I was thinking of starting a quick discussion about libertarianism and feminism and how the two go together, because well it could be rather entertaining.
Disclaimer: I am white, male, Romanian, and an engineer, with a huge penis. I mean massive. You should see this thing. So I maybe do not have the full nuances of Americanese society or the blessing of an education in intersectionality at a social sciences college. Which I think is a good thing, as I talk general principle not the particularities of this or that society. Onwards, then.
Also disclaimer: while I use terms like men and women in the article, it goes without saying I do so for the sake of brevity, do add how many ever other identifications in there.
So let’s get ready to rumble. In the blue corner we have a lot of libertarians who are against the concept of feminism, for a wide variety of reasons (from philosophy to actual misogyny). In the red (well pinko mostly) corner, feminists like good ol’ Lizzie NB from you know which site, who says feminism is part of libertarianism, I think. She has that whole feminist for liberty thing going.
Personal view: I am not a feminist. I do support full liberty and rights for women. I do not believe men/women are superior/inferior in any way, though I believe there are some biological differences. Those differences are irrelevant from a philosophical point of view. Beyond the State and the Law, the main concerns of libertarianism, I think people should respect each other and treat each other as equals.
So what is my disagreement with feminism? And to be clear, I do not qualify this by stating third wave/radical/intersectional/postmodern/critical theory/whatever feminism. Feminism period. Well, it is the same with my disagreement with any form of identity politics. Any form of group politics, group rights. The way I see it, it is quite inherent in identity politics to devolve into tribalism and collectivism. It is just human nature. In the end, these movements will fill with self-interested people who profit from them and with people with various ideological ideas beyond the scope of the movement. These people will be interested in grievance mongering, keeping conflicts, and hijacking the movements for other reasons. Inevitably, the demand for positive rights or privileges appears.
Women were not equal to men throughout history. The fact that I believe feminism is not a solution does not mean I discount the problem. Saying communism was a disaster for Russia is not saying Tsarist Russia was just great. I think actually advocating liberty for all is the solution, without going down the path of identity politics. I am sympathetic to arguments that liberty for all is fine, but a certain group’s liberty is more restricted/infringed than other groups, and it should be highlighted, but, in the long term, doing this via identity politics can be counterproductive. You can highlight it strongly without different terms for this. The liberty movement has a long history of supporting equal rights, and can attack a particular injustice without attaching it to identity terminology.
Also, it goes without saying that most of these movements – sex, sexual orientation, race – will be inevitably taken over by ideological leftist – which is the standard left MO – and high jacked for entirely different purposes. The reaction of the left-wing press to organizations like Pink Pistols is quite relevant. Or the environmental movement dominated by watermelons (you know, green on the outside, red on the inside). In the end capitalism is the true problem, because of course. It always is.
Now Lizzie, or people like Christina Hoff Sommers, may say at this point that there is plenty she disagrees with from left feminists and they claim they want a different type of feminism, which is in fact about equal rights and liberty. But that, to me, is like saying oh we don’t want the current big bureaucratic state, we want a competent efficient big bureaucracy. Not gonna happen, as the problems are inherent in bureaucracy and will inevitably reach this point. The same goes for feminism. What the world needs is not more labels and groups and tribalism.
I do not want to suggest that people who identify as libertarian feminists are not real libertarians or something like that. Just that the second label is unneeded and can be quite counterproductive.
About sexism, it is quite important to define it because “anything some feminist does not like is sexism” is bullshit. To give an example, I have heard many a feminist call sexism that a man tells another man a joke that a woman overhears and finds offensive, even if not directed at that woman. Well, tough shit. I my-very-self sometimes like to tell improper jokes, transgressive, or jokes which are offensive just for the sake of being offensive. Jimmy Carr built a very lucrative career on this. If you are bothered, that is your problem and none of mine. I will have to go with the thicker skin thing here. I mean honestly, the world is a nasty place, and it ain’t gonna change soon. So I think a thicker skin is universally useful advice.
That is offensive to women, is an oft heard claim. Which women? Are all women offended by the same thing? Who made someone official spokespersons for all women (good gig if you can get it)? Another thing is men will not behave towards women exactly like they behave towards other men and the same goes for women. This is not sexism, it is just nature. It is, as they say, OK.
Is there sexism in the libertarian movement? Well yes, like everywhere. Except the US Democratic party, where there are zero sexists. Furthermore libertarianism attracts a lot of… let’s say non mainstream people, due to not wanting laws against non-violent behavior, irrespective of how in poor taste that behavior may be. Can libertarian men change towards being less sexist / offensive to some women? Sure, probably some of them could.
But here is the problem: I hear many claim casual sexism is what turns women from libertarianism. I am sorry, but this is nonsense. If casual sexism puts you off your principles, your principles were not strong in the first place, and inevitably you would repent and write for Salon about being an ex-libertarian. A community is nice and all, but principles should somewhat transcend that.
Now, of course, ideas reaching people is important. If someone is exposed to libertarian ideas they may become interested in researching further and thinking about it, and in the end developing the principles, so it is important not to turn people off directly. This can use some work for libertarians, including better outreach towards womenfolk. Also, it should be a basic goal in life not to be a complete asshole, sexism or otherwise.
Sadly, the notion that libertarianism is not popular mostly because of marketing issues rings hollow to me. Most people, men and women, do not really have strong principles, do not really research and think about why they believe what they believe. They are just not interested in what libertarians are selling. The movement is small and even doubling the numbers will keep it small. And better marketing will sadly not change much. Looking at the major challenges of spreading libertarianism, casual sexism is not one. Which is sad because it would probably be easier to fix. Of course, that does not change the premise of trying not to be offensive for no apparent reason. This is basic politeness.
Anyway. Thoughts? Do share…