Claire Schaeffer-Duffy | Originally published in National Catholic Reporter - June 28, 2016
Recent legislative efforts to extend draft registration to young women have raised an old conundrum for some feminists. Does pursuit of gender equality include support for universal conscription?
While not all feminists are anti-militarists, 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.
In late April, the House Armed Services Committee voted for an amendment to the national defense bill that would extend draft registration -- already a requirement for men -- to women ages 18-26. The amendment was later dropped, but in mid-June, the Senate approved a similar provision in its version of the national defense bill.
Among the amendment's staunchest defenders was Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).
"If we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, then we should support a universal conscription," Speier told the political website The Hill in April.