One of the most central bipartisan agreements is that words have meanings that are inextricably associated with ideas and movements. It is important to understand this concept because the agreement that words shape expectations is the basis for conducting politics. “Feminism” is once again a salient word uttered by everyday citizens. By pure definition, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” However, we can have a broader discussion about the ideas or movements with which that word associates. Let us go through some examples.
In late October 2016, fake screenshots of a Hillary Clinton tweet were circulated around Twitter, with the image of a tweet that purported to say, “In a world where the battlefield is dominated by men, we need to #DraftOurDaughters and stand up for #Equality Go Get ‘em Girls! – H.” This notion was greeted with mixed responses from all sides of the political aisle, especially feminist groups. The initial tweet stemmed from Clinton’s support of the Draft Our Daughters Act of 2016 that has been in review by the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel for almost a year. While Clinton did not actually tweet this, the image which spread around the internet elicited a telling response in the form of the trending #DraftOurDaughters hashtag.
The idea of mandating women to register for the draft is once again alive and well – but not due to feminist efforts. By definition, feminists should be completely in support of draft equality. However, the issue is more complex than that due to the direct impact “draft equality” would have on American culture.
In April of 2016, Duncan Hunter (R-CA) proposed an amendment to the annual defense-funding bill that would require women to register for the draft. Hunter then received a bombardment of criticism from left-wing idealogues about the carelessness of making such a large decision on behalf of women. When the amendment came up for discussion, Hunter withdrew his support for it, stating “My daughters talk about serving. My son talks about serving, but I don’t want to put my daughters in a place where they have to get drafted.” This sparked an unexpected chain reaction from Congressmen of both parties to advocate conscription equality. Nevertheless, the amendment was removed from the spending bill and not revived until the proposal of the Draft Our Daughters Act of 2016.
In response to the push for draft equality, today’s “feminists” often alternatively tout that women should not have to serve in the draft; there should be no draft, they argue.
But the point of the draft since the Civil War was to protect the government in times when volunteer conscription was not sufficient. In fact, the basis of scrapping the Articles of Confederation and creating the Constitution in the first place was partially in the fact that a government without the ability to raise an army cannot protect its sovereignty. Because of this, it is improbable that draft equality can be achieved through a policy in which no one has to register for the draft.
The historical context of what necessity the American military draft is rooted in is important because it is not designed to be arbitrary – it exists to ensure that American sovereignty can be defended. This shows to prove that while there is the verbal sentiment of draft equality, the actual progress toward such goals is not the primary goal of the average feminist. Ideas and theoretical methods change through the years, but the overall outcome is the same: no push for equality. An advocate of equality of the sexes should push to revive the Draft Our Daughters Act, but that is not on the agenda.
More examples can be found in non-political scenarios. Car insurance companies in all states except Montana have the legal authority to price discriminate between men and women when providing coverage. An interesting part of the justification by large insurance companies is, “If you’re a guy, all this really means is that a female clone of yourself would likely pay less for car insurance,” explicitly saying that there is sexist discrimination even among equal drivers of different sexes. This inherently sexist system is also not subject to feminist attention because it benefits women.
In this example, the justification is the central argument – not the fact that there’s price discrimination. Legalized price discrimination occurs because insurance companies cited statistical studies showing men are more prone to accidents. Yet statistics undoubtedly has also been the justification of many policies with which many feminists presumably do not agree, such as TSA and government profiling.
This raises the issue of consistency. Discrimination based on statistics is a dangerous slippery slope, and that is the exact argument opponents of TSA-profiling tout. However, to accept the very act of price discriminating in the car insurance market leads to justifications by businesses of pricing goods and services differently based on what sex you are. The negligence of the feminist movement to not push for this essential equality could be the product of either the lack of desire to pay more for car insurance, or a simple acceptance of this inherently sexist system because it is beneficial to women.
Of course, one of the central rational expectations that should arise from the word “feminist” is a lengthy campaign to end the inequalities listed above – but ironically, that is not the case.
The word “feminist” is not the end-all-be-all indicator of the equality of the sexes, and it does not mean that those who are not feminists are sexist. In fact, the larger argument against feminism is that what feminism means and what feminist movements do are starkly different. Equality is equality. It is not possible or equitable to pick and choose when we want certain groups to be equal. Those who truly want to champion the movement for equality but use the label “feminist” do not quite understand the inconsistencies of the modern feminist movement itself.