Libertarianism & Women: Could It Be So Simple?
A “Lily Goldberg” at The Libertarian Republic argues that, contra Mother Jones, the real reason there are so few women in the libertarian movement is that libertarian (or rather, anarcho-capitalist) men are disgusting. Mother Jones thinks that men dominate the libertarian movement because they believe their individual (white, male, cis, privileged) greatness is held back by government regulations. Lily Goldberg wishes there were more truly aspiring John Galts out there, arguing instead that the an-cap wing of the libertarian movement is an unwashed and undatable horde. MRAs and manospherians are gathering their torches and ptichforks as we speak.
My first inclination is to argue that they are both wrong. I’ll start with Mother Jones before moving back to Lily Goldberg’s argument.
The Mother Jones blurb is partially right, I suppose; there’s no doubt that government programs tend to benefit women more than men. The author suggests that “in the more libertarian past, women were subjugated to men almost completely.” It is certainly true that a laissez-faire society does make marriage and commitment a much more attractive option, since the state will not subsidize single motherhood – it is also true that laissez-faire liberals stood and continue to stand for individual rights, including the individual rights of women. Men and women as individuals are entitled to as much freedom, liberty and happiness that they can persuade others to give them peacefully, usually in exchange for things they do to make other people’s lives better. No one is entitled to what I earn to subsidize choices they could not have otherwise made.
Furthermore, while libertarianism may have a ways to go with respect to female adherents, feminism itself isn’t looking so good: only 23% of American women claim to actually be feminists. That’s pretty bad for an ideology that purports to represent women as a group. HuffPo leftists try to salvage feminism by referring to the fact that over 80% say they favor total equality between men and women. This is misleading, though, because there are distinct visions of equality. There is the libertarian vision of equality, which is the equality of all individuals under the law, and this coincides with 1st wave feminism. Then there is the socialist vision of equality, which is violent and collectivist. It seeks an impossible statistical parity between massive social groups at the direct expense of individual rights. This is what 2nd and 3rd wave feminism has associated itself with, and why most Americans reject it.
What about Goldberg’s argument, though? Do women avoid libertarianism because libertarian men are creepy weirdos? Much is made over the fact that a large percentage of men are libertarians, in the 80%-90% range or higher depending on the source. But libertarians, at least those of us who self-identify, are less than 10% of the population in general. This makes libertarianism a fringe movement in spite of recent gains in public respectability.
One problem I have with the creepy male thesis: it isn’t as if there were at one point a large contingent of female an-caps, only to be driven off by the odious behavior of their fedora-donning male counterparts. They were just never there to begin with. They didn’t dominate in any of the far-left fringe groups I mingled with in college either, even if they had a quantitative edge on the libertarian groups. The dominant figures in every political fringe group I have seen are white (with an over-representation of Jews), male, socially awkward (ranging from only a little to extremely), above-average IQs and heterosexual. The leftists too had their share of creeps who made women uncomfortable. And yet I never saw a drop-off in women due to creepy behavior, no one quitting in disgust or changing political affiliations over it. That’s just not how most people come into their political identities, even if it is the reason why one might avoid a particular group. Lily Goldberg isn’t threatening to vote for Hillary if an-cap men don’t shape up.
Still, there’s something to her post in spite of its brutal tone. In the comments one of the people invoked in her post as an example of an “exception” to disgusting libertarian manhood, Judd Weiss, said: “the biggest thing holding back the success of our movement is not the content of our ideas, but that most libertarian guys are totally undateable.” I balked and scoffed and asked him if he thought it was an overstatement. He said he did not. And thinking on it some more, he might have a point. I still think it is a drastic overstatement, but at the same time I do believe that sex sells, and selling is what we must do to gain adherents. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to clean up a bit and to form realistic expectations about the kind of dates one is likely to get given one’s current appearance, income, living situation, etc.
Libertarian women might also form some realistic expectations of their own. You will encounter creeps. If you leave the libertarian scene and become a socialist, you will encounter creeps. If you become politically apathetic and take the subway or the bus somewhere, you will encounter creeps. Life is full of creepy dudes who will make you feel uncomfortable. I have to believe that at least part of the reason that a woman self-identifies as a libertarian is that she doesn’t buy the utopian delusion that creepiness, or rape, or any other offensive behavior can be somehow unlearned by or bred out of the entire male population.