FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why do you refer to gender and not sex? And what about sexual orientation?
A: We are convinced that stereotypes and biases based on sex, gender, and sexual orientation are inextricably linked. We consider it our mission to challenge these stereotypes and biases and to select cases that bring to light the harms they cause. We trust that people will understand that we use Gender Justice as an umbrella term for our broader mission.
Moreover, “gender justice” works well within the global community. While many Americans may be more accustomed to labels such as “sex discrimination” or “women’s rights,” advocates outside the U.S. more frequently use the term “gender justice,” at least when they are writing in English. It seems to us a good sign that it is catching on here as well.
Gender Justice is engaged in just this sort of local, bottom-up organizing from our base in St. Paul, Minnesota, and we are open to partnering with like-minded groups, wherever they may be found.
Q: Is Gender Justice a women’s rights group?
A: Yes and no. We are, of course, interested in promoting the full equality of women. We are a proud member of the Minnesota Women’s Consortium, and we are housed in the Minnesota Women’s Building.
However, we see our mission as broader than “women’s rights,” standing alone. Our “gender justice” work combats discrimination based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation because we think these types of discrimination can harm everyone, no matter how they are perceived or self-identify. It might be more accurate to call us a “human rights group” than a “women’s rights group.”
It is important to acknowledge, however, that gender essentialism (the notion that men and women are naturally quite different from one another, à la “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”) is usually linked with gender hierarchy (being male/masculine is the norm; being female/feminine is “other” and lesser). In a culture based on gender hierarchy, women have less access to power, authority, and capital. They are, in a word, more oppressed, and arguably face greater gender injustice, particularly when it comes to economic issues. Because Gender Justice focuses on the economic consequences of gender injustice, we currently have and will likely to continue to have a predominance of women clients.
Q: Is Gender Justice a feminist group?
A: Yes. And it’s tempting to leave it at that, to avoid coming anywhere near the infamous stance, “I’m not a feminist, but…”
However, there are some good reasons to complete the sentence, “I am a feminist, but…” Many of these have to do with a history of exclusion in the U.S. feminist movement. In the 1960s and ’70s, for example, many in the mainstream feminist movement disavowed any interest in LGBTQ rights, for fear of being stereotyped or tainted. That’s not our feminism.
Similarly, the mainstream feminist movement in the U.S. has been accused of failing to recognize the role of race and class in women’s oppression and of focusing too closely on the concerns of White middle-class women. That’s not our feminism either. We think it is vital to recognize the intersection of race, class, and gender bias, and we select cases for our litigation docket with this in mind.
Q: Does Gender Justice serve only women/girls as clients?
A: No. We do not select cases (or education, outreach, or policy projects) based on the sex of the injured party. Rather, we concentrate our resources on cases and projects that shed light on the root causes of gender injustice and address the most serious economic consequences of gender injustice.
To give some concrete examples: Gender Justice could represent men who were denied equal access to parenting or caregiving leave, or who lost opportunities at work after taking such leave, since such discrimination arises from stereotypes about how “normal” men and women behave. Such stereotypes — e.g., “fathers provide, while mothers nurture” — are a root cause of gender injustice.
Similarly, Gender Justice could represent boys who suffer from homophobic or gender-based bullying in school. Such bullying arises from strict gender-role expectations — again, a root cause of gender injustice. School bullying also has serious economic consequences, since equal opportunity in the workplace is impossible without equal access to education.
Q: Do we really need another equal rights organization?
A: Yes, we do. Reports of the demise of the patriarchy (and its companions — misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and gender hierarchy) have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, gender injustice remains pervasive.
Sometimes its effects are subtle, as when a man seems somehow less of an up-and-comer after he changes his work schedule to accommodate his child’s daycare needs, or when a woman starts to be evaluated by different standards than her male coworkers, after she has the audacity to fill a “man’s job.”
Sometimes its effects are blatant and shocking, as when an undocumented immigrant like Leticia is raped by her boss under threat of deportation, or when women like Gretchen, Barbara, and Lisa are fired from their driving jobs expressly because they are women, or when students are bullied to the point of suicide because other students think “they’re so gay.”
But subtle or shocking, most forms of gender injustice are never remedied. The victims are never compensated and the wrongdoers never punished.
This is particularly true when the victims are low-wage earners, since damages under our civil rights laws tend to correlate with the victim’s earnings. Low-wage workers generally receive lower monetary damages awards than high-wage earners, which means their cases are less likely to find representation from a contingent fee lawyer. Immigrant victims are in a similar bind, since language barriers make it difficult to find a lawyer and add to case costs.
Granted, it’s impossible for every victim of gender injustice to have access to legal assistance. But making more lawyers available, on a nonprofit basis in targeted cases, is a surely a step in the right direction.
Q: Is Gender Justice a law firm?
A: Gender Justice is a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization that sometimes represents individuals in legal cases brought under federal civil rights statutes like Title VII, Title IX, as well as state statutes like the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Under those laws, successful clients are entitled to recover attorneys’ fees to pay their lawyers for the work they performed representing them. The attorneys at Gender Justice can be awarded fees in those cases, just like lawyers in for-profit law firms.
The owners of a private for-profit law firm can distribute attorneys’ fees income in any way they choose, including to compensate and provide incentives to the firm’s lawyers. Unlike lawyers in private firms, the lawyers at Gender Justice are paid set salaries and therefore do not have a private financial interest in any legal fees generated by their work. Any funds received as attorneys’ fees payments from Gender Justice cases go to the organization, which is governed by a board of directors. The board ensures that all income goes toward the organization’s charitable purposes, our ongoing work on behalf of other clients, and our advocacy and education projects.
Q: What do you mean by “cognitive bias"?
A: Cognitive bias is sometimes also called “implicit bias” or “unconscious bias.”
All of these are fancy ways of saying “making predictable kinds of mistakes when you think about something” — such as, for example, automatically assuming that a woman you encounter in the hospital is a nurse (rather than a doctor).
The term comes from the related fields of cognitive science, psychology, and behavioral economics, all of which study how our brains work. Researchers in all these fields ask questions like, “How do we perceive information about the world?” “How do we remember it?” and “How do we make decisions?”
Cognitive bias is one of the main reasons why gender inequality remains pervasive. That’s why we make it part of our mission to help courts, employers, schools, and the general public better understand how cognitive bias works and what can be done about it.