Posts Tagged ‘Women’

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.

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On women and war.

Posted on January 26, 2013 at 3.15 pm

Much is being made of the recent announcement that women will no longer be banned from combat roles in the military — and inevitably the question of whether women will be required to register for the draft has been raised.

My thoughts on the subject are simple. Rather than focus on whether women should/shouldn’t/will/won’t be put into combat or drafted, it seems to me that there are bigger fish to fry: If our government is killing children with drones or coercing people into the military, the detail of what gender is pressing the kill button or being coerced strikes me as comparatively minor.

Is allowing women in combat a step toward equality? I suppose. But without significant changes in our foreign policy, what a horrifying equality it is.

No girls allowed?

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 2.51 pm

Q. Saw this earlier this morning and thought of you. Had you seen the video in question? What did you think of it? — Ari Kohen, from tumblr.

A. I know Julie (the girl in the video) in real life, but hadn’t watched the clip before today. Julie is great, but in this case I have to disagree with her.

Like some conservatives, some libertarians (Julie apparently included) 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 their maternal instinct producing 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.” Others say we’re inherently collectivist consequentialists who just want to keep those the love safe and well-cared for — “communal utilitarians.”

It’s intriguing to note that both of the examples I just cited come, like Julie’s video, from self-described female libertarians.

———————-

Now, 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. That may indeed be a valuable discussion for the libertarian community to have, but it’s also a bit beyond the range of this particular post.

(For my purposes here, suffice it to say that I’m not in that camp. This analysis strikes me as antiquated, off-putting, and wrong — not to mention, it’s an ironically sweeping collectivization coming from supposedly individualist libertarians.)

Instead, the suggestion I’d like to make is that even if the most extreme of these claims 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. (And if I’m right and this analysis is not true, we have the same responsibility, but presumably a less daunting task.)

In short: This is a marketing problem.

We have (I certainly think) great philosophy, noble goals, and fresh ideas for how to achieve those goals. We should be able to communicate that vision to others in an attractive manner.

This isn’t to say that women are less intelligent than men or more easily manipulated by a nice logo design. It is to say that the liberty movement as a whole must get rid of the kind of belittling arguments I mentioned above and learn to present our ideas to women (and indeed all kinds of people) in a persuasive manner:

I once read a forum that posed the question: “Why doesn’t [liberty-inclined candidate] have a larger female base?” The sexist, condescending responses that followed were alienating, even to me, so it isn’t too difficult to deduce how a woman mildly sympathetic to our ideas might feel about the movement once they read something like that. 

Not only is the lack of libertarian women a marketing problem, but a big part of the problem can be found in the very speculations about this issue.

We understand that foreign countries won’t like our country if we bomb them. Why can’t we understand that individual women won’t like our movement if we insult them? This is just another kind of blowback.

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