Annie, Don't Get Your Gun

The question of whether women should be drafted forces society to think more deeply about both war and feminism

While this may sound like familiar and tattered rhetoric, the conditions Woolf put on the gift of her guineas were far from conventional. She would support an education of women, but of a different sort: "not the arts of dominating other people; not the arts of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital." Women needed to enter the male‑dominated professions to gain financial self‑sufficiency, and the attendant likelihood that they would then be heard. But women outside the professions should still, Woolf felt, be paid for their services. "Is the work of a mother, of a wife, of a daughter, worth nothing to the nation in solid cash?" she demanded.

Finally—and this point is especially compelling—she cautioned that women must not indiscriminately follow the example of men trapped in professionalism; they must earn sufficient money and properly apply their power, but must not become pugnacious and greedy. For the professions, she wrote, tend to "make the people who practice them possessive, jealous of any infringement of their rights, and highly combative if anyone dares dispute them...and do not such qualities lead to war?"

It seems a far‑fetched reaction to a call for draft registration, perhaps, for me to reiterate Woolf's question. But I think it is an explosive question for the new generation of women who are both draft‑eligible and professionally inclined. To be man's equal, must we share his wardrobe. of three‑piece suits and military uniforms? It. may be understandable, but is certainly regrettable, that "equality" in so many cases means conformity to the male habit. To earn the right to speak our minds, must we agree that we've always been "highly combative," or that we ought to let them teach us how to be? Too often we've been told that to be dedicated professionals, we must eagerly sacrifice all for our jobs and neglect our children (if our offices allow us time to give birth at all). Now, to be dedicated citizens—and feminists—we must accept the male notion of citizenship as including compulsory military service. We are not nearly assertive enough, I think. If we were, we would balk at the all‑encompassing view that equality means identicality—and that identicality, to return to the clothing metaphor, means that both sexes wear pants, not skirts.

Women's registration is having a tough time in Congress. That enlisted women soldiers now train for quasi-combat situations, however, and in increasing numbers, may make the objections to women's registration eventually seem academic. On a recent forum on women in war at Harvard Law School, Undersecretary of the Air Force Antonia Chayes, who hopes and expects to see women employed in every aspect of the military, put the point bluntly. In another generation, she said, the objections to women's registration "will all seem rather quaint."

Even if Congress refuses Carter's proposal this time, lawsuits have already been threatened against the government to argue that a solely male draft is unconstitutional. Yet the point is not to protect women, but to devote our energies to preventing any war, particularly between superpowers, in the nuclear age. And women, still the Society of Outsiders, can be specifically instrumental in that prevention. Today I will offer a fourth guinea to the Society to Prevent Woman's Indiscriminate Imitation of Man. For such imitation, which is not synonymous with citizenship, will liberate neither sex from the next "inevitable" war.

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