In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Father Christmas gives gifts to the Pevensie children, he gives both Susan and Lucy weapons. He cautions them, however, only to use them for self-defense in great need; he did not intend for them to use them in battle. This was no comment on their bravery, however: as Father Christmas explained, “battles are ugly when women fight.”
Battles are ugly when anyone fights, and Lewis, a survivor of the First World War, knew that. He was, through Father Christmas, getting at something deeper: that battles were particularly ugly when women were drawn in. It’s a position drawn from the Christian idea that men and women are fundamentally different, and that when God created male and female He didn’t simply toss together a collection of disparate traits. Men and women were created with distinct roles. Men were to provide first, women to nurture first. The difference in roles was reflected in the traits given to each gender: men, generally speaking, are physically larger and stronger, while women are able to give birth, and even slight differences in brain form and function suited men and women for their different roles. For millenia this difference in roles was also understood to mean that men had a duty to be the first to face danger in defense of their family, to sacrifice themselves if necessary, to allow women to be the caregivers they were designed to be.
This is what Lewis is referring to, and he’s right that it is particularly abominable when, in addition to the inherent ugliness of war, those designed to to give life and nurture it must take life or lose their own.
It was surprising, then, to hear three Republican presidential candidates at the New Hampshire debate speak in favor of expanding registration for the draft to women. Both already favored allowing women in combat roles, but this was something else entirely: opening combat roles to women applied only to women who chose to join the military, whereas the position advocated by Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio would, if the draft were ever reinstated, fundamentally change the distinction between men and women in American society. There would be no place for women who chose to live their lives in accordance with the longstanding normative gender role, while men who rejected their duty as guardians could cower at home while their sisters or daughters were forced to fight. It is the natural conclusion of a view of humankind that denies any functional difference between men and women, but it is no less wrong.
A country that forces women into danger when there is a man left alive is not a country worth fighting for. Unlikely as it is that the draft would ever be reinstated, Bush and Rubio’s position should be rejected. It is not pro-woman for those men to ask that women, designed to nurture, be forced into battle ahead of them, it is cowardly, and any man who would ask that is no man at all.