The Senate on Tuesday passed an amendment to the defense budget requiring women to register for the draft, but that didn’t stop some Republicans from exposing perhaps a bit too much of their own biases about women’s “place” in society.
It all started with Ted Cruz, the same guy who has been at the forefront of opposition to common sense social progress seemingly since childhood.
“The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat to my mind makes little or no sense… I could not in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat,” he said.
Want evidence of the male hegemony in which our military and political institutions are seeped? Just read the arguments against drafting women: “Our daughters,” “young girls”? Many Republicans still — in 2016 — cannot view women as adults. It’s more pervasive as bias than there was against gays under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
And how not-so-ironic that the language used by Republicans in this case is eerily similar to the language they used to justify their nonsensical campaign to ban transgender people from simply being able to use the bathroom. These are the same politicians attempting to add far more barriers to a woman’s right to choose than there are barriers to buying guns.
The opposition to women entering the draft is also shared by right-wing groups such as Concerned Women for America, whose spokesperson said “Leadership should know better than to disregard basic biology in order to embrace political correctness.” Yet, the reality of “basic biology” indicates that not only are many women able to meet the physical standards maintained by men, but studies have also proven that women fare better in other ways such as endurance. Studies have also shown that there is no difference between men and women in exercise-related injuries.
The idea of drafting both men and women isn’t a new phenomenon, either. Norway, Israel, and Mozambique are among nations that already require women to be drafted. Many other countries have allowed women to serve in combat roles, a development that has only recently gained steam in the United States. Women were banned from combat roles in the U.S. military in 1994, the same year Bill Clinton instituted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but Ash Carter has announced that women will be incorporated into combat roles starting in January of 2017.
It goes without saying that Republican opposition to women in the draft has everything to do with maintaining age-old stereotypes about them. The longstanding pattern in male hegemonic structure that has kept women in physically reserved, supportive roles has been challenged and proven wrong time and time again — even in the face of dangerous, vehement, and hostile resistance.
Katherine Switzer, the first woman who dared to run in the Boston Marathon despite its rules banning female participation, was determined to run the race in 1967 because a coach told her that it would be too long of a race for a “fragile person.” She ran the race anyway — and was physically attacked by a race official — and proved that with opportunity, women can do compete alongside men. Just six years later, Billie Jean-King defeated Bobby Riggs in the hyped-up “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.
The physical barriers for women slowly continue to fall — more than 12,000 women ran in the 2016 Boston Marathon — but until some Republicans decide to enter the 21st century and embrace gender equality, we will have to wait until history exposes a backwards argument for what it is.
Photo: U.S. army soldiers take part in a U.S.-South Korea joint river-crossing exercise near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Yeoncheon, South Korea, April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji