Women and the Selective Service: Two Steps Back for Everyone

Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA) recently proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that – somewhat surprisingly – passed the House Armed Services Committee. If approved, the amendment would require women to register for the Selective Service. This issue was bound to come up eventually, as women have recently been allowed to compete for combat positions on the front line. Captain Kristen Griest’s recent completion of Army Ranger School and assignment as an Infantry officer is evidence of this shift in both policy and culture.

The accepted logic goes that if women have equal access to all jobs in the military, they ought to have equal responsibility with respect to the draft. And make no mistake: even though there has not been a draft since the 1970s, the ultimate purpose of Selective Service registration is precisely to enable a draft when deemed necessary. Many are applauding these changes as an important step towards “equality” and recognition of women’s capabilities. But the focus on equality is masking the underlying injustice of the law in the first place. The more important issue is that forcing anyone to register for Selective Service is unjust because it is based on coercion (and has the potential to place otherwise peaceful people into violent situations). Let’s examine why.

Penalties for failing to register with Selective Service

Most people are aware that failing to register with Selective Service makes a man ineligible for federal student financial aid, and seriously impacts his ability to get a government job, obtain a security clearance, or gain citizenship. Fine, you may say – a young man who does not want to register can pay the price by not pursuing federal financial aid, and not getting a government job, security clearance, or applying for citizenship. That is a fair trade, and at least there is no violation of natural rights in that scenario; all a man needs to do is exercise his right to opt out or disassociate. But there’s more.

Failing to register or comply with the Military Selective Service Act is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or a combination of both. Also, a person who knowingly counsels, aids, or abets another to fail to comply with the Act is subject to the same penalties. (Selective Service System)

And there you have it – where the law is exposed for what it really is: a statute that institutionalizes indentured servitude whenever the government sees fit. That is exactly what military service is, whether you join voluntarily or are conscripted into the armed forces (read why here). Now if you refuse to register, your entire professional life is likely to be destroyed. Any person who recognizes the principle of self-ownership will immediately understand why requiring a person to register for the draft is the antithesis of personal freedom. If you fail to register, you risk your liberty (through jail time) or the fruits of your labor (by paying a fine) for committing no crime at all. There is no reason to believe that if women are made to register for Selective Service that these penalties will change – and they will infringe on women’s rights the same way that they currently infringe on men’s rights.

It’s no great accomplishment for women to require that they register for Selective Service

Former Air Force officer Jessica Pavoni in Afghanistan
Former Air Force officer Jessica Pavoni in Afghanistan

This article is not meant to doubt the ability of women to perform physically demanding tasks in dangerous, high-stakes environments. Indeed, women have been successfully engaged in many different roles during war for decades, as medics, pilots, gunners, Female Engagement Team members, and more. Unfortunately, many people have been pining for “equal” treatment for women without considering what the actual treatment is – and whether it’s a good thing for men, either.

The real issue at play with this latest amendment is not whether women can or should fill combat roles, and thereby be eligible for the draft. The real issue is that a Selective Service registration (which leads to a draft) is immoral for both men AND women, and that neither should be required to register at risk of becoming a felon, being fined, or being put in jail. The mere presence of a draft registration is an assertion that some people are qualified to put other people’s lives at risk. They aren’t. Moreover, an important point is missing from the national discussion: if the United States were actually to be attacked, there would be no shortage of volunteers to defend the country. Instead, a draft would most likely be utilized to fight a war in which willing volunteers were hard to find…which is perhaps a damning indictment of the motives for a particular war.

While many are hailing Selective Service registration as a step forward for women, I am rather reminded of these wise words from Alexis de Tocqueville: “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”

Jessica Pavoni is a former Air Force Special Operations instructor pilot. She has 1,335 combat hours, and has deployed eight times to three regions of the world. Visit her blog LibertyBug. Reprinted with author’s permission from her website.

23 thoughts on “Women and the Selective Service: Two Steps Back for Everyone”

  1. I had gotten an Honorable Discharge from the USAF in 1979 for medical reasons. I’m autistic and the Air Force was the group who had diagnosed it, at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland AFB… 12 years earlier. I wondered then at why they accepted my enlistment in the first place. You recall the incident of a fire at the National Archive in St Louis that destroyed the records of George W?

    it’s not really a Republican myth. The crap about not being able to find his papers was, because the military keeps more than one set of records. The bit about the only thing you don’t need to turn in a dead one (light bulbs and toilet paper are the most commonly cited) and file a triplicate request form is a soldier or a grenade, that’s very close to the truth.

    All that is a lead in to the main story, my dad’s Air Force records (Br and the next sequence is Bu, last names put his records in the same room as Georgie Boy’s) WERE resurrected. Just not in my pre-service background check.

    I was happier than a hog in shit to get out when I did. With an honorable discharge. 2 months to the day prior to the Teheran US Embassy being taken.
    Just everybody who was pending discharge had his-her discharge redlined.

    It’s in the enlistment contract, as close to the actual Draft as you would get in 1979. Suddenly I’m required to register. Which I didn’t. And really, nobody actually checked. Reagan-Bush were in office and busily appeasing the Ayatollahs and Mullahs because they got Reagan-Bush elected. Stuff like engine parts for the formerly Royal Air Force of Iran were officially banned but they were still flying 20 years later. True story. The parts were made in Ft Worth Texas. So much for an actual embargo.

    But a few years later I was a guest of the State and taking a course in Data Entry when somebody in Washing Tundy Sea sent me a nice letter informing me that I was not eligible for the taxpayer funded private corporate gift from the Social Security Administration to Ross Perot wherein the yankee gubmint would pay for my training with the eventual aim of me working for EDS. Which didn’t pan out for other reasons.

    Because I had not registered. They were curious as to why did I not register, as I was an outstandingly patriotic citizen and of course they gave me a chance to hang my self with a noose made of government paper, a form explaining myself.

    I sent it back saying I had an honorable discharge which really wasn’t a valid excuse and of course I already knew that. I mentioned in a truly snotty mode that I did not and do not actually owe them any further service. They sent me back an Oh Well paper saying that it was an oversight on my part and since by that time I was 27 I was no longer eligible to even register for the Draft so they forgave me. Like I or anybody else needs forgiveness for not, as Brother Arlo said in his song “burning villages and killing women and children”

    But that’s not the real story.

    The real story is that old mean nasty ugly Draft Act in the first damn place.
    The way it’s written even somebody categorized as 4F is still obligated to drop whatever the hell he (or she) was doing with his (or her) life in order to serve the Military Industrial Complex in whatever capacity the Military sees fit.
    Any Breathing Living Body.

    If for instance Steven Hawkings was deemed necessary strategically to use his talent and education in Very Higher Mathematics, perhaps to develop a super-bomb, they could draft him. The curious exemption in all this, and for the longest time, was The Fairer Sex. I’ll go out on a limb here, make a really blanket statement, that most women were perfectly happy to have such an exemption. And that’s a very good thing.The TRUE equality is if chickenshit chickenhawks like Bush or Cheney or Romney or Trump could not buy their way out of the Draft.

    Of course that ain’t happening. So in a show of inclusiveness, the Pentagon is now accepting women as heavily armed slaves. Another peculiarity is that the Draft was initiated (in America at least, conscription is old as any historic warlords) was a war to end Slavery (in America… Most of the world had already accepted emancipation and the other holdouts like Siam and other Non-American backwater societies were not immediately affected)

    Private ownership of human beings was officially outlawed (in America) but Public Ownership was officially initiated. The Military Industrial Complex or as anybody can truthfullly say The Corporate not so much Shadow Government was alive and well in America, So it still goes back to corporate private ownership of people.

    Just, you know, not Officially.

  2. i had a bit of difficulty with my password, it’s been more than 4 years since I last posted. So I posted this and a little bit more on Not My Tribe.

  3. Interesting how women like you are only making this argument now that it impacts you individually . COWARDS. you owe us . with power comes responsibility . want equal rights? earn it like men do

    1. A) I guess you missed the part where I deployed 8 times as a special operations pilot.
      B) Are you trolling this thread?

      1. Hi Jessica,

        I have written to my Congresswoman and my two Senators about this issue. In my emails I have asked that a uniform standard be applied when it comes to selective service registration: either impose it on BOTH genders or get rid of it completely. Otherwise, the equal protection clause of the Constitution is being violated as in the examples you gave re men who denied access to government jobs or other social privileges.

        It does not mater whether you are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, feminist or anti-feminist, no one can deny that the law as it is written and applied today is sexist, employs a double standard, is archaic, and limits the rights of an unprotected group in society. Every American, regardless of socio-political persuasion should stand up and demand reform of this unjust law.

    2. No owes you a damn thing, kid. That’s life in the big city. It’s based on the of theory of “tough shit. “

    3. Yup. It’s hypocrisy at its finest as apparently the misandrist mod displayed.

      1. The word you were looking for was “idiocy,” not “hypocrisy.” And the place to look for it was in the mirror.

        There is no plausible moral defense of the draft, or registration for the draft. It’s an abomination at odds with every claimed American value. Extending it to women wouldn’t make that any less so. It would just increase the size of the prospective victim pool.

  4. Selective Service registration is rather a pain, but remember you have to register BETWEEN the ages of 18 and 25- you don’t have to rush down the day you turn 18. If you want to game the system, just wait until you’re 24 and do it. There’s not a thing you can be turned down for during the 18-24 years because you’re still within the law. Also, remember the upper age bracket is going to be the last bracket called up- which means even IF the draft gets cranked up, you’ll be low on totem pole. And, more than likely, they won’t go through all those initial 18-19 year olds within a year- so you’ll ‘age out’ of the system before you can be called up. SelSvc registration does sound scary- and as a veteran myself I oppose it on principle- but as long as we have it know there are ways to play them as much as they’re playing you.

    1. “you don’t have to rush down the day you turn 18. If you want to game the system, just wait until you’re 24 and do it. There’s not a thing you can be turned down for during the 18-24 years because you’re still within the law”

      Incorrect. To be “within the law” if you are a male US citizen or non-citizen resident immigrant, you are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of your 18th birthday.

  5. As long as we are having and already have had mandated registration for men, I believe requiring the same for women is not inappropriate despite my opposition to registration – UNLESS Pavaroni is going to recommend that new people being taxed shouldn’t be taxed while older people should continue to pay (be thieved).

    1. If you oppose registration, you should oppose it for men and for women – that is a logically consistent position. The answer to one gender’s oppression is not to equally oppress the other; the answer is to remove the oppression.

      I’m not sure I’m following your logic regarding the tax comment, but for what it’s worth, I think taxes are immoral. For everyone.

      1. Moderator note to AnarchoMama: I thought I had “whitelisted” you as one of our authors so that your comments wouldn’t get held up in any moderation stack but must have forgotten. Sorry about that — just did it.

      2. I do oppose it/both. But those making a big deal out registration for new “clients” (who happen to be women) but say nothing similar about other state associations like taxes and their new “clients” are being disingenuous promoting their opposition to one but not others.

  6. Yes, the entire point of the article was that men shouldn’t be coerced into that position, either; that it is two steps back for everyone. Better to take away the restrictions from men than to make both sexes equal in conscription.

    1. And again, my response focuses on the fact women like you are only making this argument now as it affects you. I didnt see you write this in 2014, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2001. Youve had no problem sending men . But now that it includes women, you seem to have this humanitarian feeling in the issue = / that’s called being a coward

  7. And thats really the difference.
    its really hard to respect women as they cry about equality, yet backdown every time the opportunity to earn it comes around.

    Bingo. Most of them only care when it affects them. Usually it’s like this for many women (no not all). “Equality when it’s convenient for me”. That’s usually how it plays out these days.

  8. The draft will never be implemented again unless women are not only drafted but forced to serve in the front lines of combat. Why?

    1. The very first time a draft is implemented, a man will challenge it on the grounds of sex discrimination (it is) and win

    2. After women are then required to be drafted, if they are NOT in the same life-threatening roles as men, any man who doesn’t want to serve will simply announce that he’s a woman. The government has already taken a legal position that any man who says he’s a woman is one.

  9. “I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. Conscription is slavery, and I don’t think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can’t save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say: Let the damned thing go down the drain!” — Robert Heinlein

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