We need a Women’s Bill of Rights

Alexsey Emelyanov/EyeEm/Getty Images
The traditional gender symbols for female (left) and male.

Earlier this month, Matt Walsh and The Daily Wire released a provocative documentary, “What Is a Woman?” The film is both a humorous and serious examination of a question we shouldn’t have to ask.

But ask it, we must. Because in America today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about women’s rights in a common language.

Although most Americans still understand that a “woman” is an adult human female, gender ideologues want to redefine womanhood as a subjective state distinct from — and more important than — biological sex.

Up to this point, public attention on this issue has largely focused on the athletic arena and, in particular, on college swimmer Lia Thomas, a fully-intact male who previously competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s team — and who dominated the women’s NCAA swimming championship. The female athletes competing against Thomas faced tremendous physical disadvantages: They were smaller, had less muscle mass, and less lung capacity. The public overwhelmingly recognized that the competition was unfair. The female athletes absorbed another message: Their bodies aren’t good enough to compete against even a hormonally impaired male and it may not be worth competing at all.

Our failure to legally define the word “woman” harms more than just female athletes. It makes available to biological men academic and other opportunities specifically designed to empower females. And it jeopardizes previously uncontroversial single-sex spaces, such as dorm rooms, sororities, locker rooms, correctional facilities and rape crisis centers.

To make matters worse, the women and girls who do not consent to these practices have been threatened, coerced and shamed into silence and submission. So much for consent.

All too frequently, the corruption of sex-based language is happening by administrative or judicial fiat, without the consent of the political branches or the people themselves. By redefining the word “sex” to mean “gender” or “gender identity,” unelected officials are rewriting laws that prohibit unjust sex discrimination to require unjust discrimination against women.

That’s why our organizations have joined forces to create a Women’s Bill of Rights, model legislation that would codify the common understanding of the words “female,” “woman” and “sex.”

The Women’s Bill of Rights does not create special rights for women. It doesn’t replace the Bill of Rights to our Constitution or create any entitlements. It simply clarifies the meaning of current sex-based laws and codifies longstanding precedent regarding single-sex spaces.

Unlike the outdated and long-expired Equal Rights Amendment, our Women’s Bill of Rights recognizes that there are important reasons to distinguish between the sexes when biology, safety and/or privacy are implicated. And it affirms that policies and laws that distinguish between the sexes are subject to intermediate constitutional scrutiny, which forbids unfair discrimination against similarly-situated males and females but allows the law to recognize sex differences in certain circumstances.

Although we call the model legislation the Women’s Bill of Rights in order to call attention to the many ways in which redefining sex disproportionately harms women, it is not just women’s rights and equal opportunity that are at stake: The legal redefinition of basic sex-based terms also threatens freedom of speech, accurate data collection, parental rights and scientific integrity.

Recognizing these threats, a group of federal legislators has introduced a version of our Women’s Bill of Rights as a bicameral congressional resolution. Were it to pass, the congressional Women’s Bill of Rights would not prevent Congress or the states from enacting legislation to protect people based on characteristics such as “gender identity.” But it would prevent unelected bureaucrats or judges from twisting current law to accomplish through the back door what Congress lacks the political support to do via the democratic process. 

The resolution would require gender advocates to be transparent about their objectives and persuade the public, not simply impose their will through a linguistic sleight of hand. Most importantly, it would ensure that women have the language they need to advocate for themselves in law and in policy without having to pretend that biological sex differences don’t exist.

Matt Walsh is asking an important question. The Women’s Bill of Rights has the answer. And every elected official and candidate for office should tell us where they stand.

Jennifer C. Braceras is director of Independent Women’s Law Center. Lauren Adams is legal director of the Women’s Liberation Front.

Tags Equal opportunity Gender Gender identity Lia Thomas Matt Walsh Women's rights

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