For those just tuning in, the latest libertarian internet dust up surrounds Julie Borowski’s video about why there are not more libertarian women. In it, she argues that women are not libertarians in part because libertarianism is kinda dorky and women care more than men about acceptance. When I first saw the video, I had a similar reaction as my co-bloggers, especially about Julie’s critique of the “liberal pro-choice feminist magazines.” I like those magazines.
Then I read Julie’s response to the criticism and I became more sympathetic to her position. She does have a point when she writes that social pressure against identifying as a libertarian may discourage women (or anyone) from doing so. Julie thinks that women are more susceptible to that pressure, but an alternative hypothesis is that libertarian culture tends to be more accepting of men. Furthermore, in some industries there are real professional risks to being openly libertarian. When some people hear “libertarian” it instantly translates to “asshole” or “idiot” in their heads. Given this perception, it’s probably more risky for someone who is a member of a socially marginalized group to depart from the mainstream. Still, I think Julie is right that more people would identify as libertarians if it were more culturally relevant and so libertarians should look beyond the state and speak to social issues and culture.
Where Julie and I will disagree is about what libertarians should say when we talk about social issues. I think that libertarians should not oppose feminist cultural values. Libertarians should embrace feminism. Freedom is a libertarian and feminist ideal–an ideal that should inform our politics and our culture. States are not the only institutions that should aim to be more voluntary. So should the family and the workplace.
This is one of the reasons that women on the left should give libertarianism a second look. Of course, libertarians and liberal egalitarian feminists will disagree about the solutions to problems like sexism. Libertarians are skeptical that state-backed violence is the solution to private patterns of gendered injustice, but that doesn’t mean that we endorse sexism in any sense. As I argued earlier, it is consistent to say, “A should not be sexist” and also to say “B should not threaten violence to prevent A from being sexist.”
Anyone who cares about freedom should oppose both public and private forms of oppression. This is why libertarians should be feminists and why feminists should be libertarians.