Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The definition of war has changed substantially in the centuries since the founding of the United States, but the Selective Service System has remained intact for men to register within 30 days of the date of when they turn 18. However, since the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, the military has been comprised of only voluntary members, as the nature of war has changed from the ‘70s. Since then, the draft has only been a required checked box on a form with no significant meaning. After all, what is the likelihood that there will be a conflict in which there is mandatory enrollment of U.S. citizens to serve?

However, the Selective Service Act still means that Congress could reinstate the draft if necessary during a national state of emergency. If that time ever comes, the ones who are drafted may look a little different than they did during the Vietnam War. Namely, those selected to serve will not just be men, but women as well.

A recent bill introduced by the Senate Armed Services Committee has comprised a provision to include women in the draft in its annual defense policy bill, amongst other provisions to investigate the recent events in Afghanistan and demand reform of the military justice system in terms of sexual assault. 

On Thursday, Sept. 23, the House of Representatives passed the bill in a 316-113 vote, which has yet to be negotiated with the Senate. For this provision to pass, the House and Senate bills would have to merge, be passed by the Senate and then finally approved by both sides prior to seeking a signature from President Biden. 

Overall, there have been mixed opinions on this provision included in the annual defense policy bill. On one side, there is intense disapproval at the thought of “sending our daughters and wives to war,” and some feminists disagree with this provision, arguing females already play a special burden within our society that men don’t have to. 

On the other side, there is bipartisan support for opening the Selective Service System up to women. After all, if there was a national emergency, wouldn’t we want a larger volunteer force by including half of the population in the effort? The larger the forces to mobilize, the hypothetically stronger we will be. Women already serve in the military now, so what is the difference? 

When the draft was reinstated during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan under President Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1979, there were even discussions back then to add women to the draft, as the women’s rights movement had promptly taken its efforts up a notch since the Vietnam War. However, that didn’t mean that Congress was happy about the idea. The Supreme Court had ruled that including women in the draft was unconstitutional, for women at the time were excluded from combat roles in the military. 

Here’s a brief history lesson: women were first allowed to join the military with legislation officially passed in 1948 (even though we all know women have been involved in war time efforts long before that). From that point on, the closest women got to combat was by flying combat missions and serving on Navy combat ships in the ‘90s. Women were allowed to serve in all branches of the military and in all accompanying positions except those engaged in direct on-the-ground combat roles until 2016 when the Obama administration opened combat roles up to women serving in the military. 

Now that there are no limitations on the roles a female officer can serve, that begs the question: what about the draft? After all, the previous argument was based on this ruling, which has since been overturned. By that logic, it would make sense that women should be included in the draft for the potential of future national conflicts if needed.

But the draft may not be as important as once believed, especially with our current majority volunteer military. There is no complete documentation system for the draft, so there are no direct numbers or enforcement for those who decide not to register for it. It may become the same situation where there is no enforcement for women if the bill passes, according to Dr. Amy Rutenburg, an associate professor of history at Iowa State University in an interview with NPR. 

However, another point to consider is the substantial shift in gender roles since the Vietnam War. Gone are the days in which the male partner is the “breadwinner;” women contribute equally, if not more, to their household incomes, implying that there is no expectation for them to stay home to tend to the household while the men are off to war.

When discussing a potential draft with students here at the University of Florida, it became apparent that there was agreement with the provision, especially in terms of gender equality. Many specifically pointed out that men often don’t have military experience when registering for the draft, so what is the difference between including inexperienced males versus females?

“I think it is an important step to equalizing the societal platforms between the two sexes,” Marissa Scalise, a senior mechanical engineering major and physics minor, stated. “Although not all women may be happy about being included in the draft, I think it is an important step for women’s advancement and overall equal perspective in society, extending far outside the realm of military.”

Alejandra is a fourth-year journalism and education sciences double major at the University of Florida. A self-described grammar and writing nerd, she loves reading and editing the work of others and helping them in their writing process. She's also extremely passionate about climate issues and human rights. When she's not editing for HC UFL or doing school work, you can almost always find her trying a new recipe, working out, watching a movie, or reading!
Casey is a third-year biology major at the University of Florida and a Features Writer for Her Campus UFL. If she is not freaking out about school, then you can find her going to the beach, watching Ghost Whisperer with her BFF, or trying to find a new pin for her backpack.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️