Back when I heard about the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, I thought the overall idea was perfect - provide an alternative to the Equality Act that is more progressive, actually protects women, and use that as something to advocate to our senators and representatives in Congress (in the US) instead of merely opposing the Equality Act.
But it's been months since I heard about it and I'm still reluctant to encourage specific people to sign onto it, and every time I explore why that is I come back to the fact that I am ambivalent about protecting people from "sex stereotyping" - ambivalent because I've been the victim of sex stereotyping, and I'd love protection from that, but at the same time I fear what trans activists/men will do with this term. It came to a head when I was reading the following quote from this recent post to Ovarit.
“Up until now, it has been uncontroversial that we exclude all males, including all the innocent ones and the majority of reasonable people, on the basis that we want to exclude a few malfeasant people. That has been perfectly well understood that it was never a character reference. It was never supposed to say that all males were bad because they clearly are not."
Sex stereotyping is defined in the Feminist Amendments as:
the expectation that individuals will manifest behaviors, dress, appearance, grooming, etc. traditionally associated with their sex and refrain from exhibiting those associated with the other sex.
and has the caveat that:
At the same time, the Feminist Amendments provide that sex stereotyping discrimination does not include merely recognizing or referring to the sex of an individual. This is essential to allow for meaningful protection against sex discrimination.
Laws have a habit of working their way into lay public consciousness, and I worry that in lay hands, we're still going to see a lot of trans women claiming it's discrimination to keep them away from women's awards and competitions and stuff. I'm not trying to give up on the idea of getting protection from sex stereotyping for myself and other women just to keep it from men and trans women specifically, but I am worried about things like online moderators saying I was "sex stereotyping" when I tell a guy that (despite them being trans), they're behaving just like every other guy I've come across online.
Is this not a risk? Is it "worth it" for the benefit we get from "sex stereotyping" protections? Do other people share my concerns and fears? Does anybody else have a better idea for how to clarify (whether in the law or for the general public) the difference between the bad kind of sex stereotyping and the kind that is necessary for women to describe the nature of social dynamics?
Using the trick I often do to evaluate things, and swapping in race for sex, I imagine that prohibitions against "race stereotyping" would never be considered, and would possibly have less-than-helpful consequences if they were. Race stereotyping is considered racism. Race stereotyping (like with "black" names being selected out in job applications) is usually subtle and hard to prove. And the flip side is that claims to social differences between whites, blacks, and other groups would be subjected to "racial stereotyping" claims. ("All Lives Matter"/"Not All Men" evoke the idea of anti-stereotyping attitudes and beliefs run amok). Should we just stick to the parallel goals of the Civil Rights movement and just call it sexism and leave it there? I know sexism is a poorly understood term, that it's dulled through misuse and necessary overuse, and doesn't carry the bite of "racism" in people's minds, but isn't that what we're actually worried about? The power dynamics that make the stereotyping oppressive, not the fact of stereotyping? (Again, not trying to make it so trans women can get kicked out of jobs because they defy masculine stereotypes, but rather that perhaps we should just call that "sexism", since a powerful party is discriminating against somebody on the basis of their sex, just like the rulings on same-sex marriage came through as discriminatory on the basis of sex).