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Preach It, Sister

November 7th, 2008 · 6 Comments

Kerry Howley points out that people who treat “libertarian” and “feminist” as antonyms are, by and large, really fucking dumb:

For some reason, various libertarian-leaning men are only capable of acknowledging the limiting nature of social norms when those norms result from recent political action. We all worry that universal surveillance breeds passive adults with no expectation of privacy. We all worry that smoking bans will encourage people to accept the diminution of their choices uncomplainingly. We all realize that the more the state does, the broader most people think its natural scope to be. No thinking libertarian is only concerned with coercion; most of us worry just as much about conformity and passivity in the form of president-worship and war-lust.

It is extremely weird to recognize this sort of social pressure–the ability of government to create limiting expectations and norms of behavior–and then to immediately dismiss claims about the social construction of gender. States and patriarchies both engender certain patterns of behavior. Humans with female bodies have been dumped into a particular social category with various limiting assumptions, and they’re right to struggle against them.

If Todd wants to argue that women aren’t oppressed because they accept their assigned roles, he’d better be willing to accept the idea that governmental authority is not oppressive because most people don’t complain. Libertarians spend an enormous amount of time telling people that they are, in fact, oppressed. We don’t call it “consciousness raising” when we explain why you ought to be able to shoot up while selling your kidney to a sex worker, but that’s what it is.

Tags: Libertarian Theory



6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Galt // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:48 am

    You know, I may need to borrow that line about shooting up and organ sale. Because that is a fair “worst” case scenario… I guess.

  • 2 Glen // Nov 8, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    You should be very careful about referring to your girlfriend as “sister,” regardless of context.

  • 3 pfjo // Nov 13, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    But libertarianism IS only concerned with coercion which is one of the movements primary problems. It has no underlying moral philosophy that applies to non-coercive entities… it simply holds up freedom as virtue.

    I hate to say it but Ayn Rand was right…

  • 4 jr // Nov 18, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Sure a libertarian can believe in the social construction of gender, since that is not a political issue of itself. And there is some non-trivial overlap between libertarian issues and feminist ones, like allowing abortion, stopping rape, banning genital mutilation and stopping state-sanctioned discrimination.

    But to say that women are oppressed by social norms does not sound libertarian. Libertarianism is concerned with coercion after all. Sure, Kerry can be libertarian and argue against the social construction of gender by herself, but it is hard to see how taking political action against would be consistent with libertarianism. And conversly, a feminism that doesn’t want to take political action against the social norms that are seen as oppressing women is not much of a feminism.

    It would be interesting to know if Kerry

  • 5 jr // Nov 18, 2008 at 10:27 am

    If Kerry supports anti-discrimination laws. was what I wanted to end with.

  • 6 Benquo // Nov 19, 2008 at 9:26 am


    Are Julian Sanchez and Will Wilkinson the same person? That would explain why I’ve never seen them together…