Posts Tagged ‘ISFLC’

Girls! Girls! Girls!: My Panel Notes from ISFLC

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 9.48 pm

This past weekend, I was honored to be included in a panel discussion at ISFLC 2013 which was moderated by Nena Bartlett and also featured Cathy Reisenwitz and Julie Borowski. The panel was titled, “Girls! Girls! Girls!: Marketing Libertarianism to Women,” and the prepared version of my comments can be found below. Video of the whole panel should be posted on Cathy’s YouTube panel soon!

Question 1: Are there barriers to entry for women in the Liberty Movement? If so, what are they? If not, is there an issue with the current gender balance?

Are there barriers to entry for women in the liberty movement? I think for many of us, the self-evident answer seems to be a qualified yes. These barriers certainly aren’t formal—there aren’t any liberty organizations turning away women at the door—but it would be difficult to deny that there’s a gender imbalance. At this very conference, among the attendees and especially the roster of speakers, men are by far the majority.

Now, we libertarians have a lot of opinions that we love to share, but the subject of why most libertarians aren’t women has received comparatively little attention until the last few years—and the attention the question has gotten is, to my mind, typically not helpful.

Like some conservatives, some libertarians make the case that women are naturally more inclined to lean left—usually it’s some combo of their apparent greater desire to fit in or the maternal instinct feeding a love of social programs. Some go so far as to say that women make their political decisions according to their feelings, not logic (like men), and indeed women “are natural socialists.”

We could have a very lengthy discussion about whether or not there is truth in these claims and, if so, if such habits of behavior are truly innate or if they’re simply the product of social conditioning.

I’m not interested in having that discussion—and I don’t think the liberty movement as such needs to do so either. Let psychologists and sociologists figure out those details.

For my purposes here, suffice it to say that I’m not in that camp. This analysis strikes me as off-putting at best—not to mention, it’s an ironically sweeping collectivization coming from supposedly individualist libertarians. It’s perhaps also noteworthy that this panel isn’t discussing whether men are too difficult to reach with the message of liberty because they’re “naturally” inclined to aggression and war.

But I digress. Rather than talk about differences between the sexes, the suggestion I’d like to make is that even if the most extreme of these claims about women are true—if women are by nature mandated by their emotion-addled brains to focus only on pragmatic, often collective ways to take care of others—that should not be a barrier to equal representation of women within the liberty movement.

If it is a barrier, then we, not women at large, are the ones doing something wrong.

The onus remains on the liberty movement to get women into the fold.

In short: This is a marketing problem.