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Women, the Military, and Selective Service

As ardent supporters of equal rights of all Americans, we must now require all women between the ages of 18-25 register for selective service.

Men, maybe you'll remember the following rite of passage:

Upon my eighteenth birthday, back in 1993, I attained the age of majority. I received a razor in the mail from a local razor company and stadium-naming-rights holder proclaiming "You're a man now. Use a man's razor."

That day, I went to town hall to register to vote. And then, with much consternation, I went to the Social Security Office to undertake an endeavor my sister would never have to do: I registered for the draft.

Selective service has long been the purview of men. All men, upon reaching the age of eighteen, are required to register and remain draft-eligible until they reach age twenty-six. Failure to do so-for any reason-can carry severe criminal penalties including fines of up to $250,000 and five years in prison. Additionally, failure to register can make you ineligible to receive student financial aid, and ineligibility to obtain federal jobs. Women have been exempted because women were not permitted to fill combat roles in the armed forces.

This month, that has changed.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all branches of government to implement plans to integrate the military. Decades of work on behalf of equal rights came to fruition. In the wars of the past decade, women have fought and died alongside men when forced to from their support roles. When I served in the Navy SeaBees in the mid 1990s, women trained alongside men for all roles – including ground and hand-to-hand combat. They stayed in the same tents and barracks as men, and we made reasonable accommodations for privacy. There was never an issue, and it seems shocking that it has taken this long for the military's civilian leadership to implement what has been clear as day in the trenches for so long.

However, women are still exempt from registering for the draft, and will be until Congress passes legislation, and the President signs same, eliminating the female exemption.

As an ardent supporter of equal rights of all Americans, I believe this now needs to happen. All women between the ages of 18-25 must be compelled to register for selective service or face the same penalties that men face. Failure to enact this legislation continues to enshrine discrimination against both men *and* women, and reinforces the outdated notion that there are inherent differences in competencies between women and men.

Or, preferably, Congress can end selective service once and for all - but until that happens, we need to be all in on equal rights.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Danielle Horn January 28, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Thanks for your thoughts, Ben: it does certainly seem incongruous that women, once selected for the military, now have the right to be anywhere men are - but yet they don't have to register for the draft. I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on this topic!
Ben Jackson January 28, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Thanks, Danielle - as do I!
Robert Rosen January 29, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Personal attacks and taunting will not be tolerated. Please keep comments on topic.
Ron Goodenow January 29, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Perhaps it could be added that the editors will cut comments which contain gender stereotypes...such being common company in almost anything regarding women in many of these threads.
Tree Hugger January 30, 2013 at 01:43 PM
My experience upon turning 18 was similar, except that I did it at the Post Office. In 1995 at least, it was a postcard that you just dropped in the "out of town" box, and that was it. As far as women registering, I don't think we're quite there yet. The DoD has until 2016 to tell us why women should not be a member of Special Forces Units (SEALs, Delta, etc). If they can't come up with valid arguments against women in Special Forces, expect everything, including Selective Service and the draft, to open up at that time.
HollistonGuy January 30, 2013 at 03:14 PM
It's an uncomfortable topic, but it is the first time I ever agreed with anything this author wrote.
carl berke January 30, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Draft? You are not being drafted. If there was a draft there would have been no Iraq and no Afganistan. What are you talking about? If there were a draft, women would be eligible for it. But there is no draft. You are merely being a sophist as what you registered for was a fantasy that a draft would be re-instated. You are more than a sophist, more like a sophomore!
Tree Hugger January 30, 2013 at 09:55 PM
but without registering, you could not hold a federal job or apply for college financial aid. and i hardly think when i was required to register in 1995 we were anywhere near a need for a draft. i did it to keep any semblance of job prospects or benefits intact. if women really want the playing field evened, it should be completely even.
Ben Jackson January 31, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Well, Carl, instead of throwing around insults and feeling clever about yourself, how about trying to gain a modicum of understanding about the topic at hand. You will note, if you bothered to read the above (which your response leaves in doubt), you will note I never claimed that there was a draft. I accurately stated that men must register for the draft, and that failure to do so-regardless of whether or not a draft is currently active-carries hefty criminal penalties. Sophistry? I don't think that word means what you think it means.
Michael Barrett January 31, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Special forces? There are ZERO women would could make special forces. Women are better in some roles in the military than men but any position that requires top physical ability, there is no way a woman could be in that position. They just do not have the strength or endurance.
Danielle Horn January 31, 2013 at 02:08 AM
There is a wonderful opportunity here, as is the case with many blogs and articles on Patch, for some intelligent discussion and good dialogue. Just a reminder to refrain from personal insults: that never furthers the discussion, and prompts us to use our delete button. Thank you everyone!
Jim O'Connor January 31, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Michael Barret, Do you really believe Venus Williams or many other women couldn't make Special Forces? As to the larger point, either reinstate a draft requiring all able men and women to serve, or get rid of the requirement that only men must register for a non-existent draft.
Darlene Hayes January 31, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Having personally met Venus Williams and many other dynamic women they are well trained machines of determination.
Howard Zinn February 02, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Well said Ben...and I'm pretty sure that the majority of us read your post correctly and understood your concise prose. Some enter this comment section for the sole purpose of thinking they are the smartest man in the room. Usually unaware that they are far from it. Keep up the friendly dialogue!
Private Snowball February 03, 2013 at 03:36 AM
It's typical women and minorities get all of the rights but none of the responsibilites. It's time we realized equal means equal. Same rights same responsibilities. No more affirmative action - we freely voted for a half black man twice to be our President, we have a black Gov. but yet we still have affirmative action. Same issue here - time to register ladies. No fatties though the military can still discriminate against you, male or female.
Megan Smith February 05, 2013 at 02:56 PM
A petition was created on Jan. 21 - two days before Leon Panetta announced the lift on the ban on women in combat roles - asking that women be required to register for selective service. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/require-american-women-register-selective-service/Q5FR42WJ And here's a woman who sent in a draft registration form: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/defenseandsecurity/a/draftreg.htm

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