Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Senate passed a bill requiring females who turn 18 to register for the draft . This requirement would apply to those girls who turn 18 in 2018 or later. The supporting argument is that since women can serve in all military positions open to men, they should have the same obligations. The bill now moves to the House, where conservative members are opposed to registration expansion. The bill raises interesting questions around women and safety.
Will the military take any steps to ensure that women are safe from sexual assault and harassment while serving their country? Men are killing individuals and in mass numbers, at the same time that cultural shifts have resulted in more acceptance of diverse sexual identities, increased racial activism and the increasing power of women. What are female recruits going to face as they are forced into one of the most change resistant and oppressive institutions for women? Yes- many women have risen to impressive ranks of military service, but many more have been sexually assaulted.
The long term benefits of women serving in the military could be significant. In the very long term, we might have a military where decision making is balanced by the inclusion of both feminine and masculine perspectives. Those veterans who promote male privilege will lose their edge. Jobs giving veterans preference due to their status would now be open to the missing half of the population. Often ignored, PTSD in females might be recognized and treated more seriously.
But in the short term - which could be decades- women risk assault in every way by their male peers and superiors. As assault victims, females soldiers who report are more likely to be discharged without compensation or other redress while male perpetrators are unpunished. The privileged among us who promote war rely on no-active-draft status to save their sons from forced service. The class equity that draft brings will be less likely as the privileged resist implementation of a draft that results in their daughters' deployment.
Now that military women have access to all positions open to men, will we assume that we are post- misogyny in the armed services? Or is this move nothing less than backlash? Backlash against women has a long history. The attempt to universalize the successes of a few woman historically created a backlash for women. Here are a few:
"No-Fault" divorce discouraged women from addressing the truth of their abusive relationships.
When job discrimination became illegal and women were beginning to make employment inroads, family court judges denied or limited alimony telling women who had not worked in decades to return to the workforce.
Women on the job have been punished for being female. Namely, motherhood more often results in their losing jobs or status within the workplace, as well as decreased pay. Mothers are expected to take care of sick children, aging parents but are not compensated when they do so.
Now that sexual assaults in the military are being exposed, the military has changed its definition of assault to make it more difficult for victims to qualify for redress.
What does this mean for women soldiers who might make up half the force? The first few generations of female soldiers continue to suffer from male dominance and abuse. The culture may change, eventually, but change in the military does not come quickly.
Does the registration bill promote equity or punish it? Will President Obama sign the bill if passed? Malia will not be required to register but Sasha will.