FIST submits written testimony on Title IX

Here is the letter FIST submitted on June 11, 2021 to the Department of Justice to support preservation of sex based rights of women and girls under Title IX:  Written Comment: Title IX Public Hearing (gender identity and rights of women and girls).


Feminists in Struggle (“FIST”) is a women’s liberation organization focused on protecting the rights and advancing the interests of women. We are concerned that Executive Order 13988 will be interpreted and applied in such a way as to disadvantage women and girls as a sex in academic environments. Although the rights of transgender-identifying males do not need to infringe on the rights of girls and women, when gender identity and sex are conflated and gender identity is allowed to override or supplant sex, the two are in conflict. Since the objective of Title IX is to advance the status of those oppressed on the basis of their sex (i.e. women), FIST advocates an application of the Executive Order that does not compromise this objective. Our recommendation for fulfilling the directives of the Executive Order is as follows:


Sex-separated sports must remain an option for all students. This means that all students have the option to compete against only members of their own biological sex. Membership in these sports groups should not be attained by identifying as transgender or non-binary. The OCR should also direct schools to create co-ed sports groups and opportunities that are opt-in for students. This application of the Executive Order has many advantages that the previous applications of similar directives (the Obama Administration’s Dear Colleague letter of 2016) lack.


First, such a policy would preserve fairness in women’s sports. The differences between the physical capabilities of males and females are multifarious. On average, women have smaller bodies, less maximum oxygen consumption, smaller and shorter bones, and a lower ratio of muscle mass to body weight. As a result of these physical differences, among many others, men are almost always faster and stronger than women within their peer group, while women have greater balance, flexibility, and endurance than their male peers. Under the Dear Colleague guidance of 2016, sports did not remain sex-separated, and transgender identifying male students were allowed to compete against female students. They exploited their natural biological advantages in strength, speed, and size to claim prizes that would have otherwise been won by female students. Female students missed out on qualifying spots for higher competitions, chances to compete in front of college recruiters, and scholarship opportunities. In contact sports such as soccer and wrestling, the safety of female students is compromised in addition to fairness, as women are lighter and weaker than their male counterparts and more prone to musculoskeletal injuries. Female-only teams are also important because women and girls still have less opportunity to participate in sports and develop their potential as compared to their male counterparts. By preserving sex-separated sports as an option for all students, this application of Executive Order 13988 will preserve fairness and safety for female students, which should be a guiding principle for Title IX.


The creation of opt-in co-ed sports groups will also have many benefits. For one, it will reduce the “othering” of trans-identifying students and create a positive social environment in which they can compete. Because all participation is voluntary and open, the value of fairness is not an expectation in these sports groups, so it is not compromised by the presence of individuals of either sex. When the presence of trans-identifying male athletes is no longer a threat to sporting values such as fairness and safety, they can more freely enjoy the social, emotional, and physical benefits of sports.

FIST also suggests that the Executive Order be applied in such a way that maintains female students’ right to sex-separated spaces such as restrooms and changing rooms where women and girls are in a state of undress and need their privacy and safety protected. Male children are more likely to engage in unprovoked physical aggression than are female children, and male people overall commit the majority of sex crimes, including rape. Victims of sex crimes are largely female. The data available regarding the crime rate for trans-identifying males is limited, but the data that does exist shows that such males commit these crimes at the same rate as other males (i.e. retain a pattern of male criminality). Because of these factors, sex-separated spaces play a key role in preventing sexual assault and harassment in schools, which is a primary objective of Title IX.

FIST recommends that girls continue to have access to female-only restrooms, and that all students including trans-identifying individuals, have access to a gender-neutral restroom. This application of Executive Order 13988 will reduce sexual harassment of trans-identifying students while also protecting the privacy and safety of female students.


In the event that the OCR chooses not to follow FIST’s recommendation on the application of Executive Order 13988, it is imperative that data be collected on the results of this change. FIST demands that the impact on female students be measured. Data such as female participation rates in sports, as well as the number of prizes collected by trans-identifying males competing in female sporting events, should be gathered. Incidents of sexual assault and harassment in schools should be collected and aggregated by place of assault, sex of victim and perpetrator, and gender identity (if any) of victim and perpetrator. Surveys should also be conducted to determine whether female students’ attitude towards the school or sporting environment have changed, particularly female students’ feelings about their own safety within school and fairness within their sports. This data is important public health information that can be used to guide policy in the future.


Respectfully submitted,
Feminists in Struggle
June 11, 2021

“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!

Coalition for the Feminist Amendments submits written comments to the Judiciary Committee

Our Coalition made a concerted effort to contact the Senators on the Judiciary Committee to press for an opportunity to testify at the Judiciary Committee hearing in order to present a feminist and LGB perspective on the Equality Act and the need to amend the bill. However, feminist voices critical of female erasure were not to be found. Abigail Shrier was the only witness that exposed the bill’s threat to women and girls, without throwing in right-wing talking points like “religious freedom” or opposition to abortion. However, two of our Coalition members, Callie Burt, and Lynette Hartsell, were able to submit written testimony.
Below is testimony from Lynette Hartsell of LGB Alliance USA. The testimony of Callie Burt can be found here.

Re: Testimony of M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA and the Coalition for Feminists Amendments– Equality Act: AMEND AND PASS

March 17, 2021

The Honorable Richard Durbin
Chair, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The Honorable Charles Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Dear Senators Durbin and Grassley,
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present this written testimony regarding the Equality Act.


LGB Alliance USA is part of an international group of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals living in the United States. We define ourselves in terms of same-sex sexual orientation. Sex, not “gender.”
The Coalition for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (CoFA) is a national alliance of individuals and organizations representing feminists as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
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.

However, the Equality Act’s attempt to protect transgender-identified individuals from discrimination—by redefining sex to ”include sexual orientation and gender identity,” and by replacing “sex” in civil rights laws with “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity),” creates ambiguity, confusion, and introduces a conflict between the sex-based rights of women, long acknowledged in the law, and claims recently being raised based on gender identity as a rationale for overriding separate provisions. The Equality Act as written then enshrines as law this premise that self-declaration of one’s gender identity takes primacy over biological sex.


Clearly, sex is not “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
Merging two distinct groups—who possess different sets of experiences and needs, as well as unique histories of discrimination and marginalization—is detrimental to preserving human rights protections currently afforded to females as a uniquely subjugated class.

More importantly, “gender” or “gender identity” is conflated with “sex” throughout the bill without clearly defining either term. 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, and is generally based upon discriminatory sex stereotypes that feminists have been working to abolish for decades. This subjectivity opens a loophole ripe for abuse and provides no objective test useful to a court, which will ultimately litigate the conflicts sure to arise from this legislation.


As written, the Equality Act erases sex as a protected class in law, weakening protections as well as undermining the existing rights of females as a unique class and will erase the progress women have made toward achieving equality with men.


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 as well as in jobs and professions traditionally held by men
• Eradicate competitive women’s sports by undermining Title IX protections
• Make it impossible to track (and remedy) disparity between the sexes, such as the pay gap and domestic violence, which is overwhelmingly male violence against women
• Prevent the gathering of accurate crime, health, and medical research statistics


It is not necessary to erase or redact sex in the law in order to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and gender non-conforming people, whether trans-identified or not; in fact, to erase or obfuscate the definition of sex renders it impossible to address sex discrimination or to protect sexual orientation.


These conflicts must be addressed. Failure to do so will threaten long-settled statutory and case law developed to protect the rights of females as a distinctive class. Our amendments provide a solution.


Like the Equality Act, the Feminist Amendments expand civil rights laws to cover lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender-identified people, and other individuals who don’t conform to gender stereotypes (social roles traditionally imposed based on one’s sex), while continuing to uphold sex-based protections. In doing so, everyone’s concerns and rights to privacy are protected.


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, including transgender-identified people, without 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.


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-identified people—from discrimination in employment, education, housing, credit, jury service and in places of public accommodation.
These amendments also allow for the establishment of “gender-neutral” (mixed-sex) 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.

Female-only facilities, groups, and spaces 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 is 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 women and girls 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 healthcare and medical research, where maintaining accurate information about a person’s sex is vital, even life-saving.


One hundred years after women’s suffrage, women are still 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.


The world is watching. Will the United States remain a leader for women’s rights and the rights of the LGB community, or will Congress replace biology and science by redefining sex to include fictions created on the fly by anyone, at any time, for any reason?
I respectfully submit the above to the Judiciary Committee and request that this document and the Feminists Amendments  be included in the record for consideration by the Committee.

M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA
Co-Chair of Coalition for Feminist Amendments
Cedar Grove, North Carolina
US-lgb-alliance@protonmail.com
@LGBAlliance_USA

Women Picket DC Event on International Women’s Day

 

Feminists in Struggle endorsed and attended the Women Picket DC Event organized by members of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign on March 8th to protest Biden’s Executive Order eroding women’s sex-based rights and his abysmal handling of the ERA, and to proclaim that woman=adult human female and the oppression of women is based on sex, not gender ‘identity.’

Sisterhood is powerful!

 

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!

We Urge the U.S. Senate to Amend the Equality Act

We urge the U. S. Senate to amend the Equality Act by adopting the provisions in the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act.  We fully support the Equality Act’s goals of ensuring that LGBT people are protected from discrimination, harassment, and violence. These protections are long overdue. However, the bill as currently written would eliminate sex as a protected category under federal law — a move that would have dire consequences for the sex-based rights of women and girls. This redefinition would also erase the basis for same-sex attraction, undermining the very protections for sexual orientation that the Equality Act claims to enshrine.

Eliminating sex as a protected class, as the Equality Act currently proposes, would mean removing the ability of the law to ‘see’ sex — including sexual orientation — and thus remove the ability of the law to address injustice, discrimination, and inequality rooted in sex and sexual orientation. By making self-declaration what determines whether someone is considered male or female, the Equality Act would radically remake US law, making gender self-identity the criteria for accessing all female facilities, being housed in female domestic violence shelters and prisons, competing in female sports, representing female people, and defining ‘same-sex’ orientation.

Sex, gender, and sexual orientation refer to different characteristics, different experiences, and refer to distinct groups with different needs. These differences matter. And the law—and our lawmakers—should not pretend otherwise. In settings where sex matters, the law needs to make it clear that how a person identifies is not conflated with nor should it override biological sex. In settings where sexual orientation matters, sex must be the basis on which same-sex attraction is defined. That’s why the language has to be clear.

For these reasons, we urge the Senate to take a closer look at the Equality Act, hold hearings and support sensible amendments to the Equality Act so sex remains a recognized and protected class under law. We support amendments that would protect sex (biological sex), sexual orientation, and sex-role nonconformity separately, as put forward in the Feminist Amendments . It is simply not necessary to redefine sex in the law in order to protect transgender and other gender non-conforming people from discrimination and harassment, as the Equality Act seeks to do. The Feminist Amendments provide a more equitable way forward that protects everyone’s rights.

We also urge you to call for an open dialogue as we navigate these complicated issues and seek to develop protections that will work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as women and girls. Unfortunately, the process so far — including previous iterations of the Equality Act introduced and passed in the House of Representatives, and the House moving directly to a floor vote without further inquiry — have not met this standard, failing to consider potential unintended consequences of erasing sex in the law and shutting out the perspectives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual advocates. The current Equality Act is not the product of democratic debate and public inquiry but of policy capture, written by lobbyists working out of the public view. This is part of a worldwide lobbying effort that tethers radical changes — the erasure of sex in the law — to popular and necessary reforms like extending protections for LGBT people. Equality for LGBT people doesn’t look like this.

We believe that we can and must amend the Equality Act to protect the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to safety, dignity, and freedom from discrimination while preserving the sex-based rights of women and girls and the ability of the law to ‘see’ sex. Please help facilitate an open dialogue about how the Equality Act can best advance the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, with a full airing of how the rights of other protected classes, especially women and girls, will be affected.

For more information, see the video: Preserving Sex-Based Rights

Actions to Take In Response to Biden’s Executive Order and Imminent Introduction of the Equality Act

Since the first day of the Biden administration, developments have come thick and fast regarding attacks on and attempts to protect single-sex programs and facilities for women and girls. FIST encourages everyone who cares about the legal rights of women and girls to contact Congress, the White House, and the federal agencies to demand the protection of our legal rights to single-sex sports teams, scholarships, prisons, shelters, and other facilities.

Reach out to the White House and social media, to your U.S. Representatives and Senators, and to the federal agencies. Letters, emails, phone calls,and demands for in-person meetings with your U.S. Representatives and Senators are all needed.

Regarding the Equality Act: Write and call your Senators and Representatives, urging them to support the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act. Here is a sample letter.

The website The US Equality Act continues to grow and to be a valuable resource. The site includes much good explanation of how the Equality Act and Biden’s January 20 “Executive Order on Preventing & Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” will harm women and girls and need to be amended, revised, or applied by federal agencies to preserve the Congressional intent behind Title IX.

 The US Equality Act site also has lots of guidance and sample material for sending letters to Congress and to the federal agencies tasked with applying the Executive Order. Most recently two new sample letters were added:

One for Speaker Nancy Pelosi

And one for the Bureau of Prisons

FIST Interviewed in Major News Source

One of Feminists in Struggle’s members was interviewed by RT in an article entitled, There is a major split in the LGBTQ community between the letter L and the letter T.  We are heartened to see that there are more reporters covering the effects of the trans agenda on members of the female sex.  The article covers the “alphabet soup” that now is being used to represent the ever-growing permutations of gender ‘identity,’ touches on the Spanish feminist leader Lidia Falcon O’Neill who likens the fascists of the Franco regime with the current transgender rights activists, the Christian Right’s opportunism, and trans-identified males participating in women’s sports.

Our FIST spokesperson represented us well and pointed out that:

“What males who identify as women are ‘feeling’ is they are identifying with sex stereotypes about how women are supposed to dress and behave in the world. Feminists reject these stereotypes.”