Yeah well that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Feminism, a social justice movement being paired with individualism? Crazy
right? But hear me out – even a free society needs feminism. And I’m not talking quotas, affirmative action and legislation – I’m talking about changing our attitudes, and our culture to ensure everyone gets a shot.
My train of thought starts here – freedom is about being able to make free choices – controlling your destiny, being yourself, and living to your utmost potential. Decisions are based on value – economically, on utility – and so individuals demand products and do things which are the most useful to them, or make them the happiest. This makes complete sense, but it is quite different when it comes to people.
Ideally, a free society would be meritocratic. People are hired based on skill, and so employers sign contracts with workers who are the most productive, the nicest, and best for the company, and employers would pay higher wages for those who are more skillful. Assuming that employers act within their self-interest, that should happen. And it would be beneficial. Free, voluntary exchanges would allow talent to be rewarded through price mechanisms.
When in public spaces, networking would be same from one person to the next – discrimination wouldn’t change the way someone approached situations and dealt with others. Where you come from, what you look like,
But that doesn’t happen. We do not have a meritocracy, and even if we were to intensely deregulate the market right here, right now, it still would not exist.
The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me. – Ayn Rand
Even humans with equal skill, nowadays, are not treated treated equally. Despite being in the 21st century, discrimination still manifests itself in so many corners of our lives, albeit casual and subtle. The world is built around corporate “professional” environments, where eurocentric dresscodes (like suits) are only permitted, cisheteronormative assumptions (i.e. you are either a straight, cis man or a straight cis woman), casual to outright skepticism of women in leadership (as only men are perceived as ‘strong’), elitist language codes and damaging racial stereotypes. This is not an exhaustive list, but some examples of sociological issues which get in the way of achieving a meritocracy, and lead to the isolation of individuals in certain scenarios.
Being born a certain way means you can be automatically worse off, and for some, discriminatory attitudes can get in the way of high skill or good character, stopping individuals from pursuing their own destiny. And while we like to ignore this when dreaming up a free society, it’s a reality which needs to be confronted. If libertarians believe in the aspirational elements of liberty – being able to progress off the back of your own work, and being valued for who you are – then libertarians should fight discrimination and marginalisation within their own lives. That way, anyone can profit from personal, and more importantly, economic liberty.
Sexism, classism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism and other forms of bigotry are also collectivist in nature, and therefore anti-libertarian. Discrimination, ranging from the casual and microaggressive to the blunt and indiscreet, results mostly from a false assumption of someone’s character based on a stereotype of a group they belong to. It allows a collective stereotype to come before individual qualities, and so is inherently anti-individualist. If we, as libertarians, are going to fight “groupthink” and collectivist ideas, we have a duty to fight against discrimination.
Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. – Former Republican congressman Ron Paul
If another reason is needed to adopt intersectional feminism, it is that many forms of oppression that feminists protest have their origins in the theocratic/nationalist/corporatist history of the state. The treatment of people of colour as lesser than “superior” Europeans can be easily traced back to colonialism – the expansion of Western governments at the expense of indigenous peoples, years and years of slavery (the denial of a person’s individual sovereignty) and the prohibition and destruction of non-European cultures, justified by Darwinism. Oppression of women and queer people can partially be traced back to religious fundamentalism. Classism has over time been reinforced by corporate elites and dynasties, which are secured by government regulation and favours. What I’m trying to say is that historically, oppression is a statist trend.
If we are wanting to make a free society from a free market of ideas, we need to fight discrimination and casual phobias, so that everyone is able to profit from that. Free markets can work for people of all demographics, but only if everyone can access them – if we are to talk about regulatory barriers to freedom, we need to also look at sociological barriers. If we listen onto the experiences of marginalised people and change our attitudes, we can make it work – this is why we libertarians may well need feminism too.