Women and Libertarianism

The eternal problem of the relative dearth of women in the Libertarian Movement is a classic Friday Afternoon topic: it’s not my problem, so I’m not in danger of getting emotional about it, and it’s likely to produce unintentional hilarity–sort of like a discussion among the characters of The Big Bang Theory (other than Leonard, I suppose) about why women find them tedious.

I’ll avoid the easy temptation of snark here, and won’t answer that libertarianism is highly consistent with male adolescent fantasies, or that it may be an obstacle that the most prominent woman associated with American Libertarianism (not that she’d be happy about that!) was a professed anti-feminist and rape enthusiast.

But some of the explanations and prescriptions for remediation from within libertarian ranks aren’t much more flattering to The Movement. Julie Borowski, a videographer who goes by the handle of TokenLibertarianGirl, has posted a jeremiad that, well, sort of suggests women aren’t libertarians because they are superficial and sex-crazed (albeit because they’ve been brainwashed by the “feminist propaganda” of checkout-line magazines).

This approach to the subject attracted an unhappy post from Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, a brave outpost of non-orthodoxy, suggesting that, well: “There aren’t more female libertarians because libertarians say things exactly like this.”

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….

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…”

Seems a lot of the men think Borowski is right:

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.

I gotta say, of all the self-appointed tasks in American political discourse, making libertarianism a gender-balanced movement strikes me as one of the most Sisyphean. It would require someone with the grit and charisma of a Howard Roark.


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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.