Are Feminism and Libertarianism Compatible?

I’ve noticed recently a particular debate become more frequent within the libertarian community. And as I’ve watched it unfold, it’s obvious that the topic is a rather divisive one, creating much conflict even between groups of liberty friends that generally agree with each other.  

A mere YouTube video posted in a libertarian Facebook group initiated a day of arguing and hundreds of comments, and ultimately the post had to be deleted.

And a bus ride back from ISFLC managed to host a four-hour, bitter debate that began with a simple comment about opening doors for women.

Needless to say, it was headache inducing and libertarians can be incredibly rowdy when discussing what’s right for libertarianism.

At face value, feminism and libertarianism seem to share some common ground.  Feminism claims to fight for equality and correct injustices created and enforced by the state, i.e., women not being allowed to vote or possess property.What state-hating libertarian wouldn’t approve of this?

But it becomes apparent upon further inspection that while feminism wants to undo some state injustices, at least some types of feminism are perfectly fine with the continued existence of others. Not only that, but some feminists go one one step further and seek to use the state to impose their ideology upon others through the growth of government. That certainly doesn’t sound like non-aggression to me. With such an illustrious track record, how can this ideology be a part of liberty?

As libertarians, we believe in equality under the law. How has feminism helped advance this belief in our society?

By creating the Tender Years Doctrine, which still today is responsible for sole custody overwhelming being awarded to mothers?  By denying that men are nearly half the victims of domestic violence, and supporting legislation like VAWA, which makes abused men three times more likely to be arrested than their abuser?  By making sure the legal definition of rape will not include women acting on men?  

I can’t help but be reminded of a particular quote when faced with the reality of feminism- “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Much of modern feminism doesn’t speak out against all forms of state injustice, because it doesn’t focus on the rights of individuals, only a particular collective — surely a fatal flaw in the eyes of libertarianism.

And why should libertarians believe that ending state injustice for one group of people matters more than it does for another? All injustice by the state is wrong and should be fought, and ignoring certain issues because they don’t affect a certain demographic is unprincipled.

Furthermore, what does the state do today that specifically attacks women’s rights? We can vote, possess property, be educated, have any career, etc. The choices that the state wrongfully takes away from us currently are taken away from everyone: drug usage, prostitution, whether or not to use seat belts, and more — you’re libertarians, so I’m sure you can name and have complained about plenty more.

Today more than ever, it is especially important we present our message through the concept of individual rights and not fall victim to the game known as identity politics — because the state, and feminism for that matter, love identity politics.

Creating conflict between people in order to attain control over them is the state’s oldest tactic, whether it be the war on terror, war on drugs, war on poverty, or the latest, feminist-touted war on women. Noticing a theme? As to the shock of no one, the state adores a war; all feminism had to do was join the party by promising the state a new one.

And in the end, the only “ism” that is truly compatible with libertarianism is individualism, and that is what liberty and its movement should represent. 

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