Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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Libertarian Feminism

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I was just babbling in an email yesterday about how silly it is that so many feminists seem to feel feminism as a concept/movement is the sole province of Democrats; and how a libertarian feminist perspective is very natural and logical (case in point: Reason’s Kerry Howley); and what a disservice some feminists do to the entire movement/idea by marginalizing all non-doctrinaire-liberal perspectives—and then what do I see when I log into my RSS reader? A whole bloggingheads segment on this exact issue by Howley and The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle (it’s a few weeks old, I guess, but it was just posted on Reason’s Hit & Run yesterday).

Good stuff, all around. You should watch the whole thing, but if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing (it’s nearly an hour long; I was able to watch the whole thing because I’ve caught this DC plague that’s going around and am unable to get out of bed for very long without falling over), it’s broken down into segments (the best ones, in my opinion, were “Misguided government attempts to increase birthrates” and “Libertarian housework: Outsource your drudgery!”). A few interesting points:

• Anti-feminists are fond of blaming declining birthrates on women in the workplace, etc. But Howley says social norms that support working women actually lead to higher birthrates. In the U.S. and Northern Europe, places where women can make the choice to have both family and career (however imperfect the circumstances), birthrates are still relatively high when compared to places like Southern Europe, Singapore and Japan, places where “you have to choose between your identity as a working woman and a mother.”

• McArdle blames the antagonistic relationship between Libertarianism and Feminism on the fact that “historically, the feminist movement has been associated with the Left, with radical economic policies.” Howley agrees, but also shifts some of the blame onto libertarians themselves, whom she says are often “unable to understand social conditioning as it applies to women” (even though they’ll wax about social conditioning as it applies to The Individual), “probably because for so long they’ve defined themselves against feminism.”

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Written by Elizabeth

August 7, 2008 at 12:18 am

Posted in Culture, Feminism

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