On this the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we wish to remember and honor all of the natal women whose lives have been lost due to male violence. Men murdering women is a pandemic of its own, and we must raise the alarm! Women Count USA has been documenting this outrage and the numbers are overwhelming: 3, moving to 4, women A DAY are murdered by men, that’s 21-28 women A WEEK, 90-120 women A MONTH, and 1095-1460 A YEAR! This outrage must end and the only way it will is if men are held accountable for their criminal conduct and if men begin to hold themselves and other men accountable for their acts of violence against women.
The Interim Steering Committee (ISC) of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) recently released the “Equality for All Act,” its own version of an amended Equality Act (EA). The EA is a bill pending in Congress that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” as protected sub-classes under the category of “sex” in federal discrimination laws. Radical feminists agree that the current version of the bill undermines women’s rights. We are glad to see that the movement has come together to support the idea of amending the bill, rather than calling for a “no” vote as WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front) appeared to do in previous Congressional hearings, and that we agree on several other important points regarding how the bill should be amended or rewritten.
We are also heartened to know that virtually our entire movement including the ISC has now taken a stand in support of including sexual orientation and sex stereotyping protections, separate from sex, in the Equality Act, and everyone also supports the closing of religious loopholes to civil rights enforcement contained in the original bill. However, we feel obligated to point out that the revision of the bill that the ISC has produced is less comprehensive and actually far less protective of the sex-based rights of women and girls than FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act that pre-date ISC’s version by more than a year. We also must object to the undemocratic process that ISC has engaged in that excluded FIST as an organization from having a place at the table, even though FIST is an early endorser of the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, expressed its desire to be part of a U.S. Chapter, and requested to be included in these discussions.
As many radical feminists and our male allies know, the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act were drafted by a FIST committee of three lawyers and approved following discussion and vote of the democratic body of active FIST members known as the Feminist Assembly. The FAEA, along with in-depth explanation of their necessity and the changes they make to the proposed Equality Act, can be read here: https://feministstruggle.org/faea/. We have several organizations on board as endorsers including the LGB Alliance USA, the Georgia Green Party, and XX Amazons and a total of 146 signers on our website. We have formed a coalition that we have named the Coalition for the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (“CoFA”) which has already held several meetings. CoFA held a forum on November 14th in which more than 150 people participated, and just sent by U.S. mail a letter to all 100 members of the Senate urging them to support the Feminist Amendments. That letter has been publicly shared at https://lgballianceusa.substack.com/p/amend-the-us-equality-act.
We believe that the approach of FIST’s Feminist Amendments is significantly more protective of sex-based rights than ISC’s draft bill for two reasons: (1) the Feminist Amendments spell out that female-only spaces and programs do not constitute discrimination based on sex or sex stereotyping; and (2) the Feminist Amendments make robust findings about the subordinate status of women in society, the pervasive nature of male violence, and the need for women-only spaces and programs in the interests of achieving true equality for the female sex.
We want to emphasize that we do not see any principled differences between FIST’s and ISC’s two approaches to the Equality Act, only tactical and strategic ones. We are all sisters (and brother allies) here in the same movement. We need each other’s support, respect, and solidarity. Because to our dismay the door to dialogue between our two groups has been closed thus far, we can only speculate as to why the ISC felt compelled to create its own amendments, reinventing the wheel so to speak, as ISC’s draft bill in many respects mirrors our own, though a pared-down version of the original. The only reasons we can come up with is our use of the word “transgender,” and the comprehensive nature of our approach that might have struck some as overly ambitious.
In our opinion, it is a serious mistake for the ISC Amendments to have failed to include a provision stating that the existence of female-only spaces and programs does not constitute sex or sex stereotyping discrimination. Despite the fact that the Equality Act has not yet become law, two federal appellate decisions have extended the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision to hold that it is discrimination based on “sex “ and “sex stereotyping” under Title IX to deny access to sex separated restrooms on the basis of “gender identity.” The Feminist Amendments clearly define “transgender” (a sub-group of gender non-conforming people with a certain belief system that feminists reject) and strip the term down to size. We do not treat transgender in itself as either a class or a sub-class with special legal protections. Rather, while the Feminist Amendments do recognize the basic human rights of people who identify as transgender–the same rights that should be provided to all people who do not conform to sex stereotypes—the FAEA’s definition of “transgender” and inclusion of protection for female-only spaces and programs, render the ideology harmless with respect to women’s sex-based rights under federal law.
We believe that if, on the other hand, we ignore transgenderism as the ISC does in its proposed bill, it will come back in far more dangerous ways. For example, the courts could continue to conflate sex and gender identity, decide to define “transitioning” to mean one can change his or her sex, and/or rule that denying access to female-only spaces for males who identify as women is discriminatory based on sex and sex stereotyping.
In the interests of developing greater unity and collaboration among radical feminists and our allies in the fight to amend the Equality Act, we make the following proposals:
- That a dialogue be begun between representatives of CoFA and the ISC to explore the differences between our two proposals and whether or not it is possible to unite around the broader coalition effort supporting the Feminist Amendments;
- If it is not possible to work together in support of the Feminist Amendments, that we discuss how best to approach members of Congress and the public in a way that is respectful of and does not undermine each other’s efforts.
In sisterhood and solidarity,
Feminists in Struggle
 The FAEA define “transgender” as follows: “TRANSGENDER. –Transgender is a term adopted by a subset of people who do not conform to sex stereotypes commonly associated with their biological sex and who may hold a deeply personal sense of identity that conflicts with or denies their biological sex.”
CoFA’s first action after the forum was to send through U.S. mail to each member of the Senate requesting that they consider the Feminist Amendments and provide us with an opportunity to testify for these amendments. The letter is below. CoFA welcomes more volunteers as this campaign has just begun. CoFA needs feminists and our allies to call their Senators and Congress members and build our base of supporters. If you have not yet endorsed the Feminists Amendments, please sign onto the endorsement page on FIST’s website, . And spread the word!
If interested in getting involved in the coalition, please email CoFA.
November 16, 2020
To members of the U.S. Senate,
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted her life to fighting for legal protections on the basis of biological sex. Congress should honor that legacy, and the legacy of so many other women who’ve fought to secure our rights, but most importantly, Congress has a duty to uphold our most basic human rights protections. The current version of the Equality Act (HR 5), now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee, will risk erasing sex as a protected class in law, weakening protections and undermining the existing rights of females as a unique class, and the progress that’s been made toward achieving equality.
The Coalition for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (“CoFA”) is a national alliance of feminist and LGB organizations and individuals. We write to urge hearings on our proposal to amend the Equality Act (to receive testimony on its many problematic provisions), and to provide vital input on how those issues may be fixed. The Feminist Amendments expands civil rights laws to cover lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, and other individuals who don’t conform to gender stereotypes (roles traditionally imposed based on one’s sex), while continuing to uphold sex-based protections. In doing so, everyone’s rights are protected.
We support many of the positive provisions put forth by the Equality Act. Federal statutory protections for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals based on sexual orientation are long overdue. We applaud the closure of the loophole that allows the use of religious freedom as legal grounds to allow any person to flout civil rights laws.
At the same time, the Equality Act’s attempt to protect transgender individuals from discrimination — through the creation of “gender identity” as a protected class — creates ambiguity, confusion, and a conflict of rights that must be addressed. The term “gender identity” is subjective, in that it describes a state of mind that may or may not be manifested in dress, grooming, or behavior. This subjectivity opens a loophole ripe for abuse. As it’s used in HR-5, the term provides no objective test useful to a court, which will ultimately litigate the conflicts sure to arise from this legislation. Failure to address these conflicts will threaten long-settled statutory and case law developed to protect the rights of females as a distinctive class.
More importantly, “gender” or “gender identity” is conflated with “sex” throughout the bill, and risks eliminating sex as a protected class in civil rights law. Merging two distinct groups — who have different sets of experiences, discrimination and marginalization — is detrimental to preserving human rights protections currently afforded to females as a uniquely subjugated class.
Female only facilities are an important legacy of women’s organizing, key to the protection of the female sex against male-pattern violence and to the broader participation of women in public life. It’s vital that these basic human rights provisions remain in place.
Male-pattern violence against females is so well-documented that Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in an attempt to protect them from sexual and physical assault. However, such predatory violence remains pervasive as demonstrated by the “Me Too” movement and numerous well-documented instances of such violations by males in the entertainment business, the military, and even Congress. A Swedish study showed that this pattern of behavior is not mitigated by male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.
Moreover, the current bill’s “gender identity” provisions require that males who identify as women, including those with intact male genitalia (85-90% of males who identify as women retain male genitalia), must be admitted, solely on the basis of “self-identification,” into female facilities, such as, rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, prisons, hospital rooms, communal showers, changing rooms, restrooms, and nursing homes.
Social scientists and international policy bodies have underscored the importance of maintaining separate statistics based on sex, as a key means of tracking disparities between the sexes, recording accurate data, and measuring our progress on addressing sex-based discrimination. In addition, there are multiple instances, such as within the context of health care, where having accurate information about a person’s sex, is vital, even life-saving.
By eliminating sex as a protected class, the bill, as currently written, would:
· Undermine targeted remedies for the exclusion or under-representation of women and girls in education, and in jobs and professions traditionally held by men
· Eradicate competitive women’s sports by undermining Title IX protections
· Make it impossible to measure (and remedy) disparity between the sexes, such as the pay gap and domestic violence
· Prevent the gathering of accurate crime and health statistics
See attached fact sheets for more information on the impact of erasing sex as a protected class in civil rights law, by allowing the concept of “gender” or “gender identity” to override “sex.”
The Feminist Amendments eliminate “gender identity” and instead establish two new categories in civil rights law: “sexual orientation” and “sex-stereotyping.” Doing so more effectively protects all classes, while not negating sex-based protections.
These amendments contain clear definitions of “sex” and “sex-stereotyping,” that will preserve female facilities and programs, allowing women and girls to participate fully in public life. (See attached.)
At the same time, the Feminist Amendments protect lesbians, gay men, bisexuals (and all people who don’t conform to imposed gender roles and stereotypes), including transgender people, from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and in places of public accommodation.
These amendments also allow for the establishment of “gender neutral” facilities for individuals who may feel safer or more comfortable in such spaces, so long as the availability and access to female only facilities is not diminished. Thus, these amendments allow each protected class to continue to make progress toward achieving true equality.
One hundred years after women’s suffrage, women still get paid less, are denied equal opportunities in the workplace, and continue to be underrepresented in many fields and positions of economic and political leadership in our society, because of their sex. Females still suffer disproportionately from domestic violence and rape because of their sex. Discrimination on the basis of sex will not end if we eliminate sex as a stand-alone protected class.
No Senate action should be taken on the Equality Act without hearings to gather evidence on the conflicts outlined in this letter. We offer the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act as our contribution to this much needed work.
We and members of our constituent organizations are prepared to sit down with you and members of your staff to discuss our concerns and appropriate strategies we might collaborate on to secure the hearing anticipated in the previous paragraph.
It is our fervent wish that you honor the legacy of our most revered jurist RBG by adopting the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act to continue her fight to protect women and girls on the basis of sex.
Ann Menasche, Feminists in Struggle
M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA
The Equality Act (HR 5) that passed the House and is now pending in the U.S. Senate is positive in that it adds federal statutory protections for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from discrimination and eliminates the use of religious freedom claims to challenge civil rights obligations. However, the bill defines sex as including “gender identity,” putting at risk the sex based rights of women and girls. The Feminist Amendments, drafted by a committee of attorneys from Feminists In Struggle (“FIST”) and approved by the membership, eliminates “gender identity” and instead establishes two new categories for civil rights protection: Sexual orientation and Sex Stereotyping. The Feminist Amendments also preserve female- only facilities, services and programs for reason of privacy and safety and advance the status of women and girls. Under the Amendments, transgender people as well as all people who do not conform to sex stereotypes are also protected from discrimination.
Please join us for this fascinating discussion on Preserving Sex-Based Rights on NOVEMBER 14th at 1 pm PST and consider joining the Coalition effort to pressure Congress to amend the Equality Act!
Ann Menasche – Feminists in Struggle and co-author of the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act
M. Lynette Hartsell – LGB Alliance USA
Tina Minkowitz – co-author of the Feminist Amendments
Callie Burt – Associate Professor, Georgia State University, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence (CRIV)
This forum is an interactive and organizing event. Attendees have an opportunity not only to hear interesting speakers but to meet each other, make comments, ask questions of the presenters, and discuss feminist politics together. We also tape the events with the tape only viewed by our FIST members. People in attendance are also free to shut off their cameras and mute themselves, should they prefer to do so. For the security of the event, we take attendance, and your name may be stated out loud. If you prefer to remain anonymous within the group, or plan to sign in under a different name from the name you have used for registration and purchase of your ticket, please contact the organizer prior to the event.