For many adolescents in the United States, the time when they are first considered an adult is an important moment in their life, be it by their friends, family or the government.
For some, this is when they turn 21 and are at last determined mature enough to guzzle down vast amounts of balance-sapping liquid. For others, it’s at 16 when they are allowed to operate giant metal machines that can kill a pedestrian with the flick of a wrist; and for some cultures, it’s through special coming-of-age ceremonies like a bar or bat mitzvah or a quinceañera.
In the eyes of American law though, it’s when someone turns 18 and is granted the right to vote and be tried as an adult. For males, this is also when they sign up for selective services.
When you are a fit male, and have reached the magic number, you are thought of as capable of serving your country in its time of need during insurrection, war and invasion.
For women, though, this institutional right of passage is refused for now outdated reasons when one considers modern combat.
The draft is now one of the few remaining obviously institutional symbols for gender inequality in the United States and should have been changed to a sexless policy long ago.
It would have made sense to implement the draft for both men and women in 1948, when the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was passed, but as a nation we were not there yet.
Then in January of this year, when Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced he would be lifting the combat ban for women, I thought now surely another announcement would come which was long due.
If women would at last be allowed to serve officially in all the roles men could, why wouldn’t the draft now be applied equally?
Panetta stated that all final decisions would be pending until January, 2016. I hope that during the three years they have to review all of the relevant information, the Pentagon considers, in addition to allowing women to serve in direct combat, selective service registration for women.
If women are good enough to be in commercials for our military, why aren’t they subject to the draft?
A common objection has been that women aren’t strong enough to serve in combat. I disagree. While I’m not going to be the kind of person who argues that men and women are 100% exactly the same physically, I will argue that the difference is now insignificant.
When one considers that women have been doing just fine when it comes to combat performance on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq, this should be obvious.
Modern technology has changed the face of war. No longer do we need someone who can swing a sword with a testosterone-laced arm for six hours or run and lift a car.
Here there are no rooms for objections. It doesn’t take a whole lot of muscle to pull a trigger, or drive a Humvee. I also can’t imagine that it’s the most physically demanding job in the world to operate a drone.
Eliminating the mandatory rule that only males register for the draft would be a great step forward for the United States of America and a signal that we as a nation won’t tolerate sexist policies.