Coalition for the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act kicks off its campaign with a successful Zoom event!

Coalition for the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act kicks off its campaign with a successful Zoom event!The newly-formed Coalition for the Feminist Amendments (“CoFA”), consisting of FIST, the LGB Alliance USA, XX Amazons, the Georgia Green Party and others, kicked off its campaign at a zoom forum on November 14, 2020 attended by over 150 people.  The four speakers, Ann Menasche (FIST member and co-author of the FAEA, Tina Minkowitz (FAEA co-author), Callie Burt (Associate professor, Georgia State University), and M. Lynette Hartsell  (LGB Alliance USA), gave an in-depth analysis of the Feminist Amendments and made a compelling case for joining this effort.  The presentations were followed by questions and comments by attendees.  After the official program ended, 20 or more attendees were so inspired that they stayed on for another hour and a half and continued the discussion of issues surrounding the struggle to preserve women’s sex based rights..

CoFA’s first action after the forum was to send through U.S. mail to each member of the Senate requesting that they consider the Feminist Amendments and provide us with an opportunity to testify for these amendments.  The letter is below.  CoFA welcomes more volunteers as this campaign has just begun. CoFA needs feminists and our allies to call their Senators and Congress members and build our base of supporters.  If you have not yet endorsed the Feminists Amendments, please sign onto the endorsement page on FIST’s website, . And spread the word!

If interested in getting involved in the coalition, please email CoFA.

November 16, 2020

To members of the U.S. Senate,

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted her life to fighting for legal protections on the basis of biological sex. Congress should honor that legacy, and the legacy of so many other women who’ve fought to secure our rights, but most importantly, Congress has a duty to uphold our most basic human rights protections. The current version of the Equality Act (HR 5), now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee, will risk erasing sex as a protected class in law, weakening protections and undermining the existing rights of females as a unique class, and the progress that’s been made toward achieving equality.

The Coalition for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (“CoFA”) is a national alliance of feminist and LGB organizations and individuals. We write to urge hearings on our proposal to amend the Equality Act (to receive testimony on its many problematic provisions), and to provide vital input on how those issues may be fixed. The Feminist Amendments expands civil rights laws to cover lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, and other individuals who don’t conform to gender stereotypes (roles traditionally imposed based on one’s sex), while continuing to uphold sex-based protections. In doing so, everyone’s rights are protected.

We support many of the positive provisions put forth by the Equality Act. Federal statutory protections for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals based on sexual orientation are long overdue. We applaud the closure of the loophole that allows the use of religious freedom as legal grounds to allow any person to flout civil rights laws.

At the same time, the Equality Act’s attempt to protect transgender individuals from discrimination — through the creation of “gender identity” as a protected class — creates ambiguity, confusion, and a conflict of rights that must be addressed. The term “gender identity” is subjective, in that it describes a state of mind that may or may not be manifested in dress, grooming, or behavior. This subjectivity opens a loophole ripe for abuse. As it’s used in HR-5, the term provides no objective test useful to a court, which will ultimately litigate the conflicts sure to arise from this legislation. Failure to address these conflicts will threaten long-settled statutory and case law developed to protect the rights of females as a distinctive class.

More importantly, “gender” or “gender identity” is conflated with “sex” throughout the bill,  and risks eliminating sex as a protected class in civil rights law. Merging two distinct groups — who have different sets of experiences, discrimination and marginalization — is detrimental to preserving human rights protections currently afforded to females as a uniquely subjugated class.

Female only facilities are an important legacy of women’s organizing, key to the protection of the female sex against male-pattern violence and to the broader participation of women in public life. It’s vital that these basic human rights provisions remain in place.

Male-pattern violence against females is so well-documented that Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in an attempt to protect them from sexual and physical assault. However, such predatory violence remains pervasive as demonstrated by the “Me Too” movement and numerous well-documented instances of such violations by males in the entertainment business, the military, and even Congress. A Swedish study showed that this pattern of behavior is not mitigated by male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

Moreover, the current bill’s “gender identity” provisions require that males who identify as women, including those with intact male genitalia (85-90% of males who identify as women retain male genitalia), must be admitted, solely on the basis of “self-identification,” into female facilities, such as,  rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, prisons, hospital rooms, communal showers, changing rooms, restrooms, and nursing homes.

Social scientists and international policy bodies have underscored the importance of maintaining separate statistics based on sex, as a key means of tracking disparities between the sexes, recording accurate data, and measuring our progress on addressing sex-based discrimination. In addition, there are multiple instances, such as within the context of health care, where having accurate information about a person’s sex, is vital, even life-saving.

By eliminating sex as a protected class, the bill, as currently written, would:

·   Undermine targeted remedies for the exclusion or under-representation of women and girls in education, and in jobs and professions traditionally held by men

·   Eradicate competitive women’s sports by undermining Title IX protections

·   Make it impossible to measure (and remedy) disparity between the sexes, such as the pay gap and domestic violence

·   Prevent the gathering of accurate crime and health statistics

See attached fact sheets for more information on the impact of erasing sex as a protected class in civil rights law, by allowing the concept of “gender” or “gender identity” to override “sex.”

The Feminist Amendments eliminate “gender identity” and instead establish two new categories in civil rights law: “sexual orientation” and “sex-stereotyping.” Doing so more effectively protects all classes, while not negating sex-based protections.

These amendments contain clear definitions of “sex” and “sex-stereotyping,” that will preserve female facilities and programs, allowing women and girls to participate fully in public life. (See attached.)

At the same time, the Feminist Amendments protect lesbians, gay men, bisexuals (and all people who don’t conform to imposed gender roles and stereotypes), including transgender people, from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and in places of public accommodation.

These amendments also allow for the establishment of “gender neutral” facilities for  individuals who may feel safer or more comfortable in such spaces, so long as the availability and access to female only facilities is not diminished. Thus, these amendments allow each protected class to continue to make progress toward achieving true equality.

One hundred years after women’s suffrage, women still get paid less, are denied equal opportunities in the workplace, and continue to be underrepresented in many fields and positions of economic and political leadership in our society, because of their sex. Females still suffer disproportionately from domestic violence and rape because of their sex. Discrimination on the basis of sex will not end if we eliminate sex as a stand-alone protected class.

No Senate action should be taken on the Equality Act without hearings to gather evidence on the conflicts outlined in this letter. We offer the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act as our contribution to this much needed work.

We and members of our constituent organizations are prepared to sit down with you and members of your staff to discuss our concerns and appropriate strategies we might collaborate on to secure the hearing anticipated in the previous paragraph.

It is our fervent wish that you honor the legacy of our most revered jurist RBG by adopting the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act to continue her fight to protect women and girls on the basis of sex.

Sincerely,

Ann Menasche, Feminists in Struggle

M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA

Co-Chairs, CoFA

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.

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.”

WoLF Event at the Seattle Public Library: a firsthand account of a FIST attendee

This is a firsthand account of a FIST attendee at the WoLF event, “Fighting the New Misogyny” in Seattle on February 1.

I attended this event for a few reasons:

  • First, because the world needs to see that women will not be terrorized into silence. We cannot afford to just be social media warriors in anonymity.  We must be a visible presence, fighting this war fearlessly. It is past the time for us to play it safe. We are NOT safe anyway. We never have been.
  • Second, I want to learn to BE on a panel to get the message out that being authentic is living your best life in the body you were born with. I hope to speak up for gender nonconforming women, teaching our youth that being “authentic” isn’t cutting off your breasts to pretend to be something that you can never be. You don’t have to be a man to wear clothes sold for men, love motorcycles, boxing, fast cars, sports and women. We need to be visible as women, living truly authentic lives. We have to fight for our youth.
  • Third, I wanted to support the women brave enough to put themselves in the crosshairs of TRAs’ attacks. Respect, all day long.

From the moment I stepped out of the airport I was surrounded by fabulous women. Rhoda came and picked up three of us to drive us to our Airbnb. April had booked 14 of us into two rooms at Harbor Steps, a wonderful apartment complex.  All of our food for the weekend was provided for us, including fresh catch crab for the Saturday dinner.

Friday night we all went to listen to Dominique Christina’s poetry reading. Dominique Christina is an incredibly powerful poet. If you ever get the chance, don’t miss her.

Saturday we had a women’s circle which was incredibly empowering. We had started already when a few women showed up late, having gotten the time wrong. You could feel the energy in the room spike up though. It might have been Vajra Ma, who I found to be magnificent! I bought a copy of her book, From a Hidden Stream: The Natural Spiritual Authority Of Woman. I highly recommend it.

Before the women’s circle, Thistle Pettersen performed a set for us. She was magnificent! It breaks my heart that TRAs have managed to destroy this woman’s career. Please support Thistle at Defend Feminists Let’s help her get her life back from these monsters! Show her that she is not in this fight alone. We stand with her.

One of my favorite parts of this weekend was meeting some of the social media warriors that are fighting this war. When Known Heretic (aka Amy) introduced herself we both jumped into each other’s arms! What a moment. I met three other warriors at the event.

When we arrived at the event all of the protesters were forced to stay on the opposite side of the building. They never got close to us. The Seattle Police maintained a large area for us to exit also. They kept them pushed across the street. Go Seattle PD! Thank you!

I handed out handsful of FIST’s flyers for our Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (FAEA). I was pleasantly surprised to be recognized by quite a few people from social media. I have been posting frequently about the FAEA, on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to realize that, even with only 1,300 followers on Twitter, we can make a difference. (I was wearing my FIST hoodie, represent!)

At the beginning of the first speaker, TRAs caused a disturbance in the seats. They were quickly drowned out by hundreds of voices yelling, “Let women speak!” at the top of our lungs. I remember one man saying, “Give them the mic and let them speak.” My response, “Hell no! We aren’t giving them a mic! We aren’t here for them!” Eventually the police escorted/arrested the disrupters and we continued. You can watch the presentation for yourselves at: Women’s Liberation Front Facebook page.

Each woman brought a different energy to the presentation. Towards the end there was a Q+A, and of course the misogynistic man from earlier had to be the first to the mic. He proceeded to attempt to lecture the women in the room about how we have all the rights we need. We couldn’t get him to shut up. Just as I bellowed, “You’re done!” Courtney walked over and yanked the mic out of his hands. It was excellent! She rocked it. Courtney was fearless and a blast, waving at the TRAs as we left the building. I have never met so many powerful women in one place.

If you want to become a part of something bigger than yourself. If you want to make a difference. Attend feminist events. Get involved. Make your voice heard! We are stronger together.

In summary, this was the most powerful weekend I have experienced in a very long time, if ever. There is power in standing up for your beliefs.  There is power in gathering together to combine our incredible female energies.  I came away from this weekend fully charged up to continue fighting the war.

We didn’t start this war. But we WILL end it. Solidarity!

FIST and Equal Means Equal on Joy of Resistance Radio Show

Our own Ann Menasche appeared on the Joy of Resistance show on WBAI hosted by Fran Luck talking about our Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act which make a distinction between rights based on sex and rights based on gender non-conformity and sexual orientation.  Ann articulated the reasons for the feminist amendments as many rights for which women have fought would be eroded under the Equality Act.

Another very important topic was covered on the show–the ratification of THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT BY BOTH VIRGINIA STATE HOUSES TODAY, January 27, 2020!!  Kamala Lopez of Equal Means Equal was interviewed on the show who explained that there is no need to pass legislation to do away with the imposed deadlines on the legislation because no deadline was included in the legislation, it was a separate bill on which the states did not vote, that Congress did its job in 1972, and we should not get mired down in more Congressional action, as some suggest, by pursuing the passage of legislation doing away with the deadline because the deadline does not matter.

She stated that the Alabama Attorney General filed suit asserting that the archivist should not record Virginia’s 38th state ratification, even though the same archivist recorded the last two states, Nevada (2017) and Illinois (2018). Equal Means Equal has filed suit to make sure the ratification is recorded and will be pursuing various cases across the nation to make sure it becomes part of the U. S. Constitution at long last.  It will be making a Federalist Originalist argument outlined in the Constitution, which will be very difficult for the conservative court to rule against.

Kamala Lopez explained that without the ERA, we will never have equal work for equal pay and that strict scrutiny regarding discrimination under the ERA will finally be required on the basis of sex as it has been for religion, nationality, and race.  She urged listeners to go to Equal Means Equal and sign up for their newsletter and to show up in Richmond, VA on March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day and the centennial of women’s suffrage, to march in the ERA Parade to celebrate it’s ratification.

The show also briefly covered the WoLF events which were scheduled at two public libraries, Seattle and NYC, and how NYCPL cancelled their event while Seattle has refused to cancel theirs.

More about this program at WBAI

ORDER FIST MERCHANDISE FOR WOMEN’S MARCH!

We now have FIST merchandise available just in time for the Women’s Marches on January 18th!  Order your  t-shirt, download and print the FIST BANNER, and download the FAEA brochure, which can be printed and distributed!  The brochure includes our 13 principles, links to our website and social media, and explains our Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act.

WLRN Interviews FIST re FAEA

Our own Ann Menasche was interviewed on WLRN about FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act.  To listen to the interview, go to:  WLRN Interview re FAEA

FEMINISTS IN STRUGGLE (FIST) LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT

The current version of the Equality Act (HR 5) that passed in the House and is pending in the Senate (SB 788) is a double-edged sword for women. On the one hand, the bill expands civil rights protections for lesbians, gays and bisexuals, a cause for which feminists and lesbian/gay activists have struggled for many decades. The bill also adds protections against discrimination for some–transgender individuals–but not all people who do not conform to gender norms or stereotypes for their sex.  That too, is a good thing though it doesn’t go far enough since it fails to protect gender non-conforming individuals, including gays and lesbians and many feminists who do not consider themselves transgender.

On the other hand, the current legislation conflates sex with “gender identity” which effectively eliminates sex-based protections for women and girls.  It also explicitly requires that transgender identified males–any male who claims to be a woman–be admitted into women’s facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms.  That aspect of the current bill is equivalent to the self-ID law that was recently defeated in the UK.  It is extremely harmful to women and girls.

The harm of self-ID provisions is a result of the fact that women and girls are still oppressed and discriminated against as a sex class in our society.  We need programs for women and girls including under Title IX to redress past wrongs and equal the playing field, so that those of us born female have an equal opportunity to develop ourselves and pursue our dreams.   We also need female-only spaces and refuges for reasons of privacy and safety, especially because male sexual and physical violence against women and girls remains pervasive.

Feminists in Struggle are calling for the Equality Act to be amended rather than defeated. We demand a better bill that protects everyone’s rights and does not pit one group’s rights against another.  Our legal committee has drafted a Model Bill that incorporates Feminist Amendments into the Equality Act.  The Model Bill has been approved by the democratic body of our active FIST members, the Feminist Assembly.  Our version of the Equality Act preserves women’s sex-based rights including the right to female-only spaces and programs while adding strong prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex stereotyping. For example, under FIST’s bill all sex-based dress codes would become illegal.

Please join our Campaign for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act! Let us know of your support.  And spread the word to all your contacts.  We know this is not going to be an easy struggle but neither was winning the vote. We in FIST believe that sisterhood is powerful and that together we can fight for our sex-based rights and win!

You may download a copy of the following documents:

Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act

Comparison of Original Equality Act and Feminist Amendments.02.07.20

TrackChanges.FeministAmendments.FIST

FAEA-Power Point Presentation

FAEA brochure

for more information on the FAEA (Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act)