Open Letter from Feminists in Struggle to the Interim Steering Committee of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA:  A Call for Unity among Radical Feminists in the Fight to Amend the Equality Act 

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.[1]  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

[1] 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.”

PRESERVING SEX BASED RIGHTS: FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT

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!

Featured Speakers:

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.

DON’T MOURN, ORGANIZE!

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we’ve lost an outspoken advocate for women who broke multiple barriers in the long fight to end discrimination on the basis of sex. Though she was no radical or revolutionary, she was in many ways both a product of decades of struggle for women’s rights as well as one of our most passionate proponents. And we have suffered this loss at a time when we are facing two enemies at the gate – one who will take advantage of this loss to swing the Court even more to the Right, putting in direct jeopardy Roe vs. Wade, lesbian/gay rights and the effort to finally enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment, already ratified by 38 states, into the U.S. Constitution in addition to disappearing sex as a protected class in language and in law in favor of “gender identity.”


Laws are passing in a number of states that will result in the most vulnerable groups of women–those escaping male partner violence, experiencing homelessness in shelters, or those who are in prison, having to share intimate congregate spaces with males. These women are poor, disproportionately women of color, and many have been victims of sexual and physical violence by men. Yet, women’s needs for privacy and a safe refuge from male violence and the ability to establish boundaries are being run roughshod over by an ideology that re-defines “women” and “men” as a set of stereotypes that a person of either sex can claim. Girls in middle and high school going through puberty are coming of age in a violently misogynist porn-soaked culture, are being taught that they are sexual objects that have no intrinsic value, that they have no right even to say “No,” as males enter their locker rooms and private spaces and take away their prizes and sports scholarships set aside for women and girls. No wonder so many girls decide that being female is not for them and ingest hormones and seek double mastectomies to ‘become men” or “nonbinary.”


And then there is the Equality Act that has already passed the U.S. House and is pending in the Senate that while providing long overdue statutory rights for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, would take away sex-based protections by redefining sex as “gender identity.” Even without the Equality Act, the Courts have already moved in that direction. While the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock ruled just this past June that employment discrimination based on an undefined “transgender status” was based in part of sex, the narrowness of the ruling did not prevent two lower courts from citing to Bostock to deny the existence of sex entirely. And though Title IX regulations explicitly allow separate bathroom and changing room facilities in schools based on sex, “sex” now has been redefined to mean “gender identity, ” with the Courts ruling that two girls who identified as boys that were denied access to the boys’ facilities were discriminated against based on “sex”.

In light of these developments, the approach taken by FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act remain essential. In order to avoid confusion and end subsuming the category of sex by “gender identity,” we need a bill with clear definitions of all the terms being used, and separate provisions protecting each class of persons, rather than merging distinct protections under the broad umbrella of “sex.” Rather than the amorphous and subjective concept of “gender identity,” people who do not conform to gender role norms should be protected from discrimination based on” sex stereotyping” whether they identify as transgender or not. Most importantly, we need a federal bill to spell out the rights of women and girls to separate spaces and programs.


FIST and the newly formed LGB Alliance USA are in the process of creating a broad coalition to advance the Feminist Amendments. Please sign on as an endorser and join the campaign!


Feminists across the globe including in the United States are starting to organize once again, asserting the primacy of our own rights and needs as a sex by demanding full civil rights protections under the law. We cannot let the courts, Congress, and state legislatures erode our sex-based rights, whether by restricting or outlawing abortion, eroding lesbian/gay rights, denying us the Equal Rights Amendment, or prohibiting female-only spaces, programs, and short-lists. The purpose of securing our rights is not to perpetrate discrimination of any kind; rather, it is to advance our status in society against continued systemic oppression based on sex.


Let’s honor the memory of RBG by committing ourselves to continuing the struggle for the sex-based rights of women and girls. DON’T MOURN, ORGANIZE!

A CENTURY AFTER WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE: THE STRUGGLE FOR THE ERA

Don’t miss this special Zoom event on Sunday, August 30th at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time.


Feminists in Struggle hosts:

A CENTURY AFTER WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE: THE STRUGGLE FOR THE ERA

This event will be a discussion and update on the struggle to enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. This special centennial program celebrates the 100th anniversary of the winning of women’s suffrage with a special forum on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Get your tickets here – only $5!

The ERA was introduced by Suffragist Alice Paul in 1920 to establish constitutionally protected sex-based rights of women against discrimination. It says simply “Equal rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.”

100 years later, the ERA has been ratified by the 38 states required and feminists are fighting a court battle against the archivist of the U.S. Constitution seeking that the ERA be certified and officially added to the federal constitution.

Speakers:

Kamala Lopez is an award-winning filmmaker, actress and activist.  Kamala co-wrote and produced the documentary, “Equal Means Equal” that documented sex inequality in the U.S. and the need for the ERA. The film won Best U.S. Documentary and was a New York TImes Critics’ Pick. The film was the catalyst behind a national movement resulting in the ratification of the ERA. Kamala is a recipient of the Woman of Courage Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Natalie White is a provocative and progressive feminist and artist and a crusader for women’s rights. In 2016 she led a 250 mile march from NYC to DC to raise awareness of the Equal Rights Amendment. The day after the march, she was arrested for painting “ERA NOW” on the U.S. Capitol steps. She is co-director of Equal Means Equal Organization with Kamala Lopez.

Ann Menasche is a civil rights lawyer. radical feminist and founding member of Feminists in Struggle. She marched in NYC on August 26, 1970 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage, an event that marked the beginnings of the Second Wave of Feminism. She is dedicated to preserving and expanding the sex-based rights of women and girls.

JOIN US FOR THIS IMPORTANT EVENT ON FINALLY WINNING CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN!!

California SB 132 Would Allow Trans-Identified Male Inmates to be Housed with Females

Feminists in Struggle, a nationwide feminist organization, strenuously opposes SB 132, a bill in the California legislature, “an act to add Sections 2605 and 2606 to the Penal Code, relating to corrections,” which would allow males who identify as transgender to be housed with the female population. This bill if enacted poses a grave risk to actual women, who comprise 52% of the general population and a growing percentage of the prison population.  SB 132 has already passed in the Senate and is due to be voted on imminently in the Assembly.

While we support and understand that the intent of this bill is to protect vulnerable trans-identified people, the actual result of this legislation would:

  • Allow ANY incarcerated male to CLAIM that he has a feminine “gender identity.”
  • Give any such incarcerated male the legal right to be housed at a women’s facility, even if he has been convicted of violent or sexual crimes against women.

This is a serious concern since studies indicate that males who transition retain the same patterns of male violence and criminality. A long-term study in Sweden found transwomen were 6 times more likely to commit any crime, and 18 times more likely to commit a violent crime, than female controls, and showed no evidence that identifying as a woman or undergoing sex reassignment surgery reduces the risk of male violence.  In the general population, violent crime is much more common among men than women, also putting women at much greater risk if males are housed with females.

To allow any male to claim a trans identity, with no biological requirements whatsoever, opens the door for sexual predators of various types, from voyeurs to rapists, to reinvent themselves as female by taking on female names and identities. Add to this the reality that the majority of female prisoners have been molested, raped, sexually assaulted, trafficked, coerced or forced into pornography and/or prostitution, and the potential harm to incarcerated women and girls is greatly increased if SB 132 becomes law.

It is unacceptable to endanger females in this way. Sex-segregation has long existed as a principle in human rights law, for reasons of privacy, safety, and dignity. We believe the onus must be on those seeking to change or abolish these principles to prove that doing so will not result in harm. Authors of SB 132 have not taken the requisite steps to provide such proof that SB 132 will not result in harm to female prisoners.

Additionally, where transgender self-ID policies have been allowed, such as in the UK, women have been raped, and assaulted. See: transgender inmate sexually assaults female prisoners; complaints from female prisoners leads to transgender prison wing; female prisoner files lawsuit for rape.

As written, this bill would violate the privacy, dignity, and safety of vulnerable women in prison.  We encourage feminists and allies to urge the California Assembly to vote NO on SB 132.

ERA NOW!! FIST SUPPORTS EME’S LAWSUIT

Even though the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified by the required 38th state on January 15, 2020, the Trump Administration’s justice department is holding it up from being recorded by the archivist so it can become part of the U. S. Constitution. To quote EME’s statement:

The lawsuit filed in January in U.S. District Court in Boston argues that congressionally imposed deadlines for states to ratify the ERA are unconstitutional and called on the courts to compel the Archivist of the United States to officially record ERA as the 28th amendment to the Constitution. The complaint also calls on the courts to reject any attempts by states to rescind their prior ratifications of the ERA. It is the first lawsuit regarding the newly ratified ERA to arrive in court, and the only ERA lawsuit brought entirely by women.

We at Feminists in Struggle support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment because women are discriminated against because of our sex.  We endure sexual assault, harassment, domestic abuse, job discrimination, and unequal pay simply due to being female, We are the only group that is not recognized in the federal constitution, and the only remedy to all of the assaults on women’s reproductive rights, bodily sovereignty, agency, freedom, and dignity is to record the ratification of the ERA into the U. S. Constitution so that it can finally become the law of the land.

We fully support Equal Means Equal’s Amicus Brief and the lawsuit filed in January calling on the courts to compel the archivist to officially record the ERA as the 28th amendment to the Constitution.  We need to finish the job of establishing equality under the law by finally ratifying the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).

Supreme Court Ruling: Cause for Celebration and Concern

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a surprise 6 to 3 decision written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch in three cases interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act banning sex discrimination in employment, The first two cases involved gay men who lost their jobs for being gay (Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express Inc. v Zarda) and the third involved a transgender-identified male who was fired upon announcing he was “transitioning” and would be returning to work in women’s garb (Harris Funeral Homes vs. EEOC.).

First the good news. The Court held that discrimination based on homosexuality was covered under Title VII as a form of sex discrimination since it is intrinsically tied to biological sex. This means that after many decades of struggle, lesbians and gay men finally now have federal civil rights protection against job discrimination. Also, the interpretation of Title VII is so broad that sex-based dress and grooming codes and discrimination based on all forms of gender non-conformity may be successfully challenged in the future, something important to feminists.

The decision in the Harris case is far more problematic for feminists concerned abut the maintenance of sex-based rights. True, Judge Gorsuch did not fully embrace transgender ideology,; he did not deny the existence of sex; he didn’t use the popular expression among transactivists, “assigned at birth”, and instead, referred to “observed sex at birth.”, But he did refer to Stephens as “she” and find transgender status to be a form of sex discrimination.

Though the Court limited its ruling to firing someone based on homosexual and transgender status, and stated that the Court was not ruling on single sex bathrooms and changing rooms, we do indeed have to worry about the future.  Title VII law has a strong influence on the interpretation of Title IX and other Civil rights statutes. Even getting the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution as currently written will be a double edged sword, since sex and transgender status are now merged. Fighting for legislation that spells out sex-based rights to female-only spaces and programs, as FIST did in its proposed Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, has become in light of this decision, more important than ever.

FIST LAUNCHES ENDORSEMENT DRIVE FOR FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT!

Now individuals and organizations can endorse the Feminist Amendments quickly and easily on FIST’s website.  Check out our Feminist Amendments page here on our website and sign up right away as an endorser by clicking the link!

As soon as we are out of lock-down due to the Corona virus, we plan on doing public events and coordinating lobbying efforts to advocate an approach to the Equality Act that preserves and expands women’s sex-based rights while ensuring that everyone’s rights are protected, including the rights of lesbians, gay men, and all gender non-conforming people.

However, no reason to wait to get involved! Getting endorsements online can be done now from your living room.    Please help us with our Feminist Amendments campaign by spreading the word, gathering endorsements, donating to FIST,  purchasing some of our cool merchandise and of course joining us by becoming a member!

A New Way Forward for Feminism

How do feminists most effectively fight gender identity ideology as it becomes more and more enshrined into our laws, such as the female-erasing provisions of the U.S. Equality Act pending in Congress? Should we simply oppose “gender identity” as a single issue, narrowly defined?  Or should we fight to defend women’s sex-based rights while at the same time advocating for federal civil rights protection against discrimination for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and others who do not conform to stereotypes imposed on their sex?   What is the most effective strategy for fighting against the current version of the Equality Act while advancing our feminist vision for changing society? Is merging messaging with the Christian Right helpful or harmful to achieving our goals? How can we rebuild a radical feminist movement strong enough to defeat all our enemies, both the transactivists who would erase us and the Religious Right who would enslave us?

These are some of the issues that Ann Menasche, founding member of Feminists In Struggle (FIST), grapples with in her New Radical Feminist Approach to Challenging Gender Identity Ideology: The Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act” published in Redline. Menasche jumps into the debate within the burgeoning new women’s liberation movement, regarding conflicting strategies put forward by FIST and WoLF.  She argues that campaigns to defend women’s sex-based rights should be combined with a challenge to gender itself by opposing both homophobia and sex stereotyping.   She explains how the Feminist Amendments do just that, an approach precluded by WoLF’s orientation toward alliances with the organized Christian Right.

“FIST’s strategy emphasizes winning the battle of ideas within the whole society…the same strategy that won women the vote and resulted in the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States,” writes Menasche. “These victories were not gifts bestowed from on high but were won by mass struggle of millions of women. We believe that such a strategy is ultimately more decisive in achieving the changes that we currently seek as compared to a focus on lobbying politicians in the two corporate parties or playing one wing of patriarchy against the other.”

Defend Feminists – Important Update

We wish to share an important update re defending feminists in the wake of the threats made against women and the library at the Seattle WoLF event.  The threats against Thistle Pettersen had subsided, but now have escalated again at of all things, a meeting of an anti-war coalition, supposedly dedicated to peace.

We wonder why those on the Left are going along with this outrageous behavior directed at gender-critical feminists and when they are going to stand up against it?!  The so-called “activists” and others in official capacities in Madison, Wisconsin have a lot to answer for when they turn a blind eye and deaf ear towards criminal threats.

Please see:  Inciting Violence Has No Place on the Left