I registered for the draft today

SS form…military service is largely a class issue motivated by the lack of social programs in the U.S. such as taxpayer-funded post-secondary education and health care. Service is not really voluntary; it is coerced and incentivized.

…wrote a commenter following an article on the Feministing website about the Jan. 24 announcement that the ban on women in combat would be lifted (to which I contributed a link to the petition I created on Jan. 21 asking that women be required by law to register for Selective Service – full explanation of reasons, including how not registering for the draft doesn’t speak at all to “equality,” here).

Yet, the only easy way to register for the Selective Service is online. You’d think if there were such an effort to snag the less fortunate, SS forms would be as ubiquitous as Chinese restaurant menus (I’m not complaining – I welcome the free menus, because yum).

Others, mostly feminists who support women’s right to be in the military (and even in combat roles) but who disagree with women being drafted, have said it’s because they disagree with Selective Service, period.

As much as I can appreciate that, it’s irrelevant. The Selective Service registry exists, and men have to sign up. Until it’s discontinued, so should women.

I tend to agree with this, said by an acquaintance:

If a government has an obligation to defend its citizens (and presumably defense from outside threats falls under that obligation), then doesn’t a draft fall under that obligation, at least for the case of an existential threat? If the government cannot guarantee the continued existence of the society in the face of an outside threat, then it can’t guarantee any of the other rights of its citizens either. The “state” is ALL of us, collectively. If the state has an obligation to it’s citizens, then WE have that obligation. We are the state.

I went to the post office this weekend looking for an SS form, thinking there would be a slot for them next to the international mail forms, but they didn’t have any. All they had, in a cabinet behind the counter, was a change-of-address form for someone who had already registered. So I went online, and this was what happened immediately after I clicked “Female” when prompted to select a sex on the SS form:

woman message

As we know, women are no longer excluded by policy from front line combat positions. So I searched around online until I found a printable form (you’d think it would be easier, but it took a bit of clicking), printed it, poured a glass of wine, and filled it out.

SS form

I don’t know what it means, but this is the first form I’ve filled out – in my life – that I haven’t messed up / had to redo.

When I finished, I looked at the mailing address on the detachable part of the form and noticed that it was different from the one on the SS change of address form (which I’d brought home). So I called the SS number and was kept on hold for some time, listening to messages related to Selective Service.

“Women are not required to register.”

“A man must be registered or be exempt to be eligible for most federal jobs… Don’t close the door to opportunities that might be important to your future.”

I tried to imagine having that hanging over my head, what it would feel like to be legally required to register, to have my professional life (and wallet) threatened. But as a woman not subject to this law, I can’t possibly know the feeling.

There are two reasons I want to be subject to the Selective Service requirement, as unappealing as it is: 1) the obvious – equal is equal; 2) I might not have the guts to join on my own if the poopy went down and I had the option not to (even as men slowly left their homes after being called by the government), and that coercion would give me the kick I need.

Argument: But what if you don’t believe in the reason for the draft, if reinstated?
Response: What if men don’t believe in the reason for the draft, if reinstated?

Because women aren’t required allowed to register for Selective Service (but should be soon), I wrote a note while on hold with the SS office to include with my form so the recipient doesn’t see the checked “female” box and throw it in the shredder.

ss note

Finally, a man picked up and I asked about the zip codes, the PO Box numbers.

The addresses were different from form to form, he said, because the PO boxes to send to are based on where the forms come from. But they all get there, he said.

“Is this for you?” he asked.

I said, “No.” I don’t know why. He then tried to direct me to the online form, explaining that mail-in registration can take up to five weeks. I made up some story about it being a hassle to get to the library to use their free internet.

In five weeks or so, I’ll call the number provided by the SS website to check on the status of my registration.
I want them to keep it, and at the same time, it scares me that they might.

There’s a reason I never joined the military, and I’d probably pee my pants if I had to go to war.

I’m sure plenty of men feel the same way.

If you’d like to print your own registry form, here’s where I got mine.

UPDATE 4.9.2013

Sorry.Based on the information you submitted (information listed below), a registration record cannot be found for this individual.

That was the online message. Because it was possible they couldn’t find evidence of an online registration (I mailed mine in), I called them to check on it that way.

A man named John answered. When I asked about the form, he said that if they receive a form sent by a woman, “We don’t log them in. There’s no law requiring women to register.”

“What if they want to?” I said.

“They can’t.”

I asked what would have been done with my form, and he said he didn’t know. I asked if he knew someone who did, and he asked me to hold. After a few seconds he came back on the line and asked where I was calling from. I gave him the state.

“Where in the state?”

I told him the name of the town.

“What business are you calling from?”

“What? This is my cell phone. Why?”

“Please hold.”

A few seconds later I was connected to a woman who told me, “If it would have come through as a female, we would have shredded it automatically, because we don’t log women.”

The second strike against me (aside from being a woman), she said, was that I was over 26 and, were I a man, would have had to fill out another form explaining why I’d failed to register before turning 26. The law saying that women can’t register for the draft won’t change until the government changes it, she said, followed by (basically), “If you want it to change, write your congressman.”

6 thoughts on “I registered for the draft today

  1. As a military family… I can’t tell you how much this means to me. It somehow made me so emotional. Maybe because my husband has served for 12 years commissioned, and 17 all together, and he and those he serves with have carried such a heavy burden. By choice, of course. We fully accept that. I think this is a beautiful thing you’ve done. Because you had the ‘free will’ to do so. Because everyone is scared. Because being brave isn’t about doing dangerous things, it’s about doing things we’re scared to do. And no soldier is without fear unless they are lying or stupid. Thank you for being brave. Brave enough to sign up. Brave enough to write this article. If I ever HAVE to serve next to someone, would be glad to serve with you.

  2. Hi, you are currently my favorite person on the internet. It bothers me beyond reason that so many people view women with contempt about their physical prowess. It uplifts me to see people actively fighting that nonsense, proving where their words couldn’t just how capable of a person you really are. Doing what is not required, but necessary for the sake of others is so noble that I can’t even place the right compliment for it. I’m just amazed. Thank you, so much. You are truly what an equal state needs, and I wish there were many more of you.

    Hope you’re having a great day, or will yet,

    Eric

  3. Ms Tsetsi,
    Excellent article! I respect your actions and your arguments. Kudos to you for your courage and desire to make things right and equal. You’re obviously very passionate about this issue, as am I, and initially I agreed 100% with you. I am very impressed by your attempt to register for Selective Service, but I wonder if you meant for it to extend your eligibility to Combat Arms? One of my first responses when I heard about the Military changing to allow females into combat roles was “well they better change the “Selective Service laws then”. I have since reconsidered for fear of the consequences of what TRUE gender equality means & I do not believe that the majority of the female gender agrees with the desire of a few to be allowed unrestricted admittance into front line Combat Arms roles. Let me first acknowledge that women already serve in Harm’s way in combat zone’s. They fly aircraft, deploy in convoys and many other types of activities. I support, respect and feel they are an important asset. I do not agree that they should serve as a front line troop, away from a base, fort or some other compound that they can return to at the end of the day. I will explain my reasoning later.
    I hope you continue writing about this issue and give thought to it whether you agree with anything I write or not. This is a very important but complex issue. One that I think is too big for a handful of men or a handful of women to decide. I would like to see it put to a Nationwide FEMALE vote first. If it were to pass then we can debate it as a nation of women and men.
    I’m going to start with an assumption- I assume that the majority of females in our country do not want to be eligible for Combat arms, nor do they want to serve in any capacity in the Military. I base this assumption on opinions obtained from female friends and family members.
    ** If my assumptions are incorrect and a majority of the female gender totally support Selective Service registration and the possibility of not only having to serve within the military, but also the possibility of being drafted and assigned to a Combat Arms assignment then I retract my opposition.
    My background: served in the Army from the age of 18-22 as a Tank crewman (Combat Arms).
    Let me jump right to the heart of my disagreement: When we as a society come to killing people to settle our differences via WAR, we become barbaric. Some nations try to bring some civilization to WAR by writing “Rules of Conflict”, but let’s be honest- War is still brutal and barbaric, and most of the nations that we would find ourselves in conflict with, would not abide by these rules. Bottom line: I think people involved in combat experience de-evolution to different degrees. I think females would suffer more harshly and more rapidly from this de-evolution, unfortunately not only from the enemy, but to varying degrees from fellow soldiers.
    Our fighting soldiers are primarily late teens & early twenties. Men of this age are often thought of as pigs in large groups of fellow male companions even when in society. Can you imagine being a minority female amongst a large group of testosterone filled barley adult males living as barbaric soldiers? I can’t or maybe I just don’t want to. I certainly do not want my daughter to be subject to this. I’m sorry to paint such an ugly picture here, but people can’t afford to be naïve on this issue and think that this behavior can be policed- War is SAVAGE, BRUTAL & BARBARIC. It cannot be civilized.
    This isn’t as easy as making it about equality. People can’t get away with comparing this to race issues that previously existed in our military (Apples and Oranges). How about age? The military doesn’t accept applicants above a certain age. Is my life more valuable because I’m 45- no, actually I think I should be a better choice than sacrificing the life of a young man or woman that has barely started their life. Perhaps the military believes that statistically older Americans are not as physically fit as 20 year olds? Is their logic flawed? No, not statistically. Exceptions can be made to every rule, but important decisions should be made for the greater good.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Thomas. I’ll try to answer all of your points.

      I am very impressed by your attempt to register for Selective Service, but I wonder if you meant for it to extend your eligibility to Combat Arms?

      Yes. The ban on women in combat has been lifted, so that would be part of it for women who qualify.

      One of my first responses when I heard about the Military changing to allow females into combat roles was “well they better change the “Selective Service laws then”. I have since reconsidered for fear of the consequences of what TRUE gender equality means & I do not believe that the majority of the female gender agrees with the desire of a few to be allowed unrestricted admittance into front line Combat Arms roles.

      I don’t know that access is unrestricted. Both men and women have to meet certain standards; those who don’t meet them aren’t assigned combat roles.

      I hope you continue writing about this issue and give thought to it whether you agree with anything I write or not. This is a very important but complex issue. One that I think is too big for a handful of men or a handful of women to decide. I would like to see it put to a Nationwide FEMALE vote first. If it were to pass then we can debate it as a nation of women and men.

      I appreciate the sentiment, but then men should have the same opportunity – to have a male vote concerning whether men should be eligible for the draft.

      I’m going to start with an assumption- I assume that the majority of females in our country do not want to be eligible for Combat arms, nor do they want to serve in any capacity in the Military. I base this assumption on opinions obtained from female friends and family members.

      Most men don’t want to be eligible for combat arms or serve in the military, either. If they did, the volunteer force would be much higher than 1% of the population.

      ** If my assumptions are incorrect and a majority of the female gender totally support Selective Service registration and the possibility of not only having to serve within the military, but also the possibility of being drafted and assigned to a Combat Arms assignment then I retract my opposition.
      My background: served in the Army from the age of 18-22 as a Tank crewman (Combat Arms).

      I assume most men don’t totally support Selective Service registration, either, but they still have to register.

      Let me jump right to the heart of my disagreement: When we as a society come to killing people to settle our differences via WAR, we become barbaric. Some nations try to bring some civilization to WAR by writing “Rules of Conflict”, but let’s be honest- War is still brutal and barbaric, and most of the nations that we would find ourselves in conflict with, would not abide by these rules. Bottom line: I think people involved in combat experience de-evolution to different degrees. I think females would suffer more harshly and more rapidly from this de-evolution, unfortunately not only from the enemy, but to varying degrees from fellow soldiers.

      I think we are equally equipped to handle psychological challenges, and (answer edited because I read your position wrong the first time) both men and women suffer at the hands of the enemy. Women might be treated differently, granted; but men have had their heads sawed off and have probably experienced certain kinds of torture that no human being could tolerate very well. I think women are aware of the risks, and if they’re willing to take those risks (as men are willing to take the risks associated with capture), that’s enough.

      Our fighting soldiers are primarily late teens & early twenties. Men of this age are often thought of as pigs in large groups of fellow male companions even when in society. Can you imagine being a minority female amongst a large group of testosterone filled barley adult males living as barbaric soldiers? I can’t or maybe I just don’t want to. I certainly do not want my daughter to be subject to this. I’m sorry to paint such an ugly picture here, but people can’t afford to be naïve on this issue and think that this behavior can be policed- War is SAVAGE, BRUTAL & BARBARIC. It cannot be civilized.

      Women are already in the military among a majority of male members. Some of them are being sexually assaulted. Still, women elect to join the military knowing rape is a risk (as rape is a risk to women pretty much anywhere, in any occupation, at any age, and in any walk of life). Nobody wants to be subjected to rape, but unless all men are apes who can’t help but rape women, there’s no reason to think being in the military, or going to war with men, means automatic rape.

      I believe in safety in numbers. The more trained women there are in the military, the more empowered they’ll feel and the less vulnerable they’ll be to the type of emotionally or psychologically challenged soldier who would assault them. They would, I imagine, also feel more empowered to oust the unfit service member by reporting him (or her) to the chain of command.

      This isn’t as easy as making it about equality. People can’t get away with comparing this to race issues that previously existed in our military (Apples and Oranges). How about age? The military doesn’t accept applicants above a certain age. Is my life more valuable because I’m 45- no, actually I think I should be a better choice than sacrificing the life of a young man or woman that has barely started their life. Perhaps the military believes that statistically older Americans are not as physically fit as 20 year olds? Is their logic flawed? No, not statistically. Exceptions can be made to every rule, but important decisions should be made for the greater good.

      I don’t see how not including women in the Selective Service registry would serve the greater good. There are many roles to be filled during wartime, and men and women who don’t meet the standards for front-lines combat can be useful in other important capacities. If there’s a draft, it’s happening because the country needs numbers. Women are every bit this country’s citizens as are men, and we should be equally obligated to serve it in a time of need.

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