Women joining draft next front in war on military sexism

Credit: Ashley Chan/ Credit: Ashley Chan/
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My mom can fly an airplane. This is a fact that I gleefully share with anyone who is willing to listen, not only because I think it’s a very exciting skill to hone, but also because I love the story behind it. When my mom had just finished her undergraduate studies, she planned to enlist in the Air Force to pay for medical school. The United States Military would pay for her schooling and then she would serve as a doctor and pilot for four years to pay back her dues. It was a plan she had all ready to go until her boyfriend at the time, soon to be her fiancé, and later my father, talked her out of it. He was worried about her, and he did not want anything bad to happen to the woman he loved. It is a sweet and romantic story, but one that is complex and intriguing, especially given the new developments with regards to women in the military.

My mother had a choice in deciding if she wanted to pursue a military career. She ended up not doing so, but what if my mother didn’t had the option to say no and was drafted? It is strange to imagine how my life would have been different if this occurred, or even if this was possibility back then. But what was once only speculative is now an emerging possibility for young women today, and is a topic that should not be ignored.

Women have long played an important role during wartime, from taking charge on the homefront by filling men’s jobs left vacant from the draft, to serving in war zones as cooks and nurses, to, more recently, serving in combat roles on the front lines. However, women and men have been unequal in military service up until this past December when the United States Secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter, announced that all combat roles will now be open to women. This includes all five branches of the United States military and all of their special forces. Men and women are now equal on the battlefield. This is an enormous step in gender equality and a huge win for feminists; there is one little thing that many people have forgotten about, however, and that is Selective Service, more commonly known as the draft.

It is a topic we all have a tendency to ignore as there has not been a draft since the early 1970s, but it is a valid and important topic. It is astounding how flustered Republican candidates were at last week’s GOP debate when asked “Should young women be required to sign up for selective service?” Candidates were at a loss for words. This was not a question they had been expecting. But really, why not? It is an extremely relevant subject given the fact that women have now been fully integrated into the United States military service. If women are now fully equal to men in the military, why should this not extend to conscription?

The responses of the candidates were appalling. Skewed logic, evasion of the question at hand, and blatant dismissal of the question abounded. In fact, Jeb Bush flatly stated “the draft is not going to be reinstated.” Without omniscient knowledge of the future, he cannot make that claim. Many argue that the draft should be reinstated for the conflicts our country is dealing with today. This clear and utter disregard of the topic is the true issue at hand here. A GOP debate is the place where these difficult questions are supposed to be discussed, yet the issue was dismissed.

All things being equal, it is not fair if women are not required to register for Selective Service when their male counterparts are. Yes, maybe Jeb Bush is right and there will never be another draft and this whole conversation will prove irrelevant in a literal sense, but on an ideological level it is an important discussion to have, and let us not forget it is possible that we may have another draft.

We cannot live in a world of fantastical hypotheticals. To state that men and women are equal in military service, they must be equal in every sense, which includes the draft.