Equal access to the draft is equality not worth having
The New York Times recently reported that the Senate has voted to require women to register for the draft, with few Senators in opposition. This bill comes as no surprise given the military has been increasingly opening its doors to women.
This culminated in last December when “…Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women…” which helped military officials advise Congress to make the draft apply for both women and men.
This bill has such broad and widespread support because of its intuitive appeal: If all combat jobs are open to men and this requires them to register for the draft then why should women be any different? Taking the institution of the military and its rules at its face, it seems implausible that women should be treated much differently.
Although the opposition was overall insignificant it should be noted that some of the more conservative members of the Senate, such as Ted Cruz, opposed the legislation on the basis that, “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little sense at all…”
The final outcome of this bill is uncertain with the House of Representatives to deliberate on the bill and President Obama promising a veto, should it go through. But as Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst, says, “It just seems that now that you have women allowed to serve in any position in the military, there is no logical basis to say women should not be drafted.”
I agree with Bensahel with regards to inevitability and if we accept the coercive power of the state, the military as a legitimate institution, the draft as a legitimate law and so on, then we can swiftly move to a “logical basis” that Bensahel mentions.
However, these are presumptions that unsurprisingly seem to be left out of the conversation so far.
The worst part of this bill isn’t the bill itself but that the minimal opposition it has relies on dangerously conservative ideas about women and their fragility. Notice the way that Cruz uses “little girls” instead of “grown women” when he talks about combat. He has to infantilize women in order to justify the government not being able to force them into the military.
But perhaps just as noxious is the “egalitarianism” liberals and “progressive” Republicans alike can appeal to so they can justify this law. They’re able to distance themselves from using the coercive arm of the state because it’s for “equality”. But equality under the law doesn’t mean anything when the law itself is unjust.
Jessica Pavoni, for the Foundation for Economic Education, writes, “The real issue is that a Selective Service registration (which leads to a draft) is immoral for both men and women, and that neither should be required to register at risk of becoming a felon, being fined, or being put in jail. The mere presence of a draft registration is an assertion that some people are qualified to put other people’s lives at risk. They aren’t.”
Laws that allow the government to throw our bodies in front of guns with threats of fines and imprisonment are ownership claims. They are ways for the government to show us that our bodies do not belong to us but are instead at their discretion and convenience.
And now it’s so graciously extending this discretion to women as well.
This is the exact opposite of any sort of feminist revolution.
Feminists aren’t winning out when men and women are both equally locked into illegitimate and murderous institutions. And any feminist who would consider this a victory may want to reconsider whether they’re interested in systemic change or not.
If feminism is to mean the liberation of our bodies and the abolition of patriarchy then it must be adamantly anti-war, anti-draft and against the state. For the state is one of the biggest institutions that has reinforced and legitimized patriarchy throughout history.
And now this tradition will continue through the expansion of the draft.