Federal Judge Gray Miller of the Southern District of Texas proclaimed that an all-male military draft is unconstitutional on Feb. 24, 2019. This decision nullified the court ruling that justified a male-only draft in the 1981 case of Rostker v. Goldberg. The reasoning for this 1981 case was that women were considered ineligble for combat roles.
Judge Miller further stated, “The average woman could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today's combat positions than the average man, depending on which skills the position required. Combat roles no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle." While this may be true, women being mandated to register for the draft might be contradictory to feminist goals.
The reasoning behind why including women in the draft registration isn’t actually feminist is because feminists don't dispute that women are capable of all that the job requires. While many people associate femininity with peace, compromise and support, feminists know women are capable of doing — and being — anything they want. This includes being combative, argumentative and indifferent — traits typically associated with men. It would thus follow that women are just as capable of being drafted into the military as men.
There are many arguments as to why women should be included in the draft but a lot of them are faulty and, realistically, antithetical to feminism. One could argue that including women in the draft would help the public learn to think of women as being powerful and capable, not fragile princesses that require men to save them. On its face, this argument seems pretty convincing and logical.
That being said, when you examine the argument at its core, it implies that these people equate being powerful and capable with being able to hold a gun and follow orders. Many systems of oppression — the same systems that prevent equality among genders — thrive when people are violent and follow orders without question. This argument also perpetuates the idea that men are naturally violent and aggressive, in reality, there is a wide spectrum of masculinity — some of which promotes ideals of nonviolence.
Another flawed argument is that the military encourages a work environment that’s less sexualized than other areas of work. They claim this is due to the fact that a military uniform is designed to be perceived as anything but sexualizing — something that the typical workplace attire of pantsuits and skirts have a hard time accomplishing. The implication is that the uniform would be good for women as it would render them incapable of conflating promotions or rewards for good work with being sexualized by their bosses.
While this seems fairly intuitive, this argument fails when one realizes that women can be sexualized regardless of what they’re wearing. Furthermore, considering the fact that there are lots of sexy military costumes sold to women every year when Halloween rolls around, it’s clear that just because the original military uniform itself isn’t very revealing doesn’t mean people won’t sexualize those wearing it.
Equity among genders would constitute that the same opportunities be presented impartially. On its face, this would mean that being drafted into the military should include men, women and people of any gender. However, feminists would argue that having opportunities to do the same things as cis-men isn’t enough. Feminists would stress that it’s important to examine the damaging, patriarchal values ascribed to the institutions that have denied female participation. Essentially, it’s not enough to provide equal opportunities if those same opportunities are rooted in — and further support — the patriarchy.
Something that draws further questions about the notion of women being included in the draft is the military’s transgender ban that recently went into effect. Arguably, the inclusion of women in the draft should apply to all women, and to make a distinction between cis-women and transgender women, in terms of inclusion, is vehemently transphobic. As of right now, there’s no way to spin including women in the draft as being intersectionality feminist if it doesn’t include trans-women.
This subject is tricky to address as the military has always been a huge source of pride for most Americans. To address the draft’s inclusion or exclusion of people that aren’t cisgendered men requires deep consideration and addression of the history of sexism and patriarchy within the U.S. Doing so could enlighten many and allow people to have a better, more informed say of how our military operates. As many feminists say, the military is a tool of sustaining the patriarchy, and either should change, or not exist at all.
Ellie Shippey is a senior media arts and design major. Contact Ellie at email@example.com.