A friend once told me he didn’t think women were entitled to equal rights.
“The feminist movement is inconsistent,” he said. “On the one hand, they demand the right to vote, equal pay, and equal opportunity in the work place. On the other hand, they don’t want the same obligations as men.”
Specifically, the feminist movement seems to have no problem that women are not required to register for the draft. Why should we grant equal standing to someone who demands equal rights, but shirks equal obligations?
What troubled me about his comment is that no one could come up with a good counterargument. But what troubled me most is that I couldn’t either.
My flustered angry knee jerk response was of course to say, “Well so what? Who wants to campaign to die? Also, don’t be an idiot.”
But this answer didn’t satisfy me. The feminists should campaign for total equality, regardless of what that entails.
I am a philosophy major, an atheist, and a feminist. I also dabble in gay rights and black magic. At any rate, I find it extremely important to hold views that are logically consistent and rationally defensible. Given what seemed like a reasonable problem, how can I defend a position that on the surface holds such an unfair bias toward women? While my friends and I have no problem seeing women included in draft registration, the five of us hardly constitute “the feminist movement.”
Where are the picketers and their clever signs? Where is the passion for equality on both sides of the coin? How can I be a feminist and spout a demand for equal rights and opportunities if the feminist movement holds views that are fundamentally sexist? And more frightening, how many men share the feelings of my sexist chum?
Much to my relief, with a bit of Google research, I found that my friend’s comment was empirically false. According to the Concerned Women for America, the feminist movement would like to see participation of women in the military raise from 11.5 percent to 25 percent. Bella Abzug, New York congressmember during the 1970s, publicly supported the idea that women, along with men, should be forced into military service.
Though against the draft and the Vietnam War, she understood that the equal rights amendment would require women to be drafted if men were to be. And interestingly enough, outside the U.S., women in both Israel and Greece are forced, along with men, to participate in the military, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation.
However, what interests me more is the idea that equal rights should come with equal obligations, and also examine how the feminist movement ties in with law making government officials.
As it turns out, the job of the lawmakers is not to appease the feminist movement. The feminist movement may have drawn attention to problems with government legislation, and the lawmakers may have responded to pressure from the movement, but to say that laws promoting equal opportunity and rights were passed because of the feminist’s demands seem false.
The government should extend equal rights because there is no non-sexist logically consistent argument disallowing equal rights. In fact, the pressure from the feminist movement came as a response to sexist legislation. If there are complaints about the lack of participation of women in the military, it seems the blame should be placed in the hands of the people feminists were fighting in the first place. As can be seen above, women have fought for more involvement, meaning the very people who would justify unequal rights to women based on lack of involvement in the military are those who don’t want to see women in the military in the first place.
There are some points to be made in favor of removing the rights of those who dodge their responsibilities. Tax evasion and draft dodging are punishable by jail time.
However, it is not analogous to say that women should have rights taken away from them for the same reason, when women don’t even have the obligation. Punishing women for shirking an obligation they don’t have is fundamentally unfair.
The position supports undermining the success of women, rather than asserting the position we are all entitled to equal rights and opportunities.
Perhaps the push for inequality occurs because to those in power, the sacrifice of a genderless draft is a small price to pay for promoting sexist legislation. Perhaps hiding behind the weak argument that until feminists demanding they be sent into combat, they shouldn’t be equal, is really a subversive attempt to promote a paradigm that strongly favors the lives of men on the backs of women.
While I do feel the fight for equality is now supported by government officials, it still frustrates me when men my age and class, of roughly equal education, stand by a stance that is not only fundamentally false, but on a practical level, is shortsighted and sexist.
Jes Bohn is a senior philosophy major.