Opinion: The rights of a man

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

One common thing you often hear is that in America we live in a patriarchy. Many believe women are universally oppressed under “patriarchy” and the normalization of “hegemonic masculinity” in our culture, politics, economics and so forth.

However, the only people that can actually believe we live in a patriarchy are those who are woefully unaware of men’s issues in today’s society. In many ways, society isn’t equal between the genders, but it isn’t always men who have the upper hand.

There are many ways that men have it worse than women on average in America today, but I will stick with a single, major area for this article: selective service.

To start off, men do not have citizenship status as women. This may seem paradoxical, but the truth of the matter is that there exists something called Selective Service System of the U.S. government.

Basically, the system is used to collect names for the U.S. government so that if — or when — the need ever arises, the names of young men are on hand to be drafted into the military for compulsory service. Women are, in all cases, exempt from the draft.

Because Selective Service is tied to citizenship law, this leads to a weird system. Namely, failure to submit your name as a young man within 30 days before or after your 18th birthday is a federal felony.

Without registering for the draft, you are ineligible for government student aid or loans, immigrant men cannot be given citizenship, you can’t receive federal jobs or job training and, in some states and cases, you can’t receive state government jobs or register to vote in.

If found guilty of knowingly failing to register, you obviously could lose your voting right and be subject to a fine of up to $250,000. The list of penalties goes on and on, but they all have the same end.

The government doesn’t really want to use these penalties and laws; they just want young men to submit their names. The risk of the rigid and dire penalties is intended to be the motivation to comply, and rarely used as the bludgeon to punish non-compliance. As the official Selective Service System site puts it, “REGISTER: It’s What a Man’s Got to Do. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s the Law.”

Now, I foresee the critical response that says, “But there hasn’t been a draft in decades. What’s the big deal?”

It is true that there hasn’t been a draft since Vietnam. However, that doesn’t mean that there never will be one again, and any honest look at the world shows America could enter into another Vietnam from Iran to North Korea. Ignite a powder keg in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Korea or the South China Sea, and the possibilities for a draft are very real.

But moreover, is it really fair to tie just under half of all U.S. citizenship to the registration for any possible compulsory military service? Is that equality under the law?

Conditional citizenship, withheld government benefits, restriction to employment, conditional suffrage — if this was any other group of Americans other than men, we’d be tempted to call it second-class citizenship status.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].