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!

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!