomenon, however, that women are joining their male counterparts in combat. Until Dec. 3, 2015, women could serve in any branch of our military, but were unable to have combat roles. As the Department of Defense has finally lifted this restriction, it is forcing the military and government to reconsider the long-held exemption of women from the draft.

There have been several points throughout history when the exemption has been reconsidered, most notably during World War II when the military feared they did not have enough army nurses to care for the wounded soldiers. In 1980, when the draft was reinstated after being inactive for seven years, legislation was proposed to include women among the eligible for Selective Service. Congress ultimately denied this clause of the reauthorization act. At that point in time, women comprised about six percent of the active duty military personnel. Currently, that number stands at 14 percent, with women holding rankings as high as general.

Women have proven that they are capable of handling the physical and mental demands of the armed forces. Despite the lingering air of patriarchy within our government, it is becoming more and more difficult to find justification to keep women in a secondary role (Hillary Clinton has half of the Democratic National Committees’ support for goodness sake). As much as the members of the old regime would like to, they can no longer ignore the glaring elephant in the room.

Requiring women to register for the draft would be a massive victory for gender equality, however, I question the costs at which such a victory would come. As an able-bodied female within the age range of eligibility, I cannot honestly say that I would register for the draft with a smile on my face. I have been able to live my life thus far comforted by the knowledge that I would never have to join the military against my will. My male counterparts have not been afforded that luxury. I refused to be considered inferior to these counterparts, so logically, I should embrace this change with open arms, right?

The truth of the matter is that I do not want to have to register for the draft. I think the vast majority of my peers, both male and female, would agree that they would prefer to opt out of registering when given the choice. The mere fact that registration is mandatory is enough to deter many people in my generation, since as a group, we resent being told what to do.

This is my own perspective on the draft, formed by the culture I was raised in; just because I do not want to register does not mean that I believe myself to be incapable of doing so. Additionally, my family would be very unhappy if I had to register, but not because doing so would violate our system of values and beliefs concerning gender.

However, not every family in the U.S. has the same culture, and some groups have beliefs that would be in extreme conflict with the notion of drafting women.

There is a stark contrast between not wanting to do something and believing that it is fundamentally wrong. I believe women are different from men, but equally capable; but not every person in the U.S. would agree with me. I have a difficult time supporting this aspect of gender equalization knowing that to some individuals, this would be more of a violation than a gift of freedom.

In addition to the potential social unrest this change would create, there is a significant financial and administrative impact a task of this magnitude would create. The selective service system reports that they have been preparing themselves for the job since the combat restriction was lifted in December, and they estimate that it will cost approximated 23 million dollars to simply start the project.

The military itself has stated that they are not in dire need of recruits, as they have a sufficient supply of voluntary enlistees. At this point in time, I do not think that it is really necessary to make the change, as the demand for able-bodied young persons is relatively low. While it would be proactive to prepare the legislation in anticipation of a time that the demand becomes greater, I still have a difficult time finding sufficient rationalization.

Up until December, this idea of requiring women to register for the draft was just that: an idea. Now it is becoming a consideration. It may not be long before this consideration is transcribed into a bill that will have a profound impact on the lives of young persons that borders on the line of revolutionary.

Contact the writer: jessica.nickel@scranton.edu

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