Selective Service Just Got Draftier

It served as one of the primary arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment, that if this came to pass, women would be drafted into the military. But such a fear was misguided, as this nightmare, if that’s what it is, has now come to pass by ruling of Southern District of Texas Senior District Judge Gray Miller.

If ever there was a time to discuss “the place of women in the Armed Services,” that time has passed.

The court held that “male-only registration” for selective service was unconstitutional, so the law requiring males to register, but not females (or any other gender, as the case may be), violates the Equal Protection Clause.

The decision deals the biggest legal blow to the Selective Service System since the Supreme Court upheld the draft in 1981. In Rostker v. Goldberg, the court ruled that the male-only draft was “fully justified” because women were ineligible for combat roles.

But U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled late Friday that while historical restrictions on women serving in combat “may have justified past discrimination,” men and women are now equally able to fight. In 2015, the Pentagon lifted all restrictions for women in military service.

The archaic notions about women in the military were an obstacle to women who sought to join, wanted to be eligible for combat just like anyone else. And that happened, as well it should. If competent and qualified, there is no reason that women should be denied their choice to die for their country. The point of combat may be to make the other poor bastard die for his, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The women who chose this path no doubt knew this only too well, and yet made their decision.

Sure, there remained the sexual and romantic problems, but to allow them to justify deprivation of the chance to fight and die was sexist. And so they were dismissed.

But by the same token, not all men wished to fight in combat. Not all women either. But wars happen, and Congress deemed it necessary to keep tabs on young men just in case. The restoration of selective service, requiring males to register upon reaching their 18th birthday, was disturbing. Will our daughters have to register as well now? So it would seem, according to how this plays out.

The suit was brought by the National Coalition for Men, which is a curious organization since I’m a man and I never voted for this organization to be my voice. The fact that men, and not women, have to register has long been a point of significant tension in the Culture War, where women could demand privileges without the burdens that go with them, the things that men were compelled to suffer but women were not. The draft was one such thing. If women wanted equality, they should get the bad with the good. The draft was certainly one of the less desirable aspects of gender distinctions.

At a time when there is no draft, however, this is largely a matter of virtue signaling. Registering with selective service is a bit of a shock to the system because of what it might, conceivably, mean for a person, but the reality is that the nation is not drafting soldiers and not sending unwilling participants into battle. It’s easy to be bold and state that we are willing to suffer a burden when that burden is inchoate, theoretical at worst. People have become quite adept at being strong and assertive when there is no actual risk involved.

Will this attitude toward equality remain should war break out? Part of gender equality is the agency to be a tough woman, prepared to fight and die for her country, and part is the right not to be, to choose to be a stay-at-home mom baking pies, wearing pretty dresses rather than camo and high heels instead of boots. The former will embrace this as a matter of principle, that they will happily accept the burdens that go along with the privileges. The latter may not be quite as sanguine.

Some will view it as a matter of virtue, that if the United States goes to war for a cause which they support, they will take off the apron and strap on a sidearm. But soldiers don’t get to decide whether they approve of the fight, except to the extent they flee their draft notice. This may well prove to be the biggest shock should the draft be reinstituted. While most young people have been taught that they are entitled not only to an opinion on every subject, with no concomitant duty to know what they’re talking about, but to act upon their belief with impunity. You only have to do what you feel like doing.

While many boys will struggle with the notion that the Army doesn’t say “please” and only expect you to take to the fight when it’s a fight you like, women disinclined to join the military of their own volition may well find this obstacle more than they can take. The boys who ran off landing craft onto Omaha Beach and almost certain death were scared far beyond anything they ever did before. Still, most did as their duty as demanded. Would young men do so today? Would young women?

While the National Coalition for Men may be testing the limits of gender equality by forcing women into a position that men would just as soon avoid, it’s unlikely that there will be cries from women conceding they’re too girlie to be drafted and the men win. It seems inevitable that women who call themselves, and each other, fierce and strong will take up the cause on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, proclaiming themselves ready to face their duty just like a man. But it’s easy to be tough on social media. It’s easy to call oneself fierce knowing that you won’t be tested.

At the end of the day, is this really what the National Coalition for Men hoped to accomplish, or are they playing the same game as the tough women on social media, a game of gender chicken to see who will blink first? The problem may be that we won’t have a winner until the time comes to run off those landing craft onto a beach facing certain death. By then, it will be too late for all of us.

27 thoughts on “Selective Service Just Got Draftier

  1. Hunting Guy

    General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

    “I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft.”

    Hunting Guy.

    “How long before a judge rules that the military has to enlist the blind or paralyzed?”

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s one thing at time of induction that people are vetted for physical capacity to serve. But even those physically capable may lack the will to run into battle. The time to find out isn’t when a person’s life depends on them.

  2. mb

    The archaic notions about women in the military are being proved by the rates they are washing out in training. The same limited resources that can be used to train 100 men into 90 effective combat soldiers can instead be used to train 50 men and 50 women into 45 or sometimes 46 effective combat soldiers. But there is no reason to expect that the one woman you sometimes get is any more effective than the dozens of men you didn’t train, and it is known beforehand that she has higher lifetime healthcare costs and lower likelihood of reenlistment. We can pat ourselves on the back for “believing in equality” but I don’t “believe in equality”. I believe in “equal protection of the law”, and 1. Sex is not a suspect classification. 2. Not pissing away the tax money that was supposed to protect me from foreign powers is an important government interest, and 3. A rule excluding women from combat units is fully justified, more than some other physical requirements, before we even start talking about the effect on unit cohesion or morale, or the inevitable decline in standards women brought into every other area they have entered, such as police and firefighting. Is that sexist? Yes. Will little girls see that rule and feel like there is something boys get to do that they can’t? Yes. Just like little boys know that “to choose to be a stay-at-home mom baking pies, wearing pretty dresses” is not a realistic outcome for them.

    Women should have to register, and be required to perform support roles if our national security is so threatened as to need to draft people. And this is justified by equal protection of the law regardless of whether we exclude them from combat units.

    1. JRP


      The numbers you quote are a result of the low standard that admitted the women and then kept them in basic training (usually due to numbers or politics) rather than cashier them. The same happens with male recruits they however to build muscle and response to aggressive leaders faster. Higher initial standards or better recruits would fix this.

      The recruits problem is hard in a volunteer force if you still want women in the force, easier when you have a bigger pool such as the draft.

      I am personally against women being added to the draft. I have a daughter and want her no where near combat unless she volunteers. That said if im going to tell her she deserves equal opportunity she must have equal responsibility for our nations defense.

      As an additional benifit women who are signing up for selective service in order to get financial aid may rethink the benifits of special treatment.

      1. mb

        “The numbers you quote . . .”

        It is interesting that the military has offered no such explanation for their near total failure to train willing, volunteer women, fueled by grrrl power and moxie, into effective infantry soldiers. But I’m sure they appreciate you making it up on their behalf.

        I think it’s also important to note here that the principle I am advocating, “equal protection of the law” is the principle that desegregated schools, gave Congress powers to address state abuses of minority rights, and extend appropriate opportunities as well as protections to women. It does this without prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or even subjecting it to the same standard as discrimination on the basis of race.

        Meanwhile the principle of “equality” that almost everyone else seems to believe in means, “I am personally against women being added to the draft. I have a daughter and want her no where near combat unless she volunteers. That said if im going to tell her she deserves equal opportunity she must have equal responsibility for our nations defense.” Which is to say, special pleading, complete lack of moral courage, and bullshit rationalization.

        1. JRP

          Of course the military hasn’t stated that why many (but not all) women are not fit for front line combat is standards, it would turn politicians against them and kill recruitment of all the women who dont want to be combat arms.

          Personally when I hear “equal rights” I think equal responsibility. The judge was in my opinion right to strike it down as unconstitutional based on the law.

          That said if I as a father didn’t have to see my daughter drafted I would admit thats not equality but not care. I’ve spent my entire adult life in the military, no combat veteran want thier children to fight particularly thier daughters (thats not even discussing capture by anyone we fight now or may fight which is far worse). Double standard that should be acknowledged yes, but I frankly dont fucking care if I have to tell my daughter she isnt equal.

          Dont know if hunting guys comment was directed at me or not but he is wrong on history. Other than the Russians and Finns of WWII JR pointed to, the Kurds right now have women front line fighters. Are they the majority? Fuck no. They get picked based on needs of their force and who they are. They also lead ambushes, participate on raids and defend thier homeland.

          Now to get banished to reddit due to distracting from the legality of the argument.

          1. SHG Post author

            Long, but an interesting aside. Though it’s likely that everyone has already said all there is to be said at this point.

            1. JRP

              An aside that probably only you will read (if anyone), is that I know my kids are exponetially more likely to serve because I have (the fact that those numbers keep going up scares me however).

              And my concerns over my daughter drafted aside I will be proud of them if they volunteer to do so. It takes belief in your countries way of life to volunteer especially when you don’t agree with policy. Most military I know believe deeply in the constitution even when it defends actions we despise (ex: racist assholes).

              Five minutes, hell five seconds in any firefight will change your perception on what is actually important and who you really are.

              The Senators sons comment later in the thread is often discussed in the military. But on the other hand lots of the subversive conduct during the vietnam war didnt start until we started drafting rich kids. Say what you will about poor or middle class kids we usually want to fight and bring our buddies home.

            2. SHG Post author

              One of the regrets of my life is that I never served. It’s hard for most people to understand. I was no senator’s son, just too young. But I feel like a free-rider on the Constitution sometimes, never having tested myself as others have.

            3. JRP

              Far be it from me to give advice to an older more accomplished man but my opinion.

              Not everyone fights for our country with a gun.

              Some fight with words and by standing up for the rights that others would cast aside when convenient.

              Don’t quit.

            4. JRP

              That wasn’t a tummy rub.

              I learn a ton by reading your blog as do many others.

              Who is to say what is more important long term.

  3. Hunting Guy

    mb is right.

    You get upset with people that know nothing about the law telling you how it should work.

    I spent 20 years in the military and military professionals fell the same way about someone that never served telling us how it’s suppose to be.

    Are they willing to have their sisters and daughters spend time in the Hanoi Hilton?

    Mankind has spent thousands of years refining military skills. No successful fighting force has ever had women in active front line units.

    Women in support roles, yes. Forced into active combat when backed into a corner, but dedicated point of the spear kill or be killed combat, no.

    And I would argue that Senator McSally is an aberration. She fought with technology, not as a ground-pounding grunt.

    1. JR

      You might want to ask the Russian women pilots in WWII on the front lines in dive bombers about your statement. I have met one or two of them a few years ago.

      I know plenty of women in the US military, plenty of women pilots. Are the women different than men? Yes, and that is good thing. Sometimes a different view or idea is just what is needed. That said I have never had any doubt about them doing the job when asked. To quote a Marine F/A-18 pilot to a crowd of a thousand or so people, some of them mothers with their their grade school daughters with them, “My job is take my plane and kill people. If that upsets you, too bad.”

      1. Hunting Guy

        You missed the part where I said “backed into a corner.”

        The Russian women pilots and snipers came into combat in the later part of the war.

        And I don’t argue that women can be brutally vicious.

        Rudyard Kipling had it nailed.

        “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
        And the women come out to cut up what remains,
        Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
        An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
        Go, go, go like a soldier,
        Go, go, go like a soldier,
        Go, go, go like a soldier,
        So-oldier of the Queen!”

        But cleaning up the battlefield is still support activity.

        The biggest issue is physical strength. The vast majority of women just don’t have the physical ability to be a grunt. That’s a fact of nature.

        Driving drones, electronic warfare, intelligence work, yes, women are perfectly capable of it.

        Humping a 50-70 pound ruck, climbing a hill to plant a flag, hauling a mortar base plater a bunch of extra ammo for the squad machine gun? They don’t have the strength.

        And we haven’t even gotten into the discussion of deployment rates for women vs. men.

      2. Rojas

        A couple of thousand Russian women snipers as well in WWII.
        Lyudmila Pavlichenko with 309 confirmed kills including 36 enemy snipers.

  4. Losingtrader

    I’ll be at the Hanoi Hilton on Tuesday. Why do you people keep mentioning it.? They promised free breakfast and no electrical shocks to my testicles.

  5. Jake

    Progress, but we’ll only achieve real draft equality when college kids, senator’s sons, and sissies with bone spurs are also required to serve.

    1. SHG Post author

      I was hoping someone would bring up senator’s sons. It ain’t me.

      I don’t blame anyone for bone spurs. I know many people who would have done the same if they could.

      1. Jake

        And I wouldn’t necessarily blame you. But that’s my point, really. There would be a different metric for war (at the political level) if indeed everybody’s kids were eligible to charge into hardened defensive positions.

        In fact, why only young adults? We want war? Fine. N% of everyone age 18 or above will be on the beach.

        1. SHG Post author

          One toke over the line, Sweet Jake.

          This isn’t a post about the proper “metric for war,” you see. That might be your post, but this isn’t your post.

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