(co-authored with Steve Horwitz)
This morning Julie Borowski, who makes videos as “Token Libertarian Girl,” shared her answer to the question “Why aren’t there more female libertarians?” While we certainly agree with Borowski that this is a question worth asking, and while we also agree that in the long run her video answers the question, we think just about everything else she says in her two minute video is wrong.
Borowski argues that because libertarianism and liberty issues are not thoroughly integrated into popular culture, women—who are slaves to being “socially acceptable and fitting in with their peers”—find libertarianism unappealing. She excoriates popular culture and women’s magazines in particular as left-wing feminist (!?) programmers of women’s minds, and damns women as passive recipients of everything the culture hands out.
Borowski then slut shames women who engage in casual sex, off-handedly dismisses the possibility that a libertarian could be pro-choice, and spirals off into an unfocused critique of the luxury goods market. Every single one of these things that she criticizes women for doing should be seen not as causes for shame, but as complex choices that smart, thoughtful women can and do make, without destroying their lives in the process. In addition, Borowski is making arguments that conservatives hurl at women all the time. If we want to pull young women away from liberalism and toward libertarianism, repeating the very same intellectually patronizing conservative arguments that pushed women to liberalism in the first place doesn’t seem to be the way to go.
Telling women that they aren’t libertarians because they are too stupid to choose something better for themselves isn’t great advertising for liberty. Claiming that women are passive, easily programmed, and incapable of critical interaction with political and cultural ideas is simply wrong—as centuries of history of women fighting against the state and decades of critiques from the left and the right of women’s magazines and popular culture have shown.
What Borowski does get right is that libertarianism does need to move into the popular culture. We do need more, and more vocal, libertarian authors, actors, musicians and so on—with the talent to produce good work that addresses themes of liberty without being dogmatically and annoyingly ideological.
But the way that Borowski’s video answers the question, “Why aren’t there more female libertarians?” is, sadly, just by being itself. There aren’t more female libertarians because libertarians say things exactly like this. Nearly every female libertarian we know can tell stories about being told, “Women aren’t really equipped to understand libertarianism. It’s a biological thing.” Or “Of course women are statists. They all just want to be taken care of.” Or “Women’s brains just can’t do economics.” Or “Women’s right to vote ruined the country.” Now Borowski has added yet another insult to the pile.
We are convinced that if a bright college-aged woman considering libertarianism saw this video, she’d think “I don’t want to be part of that movement if that’s what libertarians think women are like. And Borowski is one of the women! I can only imagine what libertarian men think…” Borowski might want to ask herself what the reception of that video would be at something like an Institute for Humane Studies introductory seminar. How would a several dozen smart, interested-but-not-yet-libertarian college-aged women respond to it? We shudder to find out the answer.
The result is that female libertarians continue to look over their shoulders and wonder which of their fellow travelers thinks they don’t really belong in the movement.
Videos like this are yet another “No Girls Allowed” sign on the treehouse of the libertarian movement and the nodding heads and “likes” by libertarians on Facebook and YouTube just add a few exclamation points and a larger font to that sign.
We’re libertarians. One of us is even a female one. And we’re going to spend yet another day being just a little embarrassed to admit it.