Should Women Be Drafted?

U.S. Specialist Jennifer Fifield of the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Cavalry Regiment attends a briefing at the forward operating base of Liberty camp April 1, 2007, before leaving for a mission in Baghdad's northwest Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliya. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (IRAQ) - RTR1O6I2

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee approved an annual Defense authorization bill containing an amendment that would require women to register for the draft. The amendment narrowly passed on a 32–30 vote.

Since 1940, male citizens of a certain age have been forced to register with the Selective Service System. The amendment, which was proposed by California Representative Duncan Hunter, comes at a time when the military is prepping to integrate women into all front-line, combat positions. Should the measure pass the full House and Senate in the coming months, women may be required by law to register with the Selective Service.

Practically speaking, a draft requirement doesn’t mean much for women. The military has been an all-volunteer force for more than four decades, ever since it became clear during the Vietnam War that draft odds were not applied equally to all American men — low-income males who couldn’t defer by pursuing a college education were more likely to go to war. That draft inequality fueled public backlash, and in the 1970s the Selective Service ended the draft.

Though men still have to register with the Selective Service, no president since has ordered a draft and it seems unlikely a draft will be necessary for any conflicts in the near future.

However, if that were to change, what would gender-neutral compulsory military service look like? For answers, Americans can turn to Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces have allowed women in combat positions since 1995. Today, more than one-third of the IDF’s compulsory service is made up of women.

According to a report from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, research on the IDF shows that “during service Commanders have recognized that female combatants often exhibit superior skills in areas such as discipline and motivation, maintaining alertness, shooting abilities, managing tasks in an organized manner, and displaying knowledge and professionalism in the use of weapons.”

The same report found that the successful integration of women in traditionally male-dominated combat roles was largely dependent on military leaders. “If the Commander was to express belief in [women’s] ability and considered them to be equal to their male counterparts, then they would eventually become ‘one of the gang,’” the authors wrote.

According to Arieh Shalev, a psychiatry professor at New York University’s School of Medicine. “The fact that males and females are drafted in Israel, it really influences what the attitude is about being at war and serving in the military,” he says. “It’s making the military service everyone’s experience.”

In the U.S.’s all-volunteer force, only a small subset of our relatively large population is tasked with participating in a war. Some soldiers, returning to a country full of citizens who can’t relate to their experiences, can feel a supreme sense of isolation. But in Israel, the shared military (and sometimes combat) experience can help soldiers cope. It can also benefit society at large; soldiers may bring their experiences in a mixed-gender military to the civilian world, helping to create a more gender-equal society.

However, Shalev notes, “the equality comes out of necessity, because the country’s been surrounded by potential enemies and the resources are limited.” Whereas in the U.S. and much of Europe, with all-volunteer forces, an entire generation of men has grown up without the expectation to serve.

Right now, the U.S. has the military manpower it needs without compulsory service, so the decision to include women in the draft would be mostly symbolic. What do you think?

How Women Won in 2015

2015 was quite a year for women and we can’t deny it. Let’s take a deeper look.

Evidence:

In the past year, Hollywood has proven some compelling evidence that action is not far behind. For decades, statistics surrounding females in Hollywood and pop culture have been decreasing. However, just this year, the ACLU filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). No, this wasn’t just passed aside either. The investigation of Hollywood’s hiring practices began last month.

Speaking Out:

There has been an unprecedented number of actors and directors that have spoken out about the inherent sexism in the industry. Jennifer LawrenceRose McGowanViola DavisMaggie GyllenhaalAnna KendrickKirsten StewartMeryl Streep and Sandra Bullock are just a few of those in Hollywood that have taken a stance. I am especially impressed with the number of men that have come forward as well. Mark Ruffalo called out Marvel for its lack of female characters on Avengers merchandise and Daniel Craig called out James Bond’s misogyny. We can’t forget about the HeForShe campaign by the United Nations, thanks to Ziauddin Yousafzai for leading the charge for fathers to stand up for the rights of their daughters.

Technology:

2015 saw incredible examples of activism on social media including the hashtags, #EverydaySexism, #RapeCultureIsWhen, #ShoutYourAbortion, #RedMyLips, #ToTheGirls, and #FreetheNipple. They gave women the opportunity to share their personal stories of sexism, harassment and sexual assault. The social media platform is an inspiration to the next generation of women as they experience things themselves. One example is of technology being used to highlight gender inequity when Tim Hunt said women scientists have a negative impact on the workplace. The Internet reacted with images of proud female scientists who made it clear that this sexism will not be tolerated. Hopefully, some young girls were inspired to consider STEM careers.

Purchasing Power:

We saw consumers hold corporations accountable for their actions. Peopple called out Bloomingdales for their holiday ad that appeared to endorse date rape and Bic for their Think Like A Man campaign. Customers are making it clear that they expect more from if they want their purchasing dollars. Target even announced that their store signage for children would be gender neutral. Some people were happy, some weren’t – but Target took a stance on the issue and gave customers the chance to voice their approval. I think this will continue to be a trend.

The quest for equality is far from over, but I believe that we should be proud with the progress that has been made this past year – and in 2016, we will see more.