Quick, when you hear the word libertarianism, what do you think of?Do the words "stodgy," "old," "white," and "male" come to mind?
Many pundits believe that the Liberty movement, which Ron Paul is probably the most visible proponent of, is made up of predominantly young people. Most still assume that much like the rest of politics, the majority of libertarians are young men feeling their oats on the Hill.
I’m here to tell you that those stereotypes are dead wrong. Groups like Students For Liberty (SFL) and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) are bringing in record numbers, and instead of being male-dominated, they are being run by women. One staff member recently posted on Facebook, “We now officially have more women than men in the SFL office!” While some of this may have to do with college graduation statistics, much of it has to do with libertarianism's focus on individualism, along with its message of peaceful cooperation, community, and responsibility, all of which are appealing to women.
Traditionally, the left is associated with women’s issues, poverty, race, and child abandonment. While these issues are important to the right as well, the candidates do not do a good job of courting that range of voters and appealing to them. Libertarianism is usually associated with the right, leading many to assume that libertarians are gun-totting, Bible thumping, paternalistic and abrasive social misfits. This is wrong. While we have our fair share of crazy people, the movement of liberty-oriented young people is attracting a wider audience in all demographics. Liberty and individualism has a long history of appealing to all, specifically minorities because of the self-determination and autonomy that it lends to them.
Individual feminists like Voltairine de Cleyre, Mimi Reisel Gladstein as well as leading female libertarians such as Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Patterson, and Suzanne LaFollette have combined to give a solid foundation to libertarianism. All of the mentioned women are above average in strength, mind, and fortitude. Strong, sharp, and smart, they forged a path in politics and communities for women to pursue their own course, whatever that may be.
Many individualist feminists may not even be self-described feminists, but their attitudes toward government policies, the state, and their outlook on life may reveal more. For instance, if you ask my mother if she’s a feminist, she would tell you emphatically, no. But if you look at her life and her views toward the state, you would see a woman that has fought against sexism her entire life, in the home and in the workplace. She has supported herself and her children for the majority of her life and refuses to swim with the crowd. From health and nutrition choices to voting and education choices, she has chosen to be an individual FIRST, teaching her daughters to stand on their own two feet, think for themselves, and reject the state. That is the life of a feminist and a libertarian.
With that foundation where did we go wrong? We lost strong female leadership in libertarianism, and with that, we lost the ability to speak to women in ways that they could identify, understand, and take advantage of individualism and how it applies to them. But all of that is now changing. From taking leading positions in organizations like YAL and SFL, creating record breaking (and hilarious) Tumblr blogs dedicated to liberty, to spearheading our own alliances and conferences, we’re having fun, kicking paternalism's ass, and taking names.
Organizations, protests, education, and writings focused on women’s issues, children, poverty, and race have taken the backseat for far too long. If we detach economics from women and community, we detach the heart from the individual and render libertarianism sterile. We cannot move forward in libertarianism if our women are not included in the discussions and the solutions, if you won’t make a place for us, we will make one for ourselves.