I often hear libertarians say, “feminism is collectivism”, “I only support libertarian feminism” or “feminism is Marxist”. As a libertarian and a feminist I find this laughable and a serious concern; libertarians in general have no clue what feminism is. If they support the idea of feminism, it’s usually individualist feminism, which is rooted mostly in “egalitarianism”. Sometimes I hear libertarians say they, “reject feminism in support of egalitarianism,” based on a misguided understanding of politics and social construction.
This could actually be considered a more acceptable definition of socialism. Feminism is simply, “advocacy or support of the rights and equality of women,” something that seems conveniently ignored. I’m wondering how this idea of egalitarianism is not the ultimate idea of collectivism or somehow “Marxist”, from a libertarian perspective, as it attempts to straw man feminist theory into complete contradiction.
Egalitarian “anti-feminists” like Girlwriteswhat, who not only fail to address the concept or the reality of female oppression, legitimately reassert heteronormativity and the gender binary of “man” and “woman” that dominates their understanding of what “egalitarian” means. It’s no wonder why she is loved by libertarians like Stefan Molyneux—who are annoyingly anti-feminist and unironically sexist.
Queer and Gender theory offers the single biggest case against egalitarian arguments posed by libertarian feminists.
This is why equity feminism, a branch of individualist feminism, is wrong. Their opposition to “gender feminism” is entirely based on the false claims that gender feminism is gynocentric and misandric. This is not true of gender feminism. These are problems of second-wave feminism and it’s a very thin critique, if at all. Misogynistic, patriarchal, heteronormative, transphobic and cissexist concepts are found in “equity” feminism – which is funny because they stress the ideas of “equality” and “liberty”. I do not believe this is intentional, but rather, an unintended result of the ideology being more so a reaction to feminism than it being actually feminist. Here you see how social conservatism and status quo apologia has always been a part of the right libertarian narrative. This has disastrous consequences for liberty, as it leads many libertarians to ignore horrendous gender based violations of liberty. In the 19th Century the state sent women to reformatories if they violated feminine gender norms, forcing them into reeducation. Equity feminism has no conceptual basis for inclusion of trans women or queer women or how their struggle fits within the gender constructs of society - just like first-wave feminism. Which implies how inadequate it’s analysis is, among other types of third-wave feminist view points, in being able to address the problems we face in modern day society. Inclusion of trans women, recognizing that they are also women who experience the oppression of gender-based violence and patriarchy, is one of these problems we must address. In the mean time, anything that opposes “gender feminism” is not feminism nor is it truly libertarian. If gender is used to oppress us, then it’s a meaningful concept to understand, if we want to understand the idea of “liberty”.
Gender feminism will continue to address problems that are significant and relevant to libertarianism, because talking about gender is important to us and our identity – gender and sexuality help define who we are as individuals. This is key to understanding our oppression. If feminism is not gender-based, it’s not effective as feminism, nor does it get us closer to understanding the idea of equality. “Equity” supposes a gender construct that can only be understood if we even know what “gender” is. Social constructs that create our perceptions of gender, as understood in queer theory, can help us see how the State is oppressing us even in our own perceived identity – where “man” and “woman” are the product of power relations. Gender-based oppression is one of the most violent and perpetual conditions we face under the State and it’s monopoly of force and aggression. This is why queer theory suggests that the radical deconstruction of gender-identity will get us closer to chipping away at the foundation in which our oppression originates. Not only should libertarians be feminists – they should support Queer and Trans liberation.
Libertarians will never support the idea of feminism, if they don’t understand it. And they should try to understand it because it addresses a problem within our own movement – “where are all the women”. Either women hate liberty or we’re doing something wrong? For myself and other female libertarians this is continuously frustrating. The good thing is that there are lots of libertarians that do support feminism, though we are a minority, and feminism is more so associated with the growth left-libertarian thought. This is why left-libertarians need to keep talking. Yet simply reminding people that we are feminists should not be our only approach to feminism within left-libertarian thought. It is crucial to understanding our oppression within capitalist society and how it originates from the State. That’s where thick libertarian values are key – they go beyond just talking about economics and unambiguous State violence.
If the narrow analysis of thin libertarianism continues, then it will continue to marginalize feminist libertarians and trivialize feminism’s importance. But skeptics should know, however, that it’s not going away. Feminism is relevant to libertarianism and no I will not shut up about it.