Feminists in Struggle (“FIST”)
Statement of Principles
WHO WE ARE:
Feminists in Struggle (“FIST”) is a national female-only radical feminist network, democratically run, and composed of individuals born female and affiliated female-only organizations. We aim to bring together women from diverse radical and revolutionary feminist traditions. FIST welcomes lesbian, heterosexual, and bisexual women, of every racial, ethnic, and class background, and of all ages and abilities/disabilities who share a common set of feminist principles (see below). We are committed to organizing a serious fight-back against the attacks on our rights from multiple quarters.
WHAT WE STAND FOR:
- We affirm that women and girls are oppressed based on our biological sex, i.e., the female capacity to bear and birth children. Human beings are a sexually dimorphic species. There is nothing inherently inferior about being female, and we are not biologically programmed to be subordinate. Rather, patriarchy is a social construct established by men thousands of years ago that subjugated women for the purpose of controlling and exploiting women’s sexuality and reproductive labor. Patriarchy is not a product of nature, nor is it inevitable. It is imperative that it be dismantled. Despite significant gains that were made by courageous feminists who came before us, the institutionalized power and privilege of men over women continues through the present day. In addition, we are faced with a serious backlash that has already begun to undermine those past gains. We commit to fighting together with other women to end that oppression.
- We fight for all females, not just the privileged few. The movement for female liberation that we aim to build encompasses working women fighting for a living wage and unionization; single mothers struggling to survive on public assistance; Black women and other women of color mourning the murder of their loved ones by police and fighting back against police violence, rape, and brutality; lesbians resisting male domination and discrimination without the income and respectability afforded by relationships with men; homeless women escaping male violence; immigrant women fighting deportation and forced separation from their children; indigenous women defending their land and water supply from fossil fuel companies; women fighting for access to abortion, birth control, and quality health care; women with disabilities struggling for access to housing and employment; female students trying to stay in school while recovering from rape; divorced women working to establish economic independence; and older women speaking out in the face of marginalization, poverty and disrespect. We aim to end all hierarchies, whether based on sex, race, class, age, disability or on who we love. We respect all women equally regardless of our differences and honor each and every individual’s experience with sexism and misogyny and her capacity to resist. We don’t want a bigger piece of the pie, but a whole new pie.
- We are gender role abolitionists seeking an end to socially-imposed roles based on sex that enforce male supremacy. We believe that gender roles of “masculinity” and “femininity” and the labeling of types of work, personalities, and styles of dress and presentation (as well as certain toys and games for children) as only appropriate for one sex or the other are socially constructed, rather than innate, and are part of female oppression. Gender is a hierarchy, not a binary, a “made up” system of oppression that is used to keep women in our places as caretakers, sex objects, and subordinates to men. We fight against these sexist stereotypes by opposing sex-based dress codes in school and at work, and by speaking out against discrimination, stigma, and violence perpetrated against those whose behavior or expression fails to conform to the gender role norms assigned to their sex, whether transgender-identified or not. No one should be denied employment, education or housing for failing to conform to these stereotypes. We strongly oppose the sexist portrayals of women in the media and advertising that commodify women’s bodies and reinforce women’s subordinate roles. Ultimately, female liberation is necessary to free women and girls from gender-role stereotyping that stifles us and limits our full humanity.
- We demand an end to all forms of discrimination and harassment based on sex, including the wage gap and de-facto job segregation. ERA NOW! Laws protecting women against discrimination and sexual harassment must be vigorously enforced. We demand equal pay for equal work and for work of comparable value and the reinstatement of affirmative action programs with teeth for women and people of color. Our goal is total integration of the workforce including in trades and professions traditionally off limits to women with everyone receiving a living wage. Preserve and strengthen Title IX sex based protections for women and girls in schools, colleges, and universities. 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). We also call for instituting 50/50 representation in all levels of government.
- We fight to end racism and the system of white supremacy that oppresses women of color. Patriarchy and white supremacy are intimately connected and reinforce each other. Due to the intersection of racism and sexism, African-American women and other women of color experience the greatest poverty, the lowest quality education, the lowest wages and worst job opportunities, the poorest quality healthcare, substandard segregated housing and disproportionately high homelessness rates, the least access to safe, legal abortion, birth control, and to quality childcare, the highest maternal mortality rates, and huge amounts of sexual and physical violence including from police and other men in authority. Immigrant women of color from Latin America and the Middle East escaping from domestic violence and war in their home countries are denied asylum, placed in immigration prisons and separated from their children. Native American women are forced into dire poverty, their ancestral lands overrun by mining and fossil fuel industries and are often murdered with no accountability. F.I.S.T. supports the fight for self-determination for oppressed communities of color as an essential part of the struggle for women’s liberation. This includes calling for an end to racial discrimination, racial profiling, environmental racism, mass incarceration, and economic injustice, and supporting just treatment for immigrants and asylum seekers and respect for Native American Sovereignty and Treaty Rights. The liberation of women of color and ultimately of all women as a sex depend on ending both racism and sexism. Neither struggle is more important than the other. The intersectional feminism that we support recognizes this fact as we focus our efforts on the struggle for women’s liberation. In the words of Filipina feminist Ninotchka Rosca,”If your intersectionality does not center females, it is not feminist.”
- We struggle against all forms of male violence against women whether it takes place in the home, on the street, at work, or in colleges or universities. We demand an end to the rampant sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls in patriarchal society, from sexual harassment, pornography and prostitution, battery, molestation, child marriage, rape, sexual trafficking, female genital mutilation, so-called “honor” killings, and femicide. The threat and reality of male-pattern violence which is pervasive throughout our society keeps women afraid and intimidated, interferes with our jobs, education, and career prospects, and makes us more dependent on men. We demand the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with no sunset; priority processing of the backlog of rape kits; that sexual assault in the military be taken out of the chain of command and handled in civilian courts; that colleges and universities take decisive action against perpetrators of sexual assault, and accurately and transparently report incidence of campus rape; that federal legislation be passed outlawing child marriage; and that free self-defense classes for women and girls be offered so we may defend ourselves effectively against male assault. In addition, we demand that employers, universities, politicians, and the criminal justice system take violent crimes against women seriously, that such crimes be recognized and tracked as hate crimes, that policies be put in place to remedy the abysmally low conviction rates for rape by white males; and that the survivors of male violence be supported and provided adequately funded, women-run medical, therapeutic, and any other services as appropriate, as well as women-only safe spaces to allow healing to take place.
- We work for the abolition of prostitution and pornography; we support the adoption of the Nordic model which criminalizes traffickers, pimps, and sex buyers but decriminalizes prostituted women and girls. We strongly oppose the violent, dehumanizing sexual objectification and commodification of women through prostitution and pornography. This not only harms women in the sex industry but reinforces sexist attitudes and behaviors and contributes to the debasement of girls and women in general by undermining their emotional and physical well-being, security, health, and fundamental rights as human beings. We recognize that many women in pornography or prostitution are often doing so because of a lack of economic options and/or having been victims of childhood sexual abuse. We support exit services for prostituted and trafficked women and girls, including housing, education and training, employment assistance, and no cost government-subsidized therapy and drug treatment. We also support the enactment of measures to enhance economic independence and opportunities for women in order to prevent their being exploited by the sex industry.
- We support complete sovereignty over our bodies and reproductive lives, including free unimpeded access to safe, legal abortion and birth control. We defend a woman’s choice to have an abortion on demand without apology, and work to protect our doctors, nurses and medical clinics from both restrictive legislation and terrorist threats from the Right. We demand free access to birth control and no cost abortion. We support the expansion of women’s self-help clinics to teach women about our bodies and to help women take back control over our own fertility. This includes teaching women the skills needed to safely and competently do their own or other women’s early abortions in the privacy of their homes. We support returning control of the birthing process to pregnant women and our chosen helpers, whether midwives, medical doctors, or whoever else we wish to assist us with pregnancy and birth. We recognize that reproductive justice is not just about preventing or terminating pregnancy. The United States has a history of forced sterilization of women of color within its borders and has used third-world women as test subjects for reproductive technology. We recognize that women of color also face higher rates of maternal and child mortality than white women. . We demand that women, regardless of class or race, have the opportunity to bear and raise children in a safe and healthy environment.
- We defend our fundamental right to female-only spaces, programs and organizations that allow us to collectively resist our sex-based oppression against serious challenges by forces within the transgender movement. As individuals born female into a male dominated society where male violence against us remains endemic and sex discrimination commonplace, women have a right to:
- Female-only spaces, free of all persons born and socialized male regardless of how they identify. Those include spaces for purposes of securing our safety and privacy away from the male gaze and the threat of male violence (such as multi-stall bathrooms, public showers, changing rooms, female prisons, female shelters, and other places of nudity or where we are particularly vulnerable); spaces for healing; spaces for building bonds of friendship and creating culture and community among women; lesbian-only spaces; and spaces for purposes of political organizing for women’s liberation.
- Words for us alone (“women” “female” “mother” “lesbian,” etc.) to be able to succinctly describe ourselves and to talk about our bodies and our sexual and reproductive lives (menstruation, pregnancy, abortion, giving birth, breastfeeding, menopause), as specifically female experiences without being labelled “bigots” for doing so. We are not “cis” – we are women. We refuse to allow men to redefine who we are. Female/women and male/men must continue to refer to biological sex, not gender roles.
- Positions and programs for us alone that have been specifically designated for women and girls for purposes of enhancing sexual equality, such as affirmative action programs, female sports programs, and programs fought for and established by women for women such as battered women’s shelters, women’s health clinics, and rape crisis centers.
- Benefit from sex discrimination laws written to protect women and girls from discrimination based on sex and that those laws not be eroded by attempts to equate gender identity with sex or to erase sex entirely as a protected class of persons.
- Use pronouns to designate sex, rather than gender identity, should we choose to do so, without having to face criminal or civil penalties or risk our employment;
- Accurate statistics obtained from government agencies and educational institutions regarding the extent of male violence and the persistence of social and economic inequality between the sexes that do not count transgender identified males as females; and not to be blamed by either the government or the media for crimes actually committed by males.
- Survive our girlhoods physically intact without undergoing medical interventions to change the appearance of our sexed bodies that will likely sterilize us before we are old enough to vote or drink alcohol and will have other permanent negative effects on our health. No child is born in the wrong body. As it is now, gender non-conforming girls and teenagers, especially young lesbians, are particularly vulnerable to pressure to “transition.” This principle also applies to the practice of female genital mutilation, which leaves its victims physically and emotionally scarred and disfigured and seriously impacts the ability to safely bear and birth children.
- Express our opinions on gender and sex-based oppression and engage in public debate on these topics without fear for our physical safety or livelihoods. We demand an immediate end to the threats and acts of violence, slurs (“TERF”), doxing, harassment, retaliation, and no-platforming carried out by vocal sections of the transgender movement in order to intimidate and silence us. Such tactics have more in common with fundamentalism, totalitarianism, and terrorism than those of a genuine liberation struggle.
- While we support basic human rights for all people including transgender-identified persons, we stand opposed to public policies promoted by many transgender activists and their allies which undercut our rights and deny our autonomy as females. This includes Gender Recognition laws that allow any man to identify as a woman and demand to be treated as such. We reject males’ claimed right of access to female-only spaces, programs and organizations, regardless of how they identify We also disagree with the new definition of “woman” and ‘female” that is being imposed on society. Women are adult human females. Femaleness is a sex, not a “feeling,” and not a gender identity or a gender role. “Transwomen” are male. “Femininity” i.e., putting on a skirt, make-up and heels, does not equal womanhood. In fact, feminism has long resisted pressure to conform to this superficial interpretation of womanhood pushed by our sexist culture, in particular by the fashion and beauty pageant industries. Neither do changing names, pronouns, taking hormones, undergoing surgeries and/or other medical interventions to attempt to turn males into females or vice-versa change one’s sex. Sex is determined at conception, not “assigned at birth” and is clearly discernible while a fetus is in the womb, with rare exceptions. Sex is virtually always determined by one’s chromosomes, which do not change. Females who are not traditionally “feminine,” including those who identify as “non-binary,” or as “transmen” and who may attempt to pass as men are no less female because of it.
- As radical feminists we see the dominant strain of the transgender movement as the opposite of revolutionary or progressive. Disappearing sex while sexism remains is not good for the female half of humanity. It is no more progressive than being “color-blind” while racism remains. The speed at which the transgender movement is currently being embraced by government, military, academia, major corporations, NGOs and foundations, mainstream corporate media, the medical/pharmaceutical industry, and male-dominated Left and LGBT organizations can only be explained by its customary support of anti-woman ideology and the enhanced profit-making opportunities it provides to multinational corporations. The pressure on individuals who fail to conform to stereotypical sex roles to “transition” is an unjust, unhealthy, and bullying act aimed at achieving patriarchal gender conformity — not nonconformity.
- We call for free childcare, paid parental leave, and other community supports needed to end the double day and empower women to live independent lives. For women to end our dependence on men and be truly free to control our own lives, we need no-cost community-controlled childcare and eldercare, generous paid parental, family and medical leave policies, worker-controlled flexible work schedules, access to affordable housing, adequate resources for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, good jobs at livable wages, guaranteed sustainable incomes for those not in the paid workforce, and the establishment of a system providing universal comprehensive medical care (improved Medicare for all) as a basic human right. Ultimately, poverty must end as women are its primary victims. There is plenty of money to accomplish this by funding human needs, not war. We demand an end to the undervaluing and the underpaid and unpaid nature of nurturing and caretaking work and professions (caring for the young, the old, and for people who are sick or have disabilities) and for ending the sex-typing of this valuable work as “women’s work” and placing the burden mostly on women. Such work should be valued, paid well, and shared equally by both sexes. As a step toward this goal, we call on men to take equal responsibility for caretaking work with their female partners, sisters, or other female family members. We fight for a new economic system beyond capitalism that doesn’t leave anyone out and values productive and reproductive contributions equally.
- We demand an end to discrimination and stigma against lesbians and other women who have intimate relationships with women. End the coercive and privileged status of heterosexuality. Treat anti-lesbian violence and discrimination seriously. End the invisibility of lesbian lives and female same sex relationships, both historically and currently, in the mass media and the educational system. The historical contributions lesbians have made to feminism, lesbian and gay rights, and other progressive social movements should be recognized. We support the expansion and enforcement of lesbian/gay rights laws, including the enactment of federal civil rights protections. We defend lesbian rights against attacks by both the religious fundamentalists and by sectors of the transgender community and their allies including “LGBTQ” organizations that wish to define lesbianism out of existence. Lesbians have a right to meet together outside of the presence of males regardless of how they identify, to create lesbian culture and community, to take part in Pride and “Dyke March” events openly as lesbians and lesbian-feminists, and to say no to sexual relationships with males without being accused of “transphobia,” subjected to coercion, or threatened with violence.
- We reject any alliances or collaboration with the Religious Right or the white supremacist, anti-immigrant Right. The far Right in all its forms represents an extreme danger to feminists. The Christian Right being the most powerful religious fundamentalist group in the United States poses the most imminent threat to women’s rights. Already, it has made serious inroads into our government and begun to erode church-state separation. However, all patriarchal right-wing fundamentalist religions actively suppress the rights of women through their promotion of misogynist dogma and practices, their pursuit of a male supremacist, anti-woman agenda, and their tolerance of violence and discrimination towards women and girls.
- The Religious Right’s rejection of the transgender movement (and the Trump administration’s policy opposition to recognizing transgenderism) does not lessen the danger to women posed by the Right. Their goals and ours are completely opposed. While feminists intend to do away with gender roles, the Christian Right and all right-wing religious fundamentalists wish to impose their strict gender roles and their sexist and homophobic ideology on everyone. The attempts to force compulsory childbearing on women and push women way back to a time when we had no rights to speak of, roll back lesbian and gay rights, and the opportunistic use of the extremism of the transgender movement to advance a full regressive agenda, all reveal this intent. To the extent this agenda makes headway, women’s autonomy and agency will be curtailed, our reproductive rights undermined, our constitutional rights denied, and gender nonconforming men, women, and children, especially gays and lesbians, will be encouraged or coerced to attempt to live as the opposite sex as their only viable option (as in Iran).
- Therefore, even when the Christian Right and radical feminists oppose the same policy or piece of legislation regarding gender identity, both our messaging and funding should be kept wholly separate and independent. The possibility of radical feminists building a working alliance with the Religious Right should be rejected as it will increase their credibility and discredit us among women who could otherwise be won over to our politics. Likewise, alliances with racist, white supremacist, or anti-immigrant forces undermine feminism; their use of racism and xenophobia divides us from our sisters. Moreover, the Christian Right, neo-Nazis, “Alt-Right,” and white nationalists/white supremacists are often the same people, and all these groups have an unwavering commitment to male supremacy and extreme hostility towards feminism, as do all right-wing religious fundamentalists. Organizations of the far Right are the enemies of women’s liberation and can never be our allies.
- While the mission of FIST is to build a women’s liberation movement to oppose that which oppresses women because of male supremacy, we recognize the existential threat that the climate crisis and the risk of nuclear war pose to women, to the whole of humanity, and to the future of life on this planet. The consequences of global warming include rising sea levels, catastrophic storms, flooding, droughts and desertification, increased poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Climate change will undoubtedly lead to increased competition for diminishing resources, leading to the creation of more climate refugees, leading to right wing backlash, and the possibility of more autocratic governments. Though both sexes are threatened by the climate crisis, as in other crises such as wars and economic collapse, women are additionally disadvantaged. Women, especially women of color, generally have less money and power than men because of our sex-based oppression and therefore fewer resources to which we can turn in emergencies. Women suffered a higher death toll in both Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Indonesia. We are also more likely to be at a disadvantage with increased competition for diminishing resources and to end up as refugees. Men’s predation upon us often increases during chaos and lawlessness that often accompany such situations. Right-wing or autocratic governments also tend to be particularly misogynistic. War not only creates tremendous ecological damage and kills civilians, but places women and girls in extreme risk of rape and sexual assault. Nuclear war means the end of all life. FIST supports a fact-based, science-based reality that recognizes that climate change is caused by human activity and that it threatens the survival of humanity. There is an urgent need for both women and men to mobilize to address the unfolding environmental crisis by confronting the power and greed of the fossil fuel industry and demanding a quick conversion to renewable energy. Though these issues are not the primary focus of FIST, we encourage our members to actively support environmental, nuclear disarmament, and anti-war causes and actions either as individuals or in groups, and acknowledge all the women worldwide who are working to protect the environment and all life on earth.