In the early 1900s, the gender binary was still heavily enforced and, as such, people were forced into binary gender roles based on the sexes they were assigned at birth. At this point in time, people would often be thrown into the category of “male/man” or “female/woman”, completely disregarding the existences of people who fall outside of the binary, such as intersex people who were often coercively assigned a binary gender of male or female. This also erased the existences of people whose gender did not match their assigned sex (non-binary and transgender people).
Contrary to belief, the gender binary is a relatively new concept (Hughes and Dvorsky, 2). Transgender, non-binary, and intersex people have been present in American society since pre-colonial times. Similarly to modern day, many also faced rampant transphobia for not dressing how they were expected to and would even be forced to fit within the binary gender role of their assigned sex. Because of this, I will not be using terms like “man” or “woman” within this post except for clarification or elaboration purposes because it erases the identities of people who fought for equal rights and, as a non-binary person, I can’t justify using binary language.
The topic of equality has always been a roaring debate in society. In the 1920s, those who were [coercively*] assigned female at birth** [(C)AFAB] still did not have the right to vote and a movement began to change this. These amazing individuals challenged the sexist patriarchy that restrained them and eventually won. However, what does equality really mean? Let’s talk about that.
*refers to intersex people who were coercively assigned female or male at birth (CAFAB, CAMAB)
**refers to dyadic (non-intersex) people who were assigned female or male at birth (AFAB, AMAB)
Does equality require that people of all genders have the “same” rights and be subject to the same treatment, or does equality require “different” treatment?
I believe there is a difference between equality and equity. Equality would suggest that people of all genders have the same rights and therefore are subject to the same treatment. However, equity is more of a subset of equality; those who are (C)AFAB may be given different treatment than those who are (C)AMAB in some contexts but not in all. Equity is giving everyone the tools that they need in order to be successful while equality focuses on everyone receiving the same treatments. With that being said, equality and equity are both important standards to have in a society and both ideals mentioned above are necessary components to have in a fair and just world.
Equality requires that people of all genders have the same rights and be subject to the same treatment, but there needs to be more push for that requirement to be followed. There are still women, intersex people, transgender (especially transgender women), and non-binary people who still face extreme violence, discrimination, and erasure in comparison to men. This conversation can get really complex due to the fact that intersectionality exists and certain groups will have less privilege in society despite having a component of their identity that is privileged. However, I don’t think I can summarize all of this into one blog post.
Equality for people of all genders, not just men and women, is immensely important. It means everyone will be able to vote. Men won’t be seen as the superior gender and women won’t be seen as weaker. Nobody will have to fit into the binary gender roles that have been put in place. Women can be strong, educated, and motherly. They don’t have to be homemakers; they can work and do amazing things (Cott, 504). Men don’t have to give into toxic masculinity; they can be in touch with their emotions. They don’t have to be the breadwinners. Non-binary and transgender folks can live comfortably with themselves if there were equality for all genders. People of all genders could hold the same jobs, earn the same wages, and accomplish the same feats (Cott, 505). It would be easier to obtain access to certain resources and opportunities regardless of gender. Gender discrimination wouldn’t exist because everyone would be treated equally. These are only a few examples.
Now, let’s talk about gender equity.
How should the law treat the difference created by those who have uteri?
Remember, not all people with uteri are women. Similarly, not all women have a uterus. Intersex and non-binary people are not women unless they identify that way. Trans men are not women; they are men.
Gender equity plays a huge role in how the law addresses the differences between those with uteri and those without them. Those without uteri simply do not face the same issues as those who have them.
Those who menstruate will need access to things like free birth control. Birth control pills/shots, etc. are helpful in regulating the period and alleviating any painful symptoms should they arise. Menstrual products should be free as well since it is an extra finance that those without uteri don’t need to pay for. Those with excruciating symptoms from menstruation should have the ability to stay home from their obligations to rest without penalty.
If sexually active, the pill/shot, etc. can help prevent pregnancy. However, in the case of an unwanted pregnancy (or a dangerous pregnancy), those with uteri should have access to facilities like Planned Parenthood so that they can take the proper steps should they need to have an abortion or need any other assistance. If they have a child, they should be given more than several weeks off of work because the development of children requires much more time with the parent than a few weeks. In addition to that, their leave from work should be paid since those with uteri often don’t return to work after giving birth to a child because employers make it difficult to return.
People often question where the validity in this is (Cott, 504). Why should these people receive all this “special treatment” because of their uteri and menstruation? They should receive the help because it will make them successful and a more productive member of society. Restricting them from a financially stable life due to their reproductive system is extremely sexist.
The laws should be centered around helping those with uteri living comfortably. It would provide for them easier access to resources and opportunities which is one of the main goals in the fight for the larger aspect of equality. In the end, these problems only affect those with uteri and they don’t infringe on the rights of those who do not have them.
Equal rights for others doesn’t mean less rights for anyone else. If we provide everyone with the same opportunities and access to resources, people of all genders can be equal and free. If we provide everyone with the tools they need to be successful, that will help them get to the road of equality. Equity helps us get to equality in the end by providing tools to one group that the other group might not really need or benefit from.
Cott, Nancy F. (2016). Equal Rights and Economic Roles: The Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hughes, James and George Dvorsky (2008). Postgenderism: Beyond the gender binary. Hartford: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.