“On the Basis of Sex”: Why the ERA is still important for women and girls

Why do women still need the ERA? Won’t the placing of the word “sex” in the U.S. Constitution and providing for legal equality between the sexes just be used against us and provide no real benefit? Some, like our sisters in WoLF, think so. We think they are dead wrong on this one.


First we need to understand our past. The eagerness and utter blindness in which so many progressives have betrayed their principles and sold out the interests of women and girls in favor of a sex-denying gender identity ideology is not unprecedented in history. After the Civil War, the Abolitionist movement, the male comrades of the early suffragists and First Wave feminists betrayed their sisters by insisting that women, both Black and White, wait for our rights, and that only Black males should have their rights recognized. They ended up putting the word “male” in the Constitution for the first time, in the Fourteenth Amendment. Women were now explicitly non-citizens.

This split the movement, weakened both the feminist and anti-racist struggles, and led to some feminists incorporating racist ideology into their campaigns and for the first time opposing universal suffrage. This betrayal also delayed the victory for women’s suffrage until 1920. But, guess what, the word “male” is still in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Amendment that provides due process and equal protection of the laws. The Equal Rights Amendment is in part about a long overdue correction, to treat sex discrimination with the same seriousness and status as race discrimination under the highest law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.

Race and national origin discrimination claims benefit from what is called “strict scrutiny”–it is far easier under the Fourteenth Amendment to challenge discriminatory laws and practices based on race than on sex–and to do so everywhere in the country. And women still suffer from a ton of such practices. One of the biggest aspect of female oppression is we are poor and grossly underpaid. Poverty means that women often are forced to stay with abusive male partners or are vulnerable to being prostituted in order for them and their children to survive. We still have a largely sex-segregated workplace, with “men’s” jobs having higher status and pay. Women who entered the trades in the late 1970’s, were forced out a few years later largely as a result of sexual harassment. White women who work full-time earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns. For women of color it is far less. Women are over 62% of minimum wage workers.

And even in female-dominated professions, men make more than women do, with women nurses paid 10% less than the males, and women lawyers earning 83 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues. While we have laws against discrimination in employment and wage discrimination they have loopholes or may not be enforced. And these laws could be weakened or repealed at any time. A Constitutional Amendment has much more staying power.

Or take pregnant women workers. Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant women, especially those in low paid physically demanding jobs, are routinely fired or forced off the job. They are treated far worse than employees covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act suffering from a variety of medical conditions. Putting sex in the U.S. Constitution would make it far easier for those women to make their case.

The Equal Rights Amendment would give women an additional hook to challenge male violence against women in the universities and in the military. And women being denied access to contraception could challenge the double standard that allows Hobby Lobby to refuse to cover contraception while covering Viagra. And can it not be argued that it is sex discrimination for vasectomies to be perfectly legal and funded while abortion is not funded and instead even treated as a crime as many states are trying to do?

But what of the downside, that women-only spaces and programs might be eliminated? First, this is already happening under Title IX and in other areas of civil rights law, and through regulation, without the ERA. Should we then repeal Title IX or Title VII because the sex discrimination provisions can be used to eliminate the separate spaces and programs that women need? No, we need to fight against the use of “gender identity” to remove sex-based rights and we need to do so with or without the ERA.


Strict scrutiny doesn’t mean no distinction is possible. There is extensive case law holding that distinctions meant to address past discrimination of a historically disadvantaged group are allowed, or where there is a compelling reason to treat the groups differently. Female-only spaces and programs, including women-only scholarships, colleges, shelters, clinics, and training programs have compelling reasons justifying them, based on privacy, male violence, addressing past discrimination and other grounds. Same goes for women’s sports programs. The fight to defend affirmative action, for example, has been going on for decades and this is an area where men of color and women’s interests as a sex coincide.


It is quite telling that President Biden is all-in for eroding sex-based rights through support for an un-amended Equality Act and issuing Executive Orders that would have gender identity override sex, but can’t manage to tell the Archivist to publish the ERA. Women must expect and demand more.


It has been nearly one hundred years since the first version of the ERA was introduced in Congress in 1923 as the Lucretia Mott Amendment.  A century is too long to wait for equal rights based on sex under the Constitution. EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT NOW!

SISTERHOOD IS GLOBAL: The Feminist Strikes in Poland

Feminists in Struggle proudly hosts a panel of grassroots radical feminist activists from Poland to speak about their struggle.

About this event

Hear first hand reports about the challenges facing Polish radical feminists as they fight their anti-abortion right wing government on the one hand and gender ideologues on the other.

Saturday, June 5th, 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 1:00 p.m. Central time; 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.

SPEAKERS and TOPICS:

Hanka Kulikowska: “Broken dream of reproductive freedom. The rise and fall of Women’s Strike.”

Natalia: “Why Poland – a Catholic conservative country is embracing trans ideology? A paradox that’s not really a paradox.”

V.L.: “Lesbians in Poland, the law vs. real life.”

Michalina Bychenko: “Fandon, anime and cosplay culture influence on trans-identified and nonbinary identified popularity in Poland.”

Aleksandra: Radfem and left wing political parties in Poland.

Register for event

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day marks the second anniversary of the founding of Feminists in Struggle.  We have accomplished a lot in two short years, despite living through a pandemic this past year.  We have connected with other radical feminists, grown our organization and our network, and raised awareness and educated women with our Feminist Forums on topics such as defending women’s spaces from male violence, the ERA, the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, reproductive rights, and women’s sports.

We face more challenges ahead, fighting to preserve female-only spaces and programs that are our lifeline, demanding that the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act be adopted; working to get the ERA finally enshrined into the Constitution; defending abortion rights against the forces of the Religious Right and a conservative Supreme Court which is on the precipice of reversing Roe vs. Wade; fighting against pervasive male violence and the exploitation of our bodies and the glorification of prostitution and commercial surrogacy; dealing with the desperate poverty and greater burdens imposed on more and more women; and defending our right to think, speak, and organize as a sex without being threatened with violence or being fired from our jobs.

The good news is that we women, half the human race, the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters of all of humanity, subordinated by males through many millennia, are beginning once again to awake from slumber.  And once we open our eyes and find our voices, no one can shut our eyes or silence us.

The radical feminist movement that FIST is building along with many others is still small but we are now everywhere, in every corner of the globe. We are growing, and compared to a few years ago, more and more of us, despite the threats against us, are speaking out. Today there was a protest in Washington DC against Biden’s female-erasing Executive Order and to demand our sex-based rights. FIST was there, carrying our banner.  There are weekly international seminars by the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (of which FIST is a proud member) every single week, drawing 400 women from many countries; the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights now has over 15.600 individual signatories, from 129 countries, in collaboration with 314 organizations; the ERA was ratified; the LGB Alliance was launched; Argentina legalized abortion; legislation protecting women’s sports is being introduced in legislatures; and lawsuits are beginning to be filed by de-transitioners like Keira Bell.  The tide is beginning to turn.

And while it is not surprising that many of us are feeling battle weary, overwhelmed by the seemingly endless reach of our two enemies–those who would erase us and those who would enslave us, or feeling deeply saddened and demoralized by the sight of so many young girls mutilating their bodies and denying their sex, we need only remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants, suffragists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Christabel Pankhurst, and Alice Paul; and our sisters of the Second Wave, some we have lost like Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, and the many others still marching shoulder-to-shoulder with us.  They never gave up. Neither should we!

FIST reaches our hands across generations and in solidarity with all women fighting for our liberation, so we no longer feel so alone.

Please join us! We can do this, sisters!

ARGENTINA LEGALIZES ABORTION!

This is an historic day for feminism in Latin America–Argentina voted to decriminalize abortion, thanks to a growing feminist movement, despite tremendous opposition by the Catholic Church!

Please join us on January 23rd and our SPECIAL GUEST FROM ARGENTINA, Jimena Diaz, psychologist, feminist and women’s rights activist on the successful abortion rights struggle there!

Tickets available at Eventbrite, for $5.00. A few free tickets are also available but please pay if you can in order to help us continue to fight for women’s rights.

Forum on Reproductive Rights planned

The right of women to control our reproduction including the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy has never been in greater jeopardy since the Supreme Court first decided Roe vs. Wade 48 years ago.

Women are invited to join Feminists in Struggle for a Zoom interactive forum Our Bodies, Our Lives on January 23, 2021 on the struggle to save reproductive rights, led by a foremother of the movement, Carol Downer.

Carol Downer has been a leader in the reproductive rights movement for five decades. She started the Self-Help branch of the Women’s Health Movement. She was tried and acquitted of practicing medicine without a license in 1972. Her group, the Feminist Women’s Health Centers started and ran abortion clinics around the country. She presently is the vice-president on the board of 3 clinics in Northern California, Women’s Health Specialists. She has written several books, and is presently studying population control by government and how it perpetuates white supremacy and class privilege. She invites inquiries by those who want to join this study project.

Other speakers include:

SPECIAL GUEST FROM ARGENTINA ON THE SUCCESSFUL ABORTION RIGHTS STRUGGLE THERE: Jimena Diaz, psychologist, feminist and women’s rights activist.

Rochelle Glickman, long-time lesbian feminist and member of Feminists in Struggle

Tickets available at Eventbrite, for $5.00. A few free tickets are also available but please pay if you can in order to help us continue to fight for women’s rights.

U.S. Supreme Court Guts Women’s Rights

As soon as we were half-hopeful that despite our concerns about where the “transgender status” part of the Bostock decision might lead us, that at least lesbians might have gained some protection against discrimination, the situation quickly went downhill. The US Supreme Court issued two more decisions, voting to create religious exemptions the size of a Mack Truck into civil rights laws and went on to deny millions of women access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act. (Don’t worry, Viagra is still available.) Again, the employer’s “religious freedom” has turned female workers into wholly-owned subsidiaries of their employers, with the right to pry into their bedrooms and control what happens to their bodies. Dar Guerra, rad fem lawyer, writer and theoretician, puts this together brilliantly with her gallows humor in her latest blog piece. Please take a look.


Time to organize sisters!