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Women don’t need a ‘Bill of Rights’ to define gender. We need policies that improve our outcomes.

Janelle Stecklein
Guest columnist
Isolated banner holded by a black woman, and her fist up in a white background, and written: Women's rights.

I don’t need our government to tell me that I’m a woman.

And, I shouldn’t have to prove I am one either.

Yet, our Republican lawmakers want to require just that through the so-called “Women’s Bill of Rights” that the governor signed into law last week.

 the bill is necessary to bring “clarity, certainty and uniformity” to how women are treated under state law. It defines a woman as one whose reproductive system at some point produces, transports and utilizes eggs for fertilization.

They argue that their plan preserves equal opportunity for women, yet it ignores the fact that this is clearly an effort to harm our transgender residents or those who don’t identify by a specific gender.

What rights does this guarantee me?

It certainly doesn’t fix the  where women typically make about 81 cents to every dollar of their male counterparts. That’s worse than the national average.

More:Lawmakers send bill defining male and female in Oklahoma to Gov. Stitt's desk

It doesn’t give women back the right to make reproductive health decisions that they feel are in their best interest. (The Legislature actually , along with GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt.) 

It doesn’t increase women’s access to physicians. We rank  primary care providers.

It does nothing to improve our maternal mortality rate, which is 30 deaths per 100,000, much higher than the national average of 23 per 100,000.

Frankly, the legislation, which passed because of overwhelming support from male lawmakers, is downright insulting to women and their “rights.”

If we want to bring uniformity to how women are treated under law, how about we don’t create a culture where men and women can challenge each other’s femininity and masculinity?

How will women be able to prove our femininity if someone dares challenge it? 

I’ve personally seen a woman questioned about her gender because she dressed in male clothing and had a hair style typically seen on men. She was trying to use a female locker room to dress. Spoiler alert, she was as female as me.

The measure doesn’t address how exactly we’re to prove to authorities we’re egg producers.

If challenged by the gender police, are we going to be required to provide some extremely personal health information or perhaps undergo an invasive pat down or strip search to see if we have male genitalia?

If that sounds far-fetched, let me catch you up.

ճ has started requiring female student athletes to provide intimate details about their menstrual cycles. Critics say it’s an effort to measure whether a student is female enough to participate in girl’s sports. The agency, which isn’t run by medical doctors, argues that the info helps them flag medical conditions.

That’s not something many women typically discuss with each other, let alone a complete stranger.

And, that’s not information that anybody should want in the government’s grubby hands. It would probably end up in some sort of database that’s later used for some unintended purpose.

Or worse ― what’s to stop someone from maliciously weaponizing this?

ٱ, and conversations about their rights are important. But this is not the way to do it. 

Women are underrepresented in our Legislature and in leadership roles. 

They face higher rates of poverty. 

They face workplace discrimination. 

They often bear the lion’s share of child care responsibilities. 

They face sexual and physical violence at the hands of intimate partners.

In our own state, Stitt earlier this year to attend a leadership program designed to serve as an entry point into politics.

Where’s the legislation to guarantee the reinstatement of that program?

One thing that women are not struggling with is defining their own gender.

The last thing we need is Big Brother to try to define that for us.

We know who we are. 

And it would be nice if our leaders could respect that and spend time on policies that truly make our lives better.

Janelle Stecklein

Janelle Stecklein is editor of Oklahoma Voice. An award-winning journalist, Stecklein has been covering Oklahoma government and politics since moving to the state in 2014.

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