Though our nation hasn’t had a draft since the 1970s, selective service registration remains a reality for young men. I admit that, as a mom to two young girls, the draft is not something I have ever given much thought to. It was only when I heard that Congress is seeking to expand selective service requirements to include both genders that I realized how much I oppose it.
Earlier this year, a dramatic change was made to the nation’s military policies that opened nearly all combat roles to women. The next question to follow was, if women are eligible to participate in all combat roles, should the draft be made mandatory for women as well?
We are now a whole lot closer to that becoming a reality.
This week the US Senate approved a military expansion bill that will — among other things — require women who turn 18 on or after January 1, 2018 to register for the draft. The amendment dubbed “Draft America’s Daughters” is part of the The National Defense Authorization Act. Not registering could have ramifications our boys already face, including the loss of federal grants for education.
Some feminists are hailing it as a boon toward their cause, calling America’s history of the all-male draft discriminatory and the addition of women to selective service a huge leap for equality.
But being a feminist doesn’t have to mean standing up for sending our daughters to war.
I am a feminist, and I do not support including women in selective service.
When you are not included in something that no one wants to do — in this case, going off to war — it’s not discrimination; it’s a privilege. Some say women should give up that privilege in the name of equality between men and women. But here’s the thing about equality: Men and women are not equal.
That’s right — I’m a feminist, I am a mother of two girls, and I am saying that men and women are not equal.
In the event of a draft, sending women off to war does not present an equal opportunity to women by nature of the fact that women are physically different from men. As much as we may work to try to level the playing field between men and women, the physical differences between us as created by nature make us inherently unequal and cannot be universally overcome.
Combat is not an equal opportunity situation for men and women, because the average woman does not have an equal opportunity to survive a combat situation. The Army’s own studies have shown that women have more than double the rate of injury of their male counterparts in combat training. I can only imagine that those numbers would be even more dramatic in actual combat. I can’t fathom sending my daughters off to fight in an already dangerous situation, where they are known to be at a physical disadvantage.
There are women who have made great contributions to our military. Women who have chosen a career in military service should be able to serve in whatever capacity their particular skills and abilities allow. But that doesn’t mean the average American woman is prepared to join our armed services and become the next G.I. Jane.
No mother, whether she has sons or daughters, ever wishes to send her child off to war. However, if I had sons, I could at least take comfort in knowing that our nation’s young men are the most able-bodied people to take on this task and therefore most likely to return home to us safely. Should my daughters grow up to choose a career in military service, I would support them 100 percent, but the number of women who feel physically and emotionally capable of taking on that role are the exception and not the rule.
As much as feminism celebrates the women who feel they can take on any role a man can fill, we must also embrace the women who feel they can’t. If feminism, at its core, is about the power to fully empower women, then we have to make space for both sides. We can support our sisters in the armed forces while not subjecting the rest of the civilian female population to conscription.
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