It’s safe to say that in the wake of recent events between the US and Iran, war and violence are have become relevant topics amongst the American public. Just hours after the news broke of the US led assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimeni, social media exploded. The people of TikTok and Twitter are fully convinced that the outbreak of another world war is imminent. World War III and “the draft” have been trending on virtually every social media platform.
The teens of cyberspace seem most concerned with the perceived possibility of war leading to the reinstatement of Selective Service System, or, the draft. Although the draft hasn’t been a threat to the American public in almost fifty years, all men in the United States are required to register for conscription within thirty days of their eighteenth birthday, or risk legal and financial retribution. As the draft has not posed a real threat since Vietnam, and as a result has technically been inactive for the past few decades, it has garnered little attention amongst the American public, until now.
The question that inevitably emerged as a result of these social media trends is: if there were to be another draft due to the conflict with Iran, should women be included or not? As of right now, based on a decision made by President Jimmy Carter in the 1980s, women are exempt from registering for possible conscription for no other reason than their gender.
From a logical and moral standpoint, I see no reason as to why women should continue to be excluded from selective service. Women are currently permitted, as they should be, to serve in any faction of the military. For anyone who supports gender equality, which includes the majority of young people the draft would target, this seems like a pertinent next step in closing gender divisions.
But the memes and videos circulating my social media feed leads me to believe that I am in the minority in holding this opinion. I have seen countless posts on TikTok of teenage girls pledging to renounce their feminist identities should this draft debacle become a reality, and commit to a future dedicated to serving men and having babies. Of course, I laughed at these videos and sent them to my friends to laugh at, too, but the more I think about this new social media trend, the less funny it becomes.
I have absolutely no desire to serve in the US military, and have virtually zero skills, which would render me an asset in any combat effort. In fact, I don’t support any potential war efforts or acts of violence and I think the draft in and of itself is an inherently immoral practice—but such beliefs and moral stances are not specific to my gender. Plenty of my male peers would like to avoid conscription just as much as I would. The difference is, they all had to register for selective service in the event of a national emergency when they applied to college.
Excluding women from required registry for the draft is gender discrimination. While it may be discrimination that, ironically, benefits women, it is discrimination nonetheless. The ability to “pick and choose” which aspects of institutionalized sexism to keep based on beneficiality is morally fraught abuse of power.
I fully contend that the reinstatement of the draft poses no imminent threat to the American public, so these questions are largely irrelevant in determining the trajectory of anyone’s life in the near future. This doesn’t, however, make the questions generated by mass hysteria on social media any less prudent. Most posts about the Iran conflict are written off as jokes, and creators justify their morbid and offensive content serve as a coping mechanism for a generation plagued with existential dread and fears regarding precarious state of our world.
While I won’t deny that I have laughed at these dark and sadistic jokes, underneath the special effects and hashtags are truths that say a lot about societal ideology more generally. Survival is of course the most basic human instinct, and violence quite clearly poses a threat to anyone’s lifetime and longevity. But for a generation that is committed to equality and justice, related issues should transcend fear of possible danger.
While this is much easier said than done, people all over the world have made sacrifices in the name of equality and justice for centuries. It is one thing to not buy into gender equality, but if you’re going to advocate for a woman in the White House then you cannot recant a plea for justice when it becomes inconvenient. Such arguments are irrational, immoral, and a waste of time.
This idea is bigger than any singular issue—be it the draft, marriage equality, or racial justice. If you are granted the privilege, time, and resources to promote a cause and advocate for a more just world, tailoring your platform to suit your own best interests is a gross abuse of power. “Better” is never universal. One person’s victory is almost always the result of another’s misfortunes.
When those with the power to use their voice are selective and self-serving in regards to their idea of what justice should look like, the brunt of such decisions falls onto those who do not have the privilege of being heard. We may not agree with systems and institutions like the draft or marriage, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to make them as egalitarian as possible.