University of Wisconsin experts discussed how women registering for the Selective Service, or draft, would affect the military and the treatment of women Tuesday.
While panelists made clear the ineffectiveness of drafted soldiers compared with volunteers, they said adding women to the draft could positively affect the standing of women. The changing demands of military service and the treatment of women are also key to understanding the climate for women in the armed services, panelists said.
The United States’ reliance on an increasingly sophisticated professional military force, John Hall, UW military history professor said, has reduced the usefulness of a general draft. The likelihood of the U.S. using the draft to raise an army remains extremely small, especially because the military will most likely more closely resemble a peacekeeping force in coming decades, Hall said.
Despite the unlikelihood of the drafts implementation, panelist Myra Ferree, sociology and gender and women’s studies professor, said requiring women to register would have symbolic importance in equality for women. She said the continuing problems of sexism and sexual assault within the military could benefit from having women register for the draft.
The historical exclusion of women from the military, Ferree said, conveys to women that they are in need of protection. But studies show that women who take self defense classes are able to better escape sexual assault, she said.
“The mere presence of women in military culture will not solve the problem of sexism any more than the election of a black president will solve the problem of racism,” Ferree said.
Ferree also condemned the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and noted that any gains that might be made by the adding women to the selective service would be negated by their leadership. She said women deserve greater representation in the military as they excel in many skill sets that a modern military would covet.
Despite women being less apt at some physical tasks, such as running fast and lifting heavy weights, Ferree said, women possess exceptional skill at marksmanship, defensive driving and knowing when to draw their weapons.
Despite the gains that could be seen by adding women to the draft, Hall said the current culture war surrounding the idea of women within the military — where some people believe women do not belong in combat roles — should be considered. He said instead of adding women to the draft, it should no longer be required for either sex.
“I can see the progressive value in [adding women to the draft,” Hall said. “In this current political climate, it could further fuel the culture wars rather than bringing us closer together.”