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Feminists against the draft and draft registration

FAQ about women, the draft, and draft registration

1-sheet flyer updated December 2020: What's happening with women and Selective Service registration?

FAQ: Supreme Court asked to review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement

Feminists Say: Stop The Draft

Women's equality will not be achieved by including women in a draft system that forces civilians to participate in activities that are against their will and harm others in large numbers, such as war. The draft is not a women's rights issue, as it does nothing to advance the cause of equality and functionally limits freedom of choice for Americans of all genders.

While we demand equal pay for women in all areas of our economy, it is irresponsible for the fight for women's rights to seek equal moral injury, equal PTSD, equal brain injury, equal suicide rates, equal lost limbs, or equal violent tendencies that military veterans suffer from. When it comes to the military, women's equality is better served by ending draft registration for everyone.

A draft is often viewed as democratic because it spreads the burden of recruitment across social classes; it is even seen by some as reducing the possibility of reckless war-making because it spurs anti-war activism. Compulsion, however, is an undemocratic process, and history does not support the claim that drafts prevent or end wars. The answer to a "volunteer military" disproportionately recruiting from economically disadvantaged communities is not to impose a universal draft but to work against the military's targeting of underserved communities and provide more economic opportunities beyond military enrollment. No one should have to join the military to get access to a college education or skills training needed to get decent jobs.

Our nation must move away from endless war and its dangerous reliance on militarism. Let's not expand draft registration but abolish it.

[Statement from CODEPINK submitted to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, 24 September 2019]

They do not have our consent! I am not your weapon! I am a womyn! A mother! A daughter! A sister! I am a student of life. We are #UNSELECTABLE.

[Calling All Womyn to Oppose Draft Registration! ¬°Llamado Para Que Cada Mujer Se Oponga Al Registro Obligatorio De Servicio Militar!, by womyn in the San Diego Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft, Project YANO, Mujeres en Resistencia, San Diego City College Visionary Feminists Club, and Mujeres de Maiz, July 2016.]

I wouldn't mind the privilege of being among the first women to burn their draft cards.

To the liberals' challenge, "If they draft men, why not draft women?" there's really only one answer -- it's not okay to draft men. And no, it's not okay to draft women, and no, we don't owe ... the government ... collusion in as patriarchal and misogynist an institution as the draft.... Whatever else it is, war is a patriarchal institution, and every war is a war against women.

[Karen Lindsey, speech to rally in Boston against draft registration, reprinted as "Women and the Draft" in "Reweaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence", New Society Publishers, 1982.]

We Won't Go
["We Won't Go." Unidentified woman in the crowd at an anti-draft rally, Washington DC, 22 March 1980. (The Getty Images caption has the incorrect date of March 23, which may have been the day this photo was first published.) Photo by Leif Skoogfors, Getty Images.]

The argument that extending the [Selective Service] registration requirement to women is a way to help reduce gender-based discrimination is specious. It does not represent a move forward for women; it represents a move backward, imposing on young women a burden that young men have had to bear unjustly for many decades -- a burden that no young person should have to bear at all. Even more disturbing, this argument fails to acknowledge or address the pervasive climate of sexism and sexual violence that is the reality of military life for many women who serve.

If the argument for requiring registration of women as well as men, often framed erroneously as an argument for "equal rights," prevails, our society's already swift move toward normalizing military violence for youth and young adults in general, will gain a particular focus on women's participation in military violence. We believe that those responsible for military recruitment understand this very well, and that the push to extend the registration requirement to women is made -- at least in part -- because it will become a facilitating factor for recruiting more people to fight our current endless wars. At the very least, it serves as one more avenue by which militarism continues to invade civil society.

[Joint letter from antiwar organizations, December 2016.]

Selective Service System registration is ageist, in that it only targets youth; sexist, in that it only targets those identified male at birth; undemocratic, as it takes away the right to religious freedom; and immoral, since it takes away the choice to follow one's conscience.

[Kate Connell, TruthInRecruitment.org, letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, 5 March 2019]

Including women in the draft isn't actually feminist.... Feminists would stress that it's important to examine the damaging, patriarchal values ascribed to the institutions that have denied female participation. Essentially, it's not enough to provide equal opportunities if those same opportunities are rooted in -- and further support -- the patriarchy.

[Ellen Shippey, Including women in the draft isn't feminist , The Breeze, James Madison University, 31 March 2019]

Draft registration for men failed: criminal enforcement had to be abandoned decades ago in the face of pervasive noncompliance.... Trying to draft women or get them to register to be drafted would be even more of a fiasco.

[Joint statement by anti-draft organizations in response to the report of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, March 2020.]

I will not register for conscription, if conscription comes for women.... Instead, I publish my statement here, my declaration of purpose, and if it encourages other women not to register, I shall be glad at such increase in our numbers.

I shall not register because I believe modern war to be murder, incompatible with a religion of love. I shall not register because registration is the first step towards conscription, and the only way to do away with war is to do away with conscription.

"Nothing would sooner free the world from the scourge of war, the most deadly plague with which humanity is at present threatened," wrote E.I. Watkins some years ago, "than the resolute refusal of a sufficient number to serve in the army. Even a small minority would prepare the way for the future refusal of large masses. All who are not willing to be conscripts from whatever motive, should unite in proclaiming this refusal."...

"But why object to registering? Why not register and then refuse if your number is called?"

By little and by little we must resist. Why take the first step if we do not intend to go on? Why count on exemption... and so lose the opportunity to testify to the truth that we feel so strongly?

[Dorothy Day, If Conscription Comes for Women, "The Catholic Worker", January 1943, p. 1 (while Congress was considering requiring women to register for a draft of nurses).]

Women's Pentagon Action: Stop the Draft
["Stop the Draft." Women's Pentagon Action poster by Yolanda V. Fundora, 1980.]

We are in the hands of men whose power and wealth have separated them from the reality of daily life and from the imagination. We are right to be afraid. At the same time our cities are in ruins, bankrupt; they suffer the devastation of war. Hospitals are closed, our schools are deprived of books and teachers. Our young Black and Latino youth are without decent work. They will be forced, drafted to become the cannon fodder for the very power that oppresses them... We do not want to be drafted into the army. We do not want our young brothers to be drafted. We want them equal with us.

[Women's Pentagon Action Unity Statement, 1980.]

Some have argued that since conscription affects more people than today's wars fought by a small number of Americans, bringing it back might paradoxically make the U.S. more cautious about engaging in conflicts. When taking this stance, people will point to Vietnam. And yep, anger with the draft did help end the war.... after 60,000 Americans and two 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.8

[Lucy Steigerwald, Antiwar.com, 2016]

There are important issues women continue to battle to achieve real, tangible equality. But finally giving them the right to fight and die under a policy they and most Americans disagree with is hardly a win.

[Kaitlyn Buss, columnist, Drafting women panders to true equality, Detroit News, 21 June 2016.]

Women: do not register for the draft. No one - man or woman - should register, or be required to register, for the draft. The draft should be completely eliminated.... Did Congress think that 'women's equality' meant sending us off to war? Women's equality is peace, democracy, economic justice, racial justice, environmental sustainability, restorative justice, ending mass incarceration, providing for all children of this country, caring for our elders, affordable healthcare and housing, and debt-free student education. Women's equality does not - and never will - include forcing us to kill our fellow human beings in order to protect the patriarchal, oligarchic, racist, imperialistic interests of the greedy, war-profiteering few.

[Rivera Sun, Women: do not register for the draft, 17 June 2016, syndicated via PeaceVoice; also reprinted by CODEPINK Women Against War]

Lesbian Anti-Draft Action
[Lesbian Anti-Draft Action contingent in the West Coast mobilization against the draft and draft registration, Market Street, San Francisco, 22 March 1980. Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. The next banner, partially visible, is from the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center.]

Tell Congress: Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely.

[Petition initiated by Julie Mastrine of San Francisco, presented with more than 25,000 signatures to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service at one of its public events in Los Angeles, 2018]

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is disguising an argument for militarism as one for equality.

[Maria Santelli, Drafting Women Into the Military Is Not Progres, Sojourners, August 2020.]

As someone who is anti-war and anti-expansion of the Department of Defense's budget... I do have to wonder if those who fight for equality have been used to pacify the anti-war movement? Or some other agenda....

As an anti-oppression feminist, I also wonder if making more bodies available for wars that more often than not we have no business being in is the direction we should be trying to go as a country.

I mean really, why do we care about the draft now? And why not get rid of Selective Service altogether?

[Charing Ball, Why I Oppose The Inclusion Of Women In The Military Draft, Madame Noire, 21 June 2016]

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom strenuously opposes the conscription of men or women for war or preparation for war and we oppose registration as the first step toward conscription.... Sisterhood is international -- it does not stop at international borders. If we embrace militarism and conscription as part of equality we will be declaring our sisters as enemies. That is something we as women and as feminists WILL NEVER do.... Sisterhood is powerful. Say NO to registration; say NO to the draft!

[WILPF statement in response to President Jimmy Carter's proposal for draft registration, January 1980.]

It's worth questioning why a policy change that is promoted using terms of gender equality has been championed by misogynists... while being supported by only 38% of female voters.

Gender inequality remains a major human rights challenge in the U.S. and worldwide.... It is women that bear a disproportionate burden in armed conflict worldwide. Seventy percent of non-combatant casualties in recent conflicts were women and children. And when livelihoods are disrupted by war, women face increased rates of domestic and sexual violence, trafficking, and child marriage.

[Drafting Women in the Name of Gender Equality Misses the Mark, Courage To Resist, 10 August 2020.]

There is nothing progressive about requiring women to register for the draft; women should never be bound by law to fight wars that are started by governments disproportionately controlled by men, for resources controlled by men --- especially while we're still expected to do most of the child-rearing, paid less than men for the same work, and can't get justice for sexual assault or domestic violence.... The argument that women must be subjected to the same rights violations as men in order to achieve gender equality is misguided and takes us further from achieving equality and personal freedom.

[Myra Pearson, Why Drafting Women Isn't Gender Equality , BUST, June 2016.]

Opposition to war and militarism has been a strong current within the women's movement. Prominent suffragists like Quaker Alice Paul, and Barbara Deming, a feminist activist and thinker of the 1960s and '70s, were ardent pacifists. Moreover, feminist critique has often regarded the military as a hierarchical, male-dominated institution promoting destructive forms of power.

[Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, Feminists weigh in on draft registration for women, National Catholic Reporter, 28 July 2016.]

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This page most recently modified 8 January 2021. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.