In accordance with a military policy bill approved by the U.S. Senate in June, women could possibly be required to register with Selective Service as soon as Jan. 1, 2018, making them eligible for the military draft.
The bill was passed by the House in April without the policy change requiring women to register for the draft, and the two versions have yet to be reconciled.
Army veteran and Oxford resident Dawn Bullion expressed mixed feelings about the possibility and what it means for gender equality.
“On the one hand, I feel that women are equal to men, so if there is to be a Selective Service requirement then both men and women should have to register for it,” Bullion said. “On the other hand, requiring women to register for Selective Service should not be the definition of gender equality: Gender equality should also come in the form of equal pay and equal rights.”
Ole Miss alumna and 2nd Lt. Olivia Vincent feels that this is a step that needs to be taken.
“I believe it’s another step in the right direction in terms of the military’s increasing push for gender equality,” Vinzant said. “Because the ban on women serving in combat roles was recently lifted, neither gender should be exempt from having to register for Selective Service.”
The current law requires all men from ages 18 through 25 to register for possible involuntary military service. Women have always been exempt from the law and, until 2013, were restricted from serving in combat roles.
Bullion stated that women are often underestimated in the armed forces and that this new proposal, although it is a great step for women, will not help with gender equality.
“I definitely believe that women are underestimated in the armed forces,” Bullion said. “I think for people to see women as equal to men it is going to have to start with education about gender equality and applied actions by educational institutions, workplace norms and equality laws.”
Vinzant believes that women have just as much to offer as their male counterparts and that the suggested policy change would give them more opportunities to prove it. Vinzant enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2013 and, after completing her training as an Aviation Operations Specialist, went on to receive her bachelor’s degree at Ole Miss and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in May.
The current law was seen as sexist by Bullion because it portrays women as weak.
“I think it was archaic thinking that women needed to be protected because they were perceived as weak and needing protection that they could not survive being on the front lines in a war/conflict,” Bullion said.
Bullion served in the Army for seven years and learned the value of hard work and how teamwork is essential to accomplish any mission.
“I feel that women are valuable in every role in regards to the military. Gender neutrality,” Bullion said.
Vinzant says she thinks the situation has already affected the nation’s populace.
“The military has already been extensively working on how to make our forces more gender neutral,” Vizant said. “Wherever our service members are stationed around the world, the communities they serve will likely see and feel the changes as well.”