Why aren’t there more women libertarians?

Julie Borowski (TokenLibertarianGirl) tells us it’s because women are slaves to pop culture and Cosmo is liberal propaganda. Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire (Bleeding Heart Libertarian) tell us it’s because Julie Borowski tells women they are slaves to pop culture. Daniel Kuehn (Facts And Other Stubborn Things) tells us it’s because women are smarter than men.

Certainly, Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire are on to something. If Borowski is in any way representative of the view of women that many libertarians hold (and while I have no scientific evidence, my impression is that it is true to a point) this makes the libertarian movement very unfriendly to women.

However, I think there is another force at work, which is quite simply that the libertarian movement appears to have mostly tied the knot with conservative movement. And the conservative movement is very unfriendly to women. Conservatives have in recent history been absolutely terrible with women’s issues. And while the conservative movement has taken on very libertarian fights such as opposing government-provided birth control and abortion, it has also historically been associated with very anti-libertarian fights such as prohibiting birth control or abortion. The conservative movement is also host to some prominent personalities who engage in slut-shaming and other less-than-friendly-to-women activities, not to mention make statements of doubtful biological accuracy. Of course, not all conservatives are Rush Limbaugh, but it’s people like him that get the microphone these days.

This is bad. I understand the tactical advantages of not going alone. But this is the price we pay: we get associated with people who do want to roll back women’s rights a couple decades. And so women are understandably wary of hopping on.

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5 Responses to Why aren’t there more women libertarians?

  1. Non-mainstream movements of all kinds disproportionately attract men, and nerdy men at that.

    • PrometheeFeu says:

      I keep hearing that, but I don’t think I’ve seen solid empirical evidence on that matter. Communists for instance, were I believe quite successful in attracting women to their movement. So at the very least, it’s possible to attract women to a non-mainstream movement. Why can’t we do that successfully?

    • PrometheeFeu says:

      I think it’s inevitable that men and women have some systematic personality differences which will bleed in their political ideologies. However, I don’t find Bryan Caplan’s take to be very persuasive.

      There are a few too many jumps to my taste in his argument that “Feeling people tend to hold more anti-market views”. If you click on the link he provides ( http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/07/why_are_the_agr.html ) you will see that his conclusion is of the “doesn’t it stand to reason” variety. It is indeed eminently reasonable, but not a very strong statement either.

      I would argue that one can reach the libertarian view-point with equal ease from a “Thinking” and a “Feeling” perspective. The “Thinking” version leads to practical libertarianism: the idea that markets produce the best outcomes. The “Feeling” version is ironically-enough that which Bryan espouses, principled libertarianism: liberty as the highest value no matter the outcome. I’m not saying only “Feeling” people can reach principled libertarianism or vice-versa, but I would say those are the simplest paths.

      Finally, I think Bryan is making a mistake when he separates “Why is there a shortage of libertarian women?” from “How can libertarians better sell their ideas to women?” The second question is basically going to be a sub-set (or super-set depending upon how you look at it) of the first and could be best rephrased as: “What are the causes of the shortage of libertarian women about which we can do something?”

      [Update: Also, I’m biased against personality tests due to years of economics courses drilling into my head the primacy of revealed preferences.]

  2. Tony says:

    While it is no doubt true that the conservative movement has been, and continues to be unfriendly to women (i would say unfriendly to anyone not considered a neocon), one can say the opposite of the liberal movement, as in overly friendly; as in placating to them as a minority group as it does with all groups tagged as minorities. When a movement wants to treat you special and basically give you what you want without having to struggle too much for it, what’s not to like? And so the low count of women in the libertarian movement has the same reason there is a low count of African Americans and gay people in the libertarian movement. It truly treats people as equal; it is NOT unfriendly to minorities so much as it is simply telling them to stop whining. It is not racist or misogynist, but not being an ANTI-racist or not being feminist is often regarded by the liberal brigades as being racist and misogynist.
    Libertarianism offers people in minority groups true equality; unfortunately, often it can be seen that true equality is not what many people in minority groups want. What they want is government assistance, either because it is there or because they’ve come to believe they have a right to it.
    You can see this kind of thing implied in the sense of entitlement. The question of women, for instance, is always: “Why are there still so few women in top level executive positions?”. It is never: “Why are there so few female garbage collectors or sewer workers?” This, despite the fact that men are overrepresented in those fields, too. So far for the desire for true equality.
    Libertarianism, for many women, is a step down compared to what they have now: the state on their side.
    Of course, all of this is not very politically correct, and telling the truth is not bound to make many women feel welcome either.
    But i don’t accept any argument from someone asking why women are underrepresented in the libertarian movement, if they cannot also explain the same phenomenon with other minority groups as if there is no commonality there.
    Libertarians need to deal with the fact that minorities will be underrepresented in the movement for a long time, for the simple reason that they’ve got a good thing going with the state. And that also explains why women from the conservative movement are more likely to make the step.

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