Does Feminism
Discriminate Against Men?
A Debate

Ch. 3, What the All-Male Draft and the Combat Exclusion of Women Tell Us About Men, Women and Feminism

Excerpts from Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate by Warren Farrell

"Every society rests on the death of men."--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Item. Almost one out of four American men is a veteran.[i]

Item. In one World War I battle alone (the Battle of the Somme), over one million men were killed or maimed.[ii]

Understanding men requires understanding men's relationship to the Three Ws: Women, Work, and War. As we just saw in the Section on Power, only 18-year-old boys are legally required to register for future wars. How realistic is it that the boys will, in fact, be drafted? We know only that in 24 to 72 hours the first induction orders can be in the mail.[iii] Should another 9/11 happen tomorrow, that's how fast your life or your brother’s or boyfriend’s life could change. As I write this, National Guard and Reserve units practice each week setting up the infrastructure to allow 100,000 men to be trained for potential death in boot camps in four weeks.[iv] This efficiency is made possible by the pre-registration system.

If a boy refuses to register for the draft when he turns 18, he can be barred from all federal jobs--from the US Post Office to the FBI.[v] He faces a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.[vi] Once in prison, a young man's nubile, young body combined with his reputation for not fighting makes him a perfect candidate for homosexual rape and, therefore, AIDS. In brief, he is subject to being killed. Why? He was too sensitive to kill.

The Multi-Option Woman And The No-Option Man

In many states, an 18-year-old boy who has not registered for the draft cannot attend a state school.[vii] He cannot receive even a loan for a private school.

Male-only draft registration leaves a woman who doesn't register for the draft able to:

(1) go to a state school;

(2) go to a private school with federal aid; or

(3) get married and work; be single and work; have children...

It leaves a man who doesn't register able to:

(1) go to jail;

(2) go to jail;

(3) go to jail.

“Male obligation” vs. “Female entitlement”

Before boys and men can vote, they have the obligation to protect that right with the risk of their life; women receive the right to vote without the obligation to protect that right with the risk of anything. Only women receive the privileges of freedom without a single obligation. This male-female legal gap creates a male-female psychological gap—a gap between male obligation and female entitlement.

I say “male obligation” vs. “female entitlement” because, even if one believes that women should not be in combat (for whatever reason), there are dozens of other obligations that women could be required to register for at age 18—administrative roles, technical support, medical support, factory support. But nothing is required of women. And everyone takes that for granted. That’s entitlement.

How the Law Affects Men vs. Women’s Moral Maturity

More important, when registering to be a potential killer is a legal requirement for only boys, that frees a woman from moral dilemmas, allowing her to see herself and other women as more innocent and moral than the young man she sits next to in class. (Hence, we decry “the innocent women and children” killed in war.)

The magnitude of the moral dilemma is greatest at two points in history: when going to war is likely; when our country is engaged in a war the boy considers immoral. Then, every boy must face the moral dilemma of registering to be drafted to potentially lose his life and kill others for something he may consider immoral. For many boys, even if they are in college and think they will never be drafted, the likelihood that their college teachers and peers will consider a war like the War in Iraq immoral and illegal, makes registering for it an ethical dilemma. No matter what their level of developmental readiness, only boys are forced to lose their innocence as a rite of passage to adulthood.

My Body, My Business?

For women, it's "our bodies, our business"; for men, it's "our bodies, government business." For men, G.I. means government issue. A woman’s body is a woman’s issue; a man’s body is the government’s issue.

Registering all of our 18-year-old males for the draft in the event the country needs more soldiers is as sexist as registering all of our 18-year-old females for child-bearing by force in the event the country needs more children.

Why Should Women Fight in the Wars Men Cause?

Some feminists say that men cause wars, so it’s only right men should fight. This is like saying, women raise children, so it’s only right women should go to prison for the crimes committed by children. Parents—not women-- are ultimately responsible for raising children, and voters of both sexes are ultimately responsible for their laws and their leaders. And in the U.S., seven million more female voters than male voters elect the politicians who create the policies that make or prevent war.

Aren’t there more male politicians, though? Yes. Politicians are like chauffeurs—their bodies are in the driver’s seat; voters are like the owners in the back seat telling the chauffeur where to go. The politician and chauffeur have some discretion as to how to get there, but the voters-- or owners in the back seat—are the ones who must take responsibility for the chauffeurs and politicians they hire, and where they tell them to go.

On the deepest levels, wars are not caused by men, and oppression is not created only by men. Rent An Officer and a Gentleman. When I saw An Officer and a Gentleman in a theater when it first opened, the women cheered wildly when the female heroine got the officer who had learned how to kill, not the pacifist who refused to kill. As long as women choose the killer genes, they will create children from the genes of killers, not from the genes of pacifists. And if women did not choose those genes, there would be no war from which Europeans would live in America. And if American women only started choosing pacifist men’s genes in 1900, they would now be Nazis speaking German. Similarly, if women cared about Blacks not being oppressed, no woman would be wearing a diamond mined by companies supporting Apartheid. Women who are adult enough to take responsibility for their choices will acknowledge their role in both war and oppression.

[i]See US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of United States: 2006, 126th edition, p. 346, Table 509; p. 344, Table 505; and p. 13, Table 11.

[ii]See John Laffin, Brassey's Battles: 3500 Years of Conflict, Campaigns, and Wars from A-Z (London: A. Wheaton & Co., 1986), p. 399.

[iii]Air Force Lt. Col. Ronald Meilstrup, Deputy Director of the Selective Service System's Regional Headquarters in Illinois.

[iv]Bob Secter, "The Draft: If There's a War, There's a Way," Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1991, p. E-1 & E-5.

[v]Military Selective Service Act. See "Privacy Act Statement," SSS Form 1, Registration Form, September, 1987.

[vi]Military Selective Service Act. See "Privacy Act Statement," SSS Form 1, Registration Form, September, 1987.

[vii]Jim Schwartz, College Press Service, 1986.

© 2010, Warren Farrell (with Steven Svoboda) vs. James P. Sterba

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Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim. - Betty Friedan

Warren Farrell, Ph.D., is the author of numerous international best-sellers on men and women, including Why Men Are The Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and Father and Child Reunion has led to Dr. Farrell doing expert witness work that has encouraged many judges to keep dads in children’s lives. Dr. Farrell’s released Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap and What Women Can Do About It in 2005 and Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate in 2008.

Warren is the only man in the US ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. He has been chosen by The Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders, is in Who’s Who in America and in Who’s Who in the World. He has taught in five disciplines, most recently at the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Diego, and is ranked by the International Biographic Centre of London as one of the world’s top 2000 scholars of the Twentieth Century. He has appeared on over 1,000 TV shows worldwide and lives in Mill Valley, California with his wife and two daughters.You can visit him at or E-Mail

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