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Why Don’t Women Need to Register For the Draft?

The draft, formally known as conscription, was instituted in the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and has been employed by the federal government of the United States since in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In 1940 through the Selective Training and Service Act, the country’s first peacetime draft was established. Up through 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill empty spaces in the United States Armed Forces. It came to an end in 1973 with the transition of the United States Armed Forces to an all-volunteer military. Regardless, conscription continues on a contingency basis and all male U.S. citizens and immigrants within the United States 18 through 25 years old must register with the Selective Service System, maintaining the tradition of excluding women from this requirement.

Women in the United States have historically experienced many inequalities, further perpetuated by the various regulations of the country’s military service. In fact, it was only as of Jan. 24, 2013, that the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members was eliminated, and in just 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Department of Defense would finally begin to lift all gender-based restrictions on military service. Selective Service law as it’s written now states that “male persons” must register and carry the potential to be drafted. Until this law is amended (with more gender-neutral language) women and those with other, non-male gender identities will not be included in these requirements.

So why is it that as opportunities expand throughout our nation for women, equality has still not extended to the military draft, regardless of the reality that hundreds of thousands of women already are instated as voluntary members of our military branches? 

The most obvious reason would be the issue of pregnancy and breastfeeding. It goes without saying that pregnant or breastfeeding women cannot be expected to serve during wartime, as many advocates for the exemption of women from the draft continuously bring up. Aside from this, many women are entrusted with childcare duties for their family, which could create deficits in childcare availability if these women in question were drafted. When registering for the draft, there are already certain regulations in place allowing exemptions within reason. This could easily be extended to include exemptions for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as those who are the primary or sole caregivers for their children. 

I believe the more authentic reason for the inequality is a deep-rooted sexism which immortalizes several misconceptions and stereotypes of the female gender. Women in the United States are constantly batting the fallacy that they are less-than and inferior, sex objects designed to appeal to the male gaze and bear children. A distortion many citizens in the United States perpetuate is that women are in general less physically strong and capable, and thus could not possibly be an attribute to the armed forces. Aside from the reality that many women are muscular and physically fit, it goes without saying that many men, in contrast, are weak and out of shape. There are strong and weak individuals in both genders, and any women enlisted would be expected to go through the same training expectations as their male counterparts. In addition, there are hundreds of other positions in the United States military which put to use other strengths aside from physical brawn: engineers, doctors and strategists to name a few. Realistically, another likely concern the higher-ups of the military industrial complex carry is that most military equipment is designed for men. Adapting military equipment for females would hold the high probability to be an expensive project, which investors in various combat equipment producers would wish to avoid at all costs, further deterring any action to move towards equality. 

As opportunities expand throughout our nation for women, equality has still not extended to the military draft, regardless of the reality that hundreds of thousands of women already are instated as valuable members voluntarily. Until the selective service law is amended, women and those with other, non-male gender identities will not be included in the requirement to register for the draft. Rooted in sexism and monetary greed, this preserves traditions of deep-rooted sexism, immortalizing a disturbing history ingrained in the United States plaguing the advancement of the female gender.

Lily is a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo studying neuroscience with intentions of progressing on to medical school. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, hiking, and trying new coffee shops.
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