Thursday, 5 May 2016
Young women organize against draft registration
Less than a week after the House Armed Service Committee voted to attach an amendment to a pending "must-pass" Defense Department funding bill that would authorize the President to extend draft registration to women, more than 12,000 people -- mostly women -- have signed a petition started by a draft-aged young woman in San Francisco to tell Congress, Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely.
Sign the Petition:
Tell Congress: "Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely"
"Some believe forcing everyone to register for the draft will cause Americans to think twice about going to war," says the author of the petition, the activist and media professional Julie Mastrine. "But it's become very clear that Congress votes in the interest of defense contractors and other moneyed interests, not U.S. citizens, when making decisions to go to war. I can't imagine a more tragic loss of liberty than forcing a citizen, whether male or female, to fight in a war with which they may disagree. Equality is a moot point if personal choice and bodily autonomy must first be eliminated to achieve it."
"Women should be allowed to serve in combat roles just as men are [but] it is immoral to force people to go to war, no matter their sex...While this amendment may make things equal, bodily autonomy should be taken into account and military service should be based on choice," the petition states. "Our bodies are not communal property, and we should NEVER be compelled to fight in a war we may disagree with."
The petition quotes and takes its title from an article last week by the columnist and blogger Lucy Steigerwald, who pointed out that, "Anger over the draft helped to end the Vietnam war only AFTER 60,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died. You don't stop the runaway truck of U.S. foreign policy by throwing a man in front of it, and you definitely don't stop it by throwing a man and a woman, just to make things equal."
The petition calls on members of the House of Representatives "to vote NO on forcing women to register for the draft and to introduce legislation [such as the bill already introduced, H.R. 4523] ending the draft requirement for both sexes."
If the Department of "Defense" [sic] authorization bill including the amendment on women and Selective Service becomes law in its current form, women ages 18 through 25 could be required to register. But the "petition" isn't limited to young people or to women, although most of the signers appear to be women.
The petition is worded broadly enough to allow it to be signed by people with many different reasons for opposing registration and the draft. It's was started by a libertarian and is open to both secular and religious pacifists, but you don't have to be a libertarian, a pacifist, opposed to all wars, religious, anti-religious, young, or a woman to sign the petition -- anyone opposed to the draft and draft registration, for men or women, can sign.
Julie Mastrine, the initiator of the petition drive, describes herself as a "feminist libertarian" (with a lower-case "l"). What shaped her thinking about the draft? "During WWII, my grandfather lived in a very small town in Pennsylvania and watched as one by one his friends and neighbors got drafted," she says. "People started to talk because he wasn't getting drafted -- I think they assumed he had paid someone off? -- and the social pressure caused him to sign up for the Army himself. He was 18. It pains me that his community members were being forced to fight and compelled him to do this. Ever since hearing this story as a young girl, I've been opposed to the draft as a concept."
The petition doesn't commit signers to any specific course of action if registration of women for a draft is authorized by Congress and ordered into effect by Presidential proclamation. "If ordered to register, I would likely plan public demonstrations and protests as a means of resisting," Julie Mastrine says. "I know many other women who would likely resist in this way as well."
This petition is an important first step by young women organizing themselves, on their own initiative and on their own terms, to oppose the extension of draft registration to women -- or its continuation for men. I welcome and endorse it wholeheartedly (not that it should matter, of course what an old man like me, even one who supports youth liberation and feminism, thinks about what young women should do).
I fear, however, that protest won't be enough. When Congress was considering whether to reinstate draft registration, in early 1980, President Carter asked Congress for authorization to order both young women and young men to register for the draft. Women were prominent in the protests against draft registration in 1980, including marches and rallies by several tens of thousands of people each in Washington and San Francisco on 22 March 1980. Those protests and others across the country didn't deter Congress from voting to authorize registration (of men only). And so far as I can tell, the strong feminist presence in the anti-draft movement and anti-draft protests had little or nothing to do with the decision of Congress in mid-1980, for essentially sexist and anti-feminist (and pro-war) reasons, to reject President Carter's request for authority to order women to register.
Neither the President nor members of Congress cared then or care today whether young people would protest the draft. Nobody likes being drafted, and all draftees are expected to complain. (Even soldiers can be allowed to complian, up to a point, as long as they follow orders and don't mutiny, desert, or fraternize with the "enemy".) All that really matters to the government is whether draftees submit without resistance or rebellion.
Protest, petitioning, complaints, lawsuits, and lobbying didn't force the government to give up trying to enforce draft registration for men. Massive resistance -- mostly quiet but no less effective -- did.
You don't have support draft resistance (although of course I do) to see that resistance by many young women to any demand that they register for the draft is inevitable. I hope that members of Congress come to their senses, and face the reality that it won't be any easier to force young women to register than it has been to force young men to do so. But I fear that many proponents of a draft are too wedded to their antiquated delusions of unquestioning obedience to acknowledge the limits to their authority without first trying to order women to register, and then trying to terrorize those who don't by exemplary punishment of a few visible draft registration resistance organizers -- the same expensive, drawn-out, and ultimately futile process they went through with young men like me in the 1980s. The sooner and the more strongly young women make their commitment to resist draft registration visible, the better the chances of heading off a repeat of that fiasco -- this time with young women.Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 5 May 2016, 11:53 (11:53 AM)