Feminism and Libertarianism: Are They Compatible?

Romy Haber | Lebanon

Libertarians supported feminists when they struggled to get the right to hold property, to vote and to engage in the political system. In other words, libertarians and feminists were on good terms. But times have changed and the honeymoon is over.

The formal, legal inequalities between the genders have been largely abolished in the West but women continue to earn less than men, have less professional advancement than men, and are under-represented in the professional upper crust. These are the issues that feminism aims to resolve.

Feminism and Government

Feminists, to achieve their gender equality utopia, resort to government interventions. On the other side, Libertarians, beyond a shadow of a doubt, despise big government. And since the state (in the west) no longer restrains a woman’s economic or social decision-making, they don’t want it to regulate individuals for the sake of gender equality. This is causing tensions between the two entities.

The equal pay law can illustrate the conflict between libertarianism and feminism. Feminists despise the wage gap, and despite it being explained and justified, they keep on crying the blues. It is now illegal in many countries to pay men more than women for the same work. It may seem like a noble idea but it can easily backfire. For instance, an equal paycheck plus maternity leave can make a woman more expensive to hire than a man. Consequently, companies will hire fewer women and more men. Demanding state action to empower women can be a slippery slope.

Libertarianism and Feminism

Libertarians see it differently: The wage gap is indicative of inequality of outcome, not opportunity. Hence it is not a bad thing. If anything, equality of outcomes is the road to tyranny and authoritarianism. In other words, equal pay is not their priority, Individuals are. They oppose all special protections of women, they believe that they are inherently infantilizing. Pay should depend on merit alone, not gender, race, or anything like that. This stands in stark contrast to feminism.

We heard that to end racism we have to start by not talking about race and not make everything about race. Maybe to end sexism, we can start by not talking about sexes and not make everything about sexes. In plain English, we should see and treat women as the strong individuals they are and not damsels in distress waiting for big brother to back them up.

Libertarians do not oppose women’s rights. Neither does feminism. Libertarians want to treat women like human beings. They want liberty for all men and women. They oppose over-policing and an overly coercive state. Libertarians focus on changing society through personal action not state actions. They stand for choice. Such Libertarians are called Libertarian feminists.

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