Where them girls at?

Caitlyn Bates
Aug 9, 2011 at 3:33 PM

As I’m sure all single libertarians with a Y chromosome are fully aware, the libertarian movement fails to woo the ladies. Knowing how sexy our ideas are, you may wonder, “why are all the ladies head over heels for those not-so-liberal Democrats?” Well, regardless of how intelligent, morally consistent, and just plain awesome libertarian ideas are, we are not so good with the romance. That is, we are not so good with the politics.

That isn’t to say that all libertarians are awkward intellectual white guys whose primary relationships are with books and blogs -- y’all know who you are* -- but first impressions and the internet are very powerful things.

I once read a forum that posed the question: "Why doesn’t [liberty-inclined candidate] have a larger female base?" The sexist, condescending responses that followed were alienating, even to me, so it isn’t too difficult to deduce how a woman mildly sympathetic to our ideas might feel about the movement once they read something like that. While I’m sure that no YALer would claim that our deficit of ladies is due to their lack of intelligence and a desire to murder babies, that doesn’t change the reality that it was posted and is affiliated with our movement.

So even before we attempt to court potential supporters, we are pinned with the reputation of misogynistic -- and often, racist and elitist -- sleazeball, simply because some angsty, closeted creeper calling himself a friend of liberty said some terrible things on the indelible medium of the internet. It may not be fair, but guess what? It doesn’t matter. If you want your potential liberty supporter to even consider you and your poetic musings on liberty, you’re going to have to compensate for someone else’s mistakes. You have to open the car door, take off your hat when you walk inside, and stand as she gets up from the table. You have to be a perfect damn gentleman (or gentlewoman, as the case may be).

If you got lost in that metaphor, which you may very well have, the point is one which you should be familiar with:  Focus on where your beliefs overlap, not where they differ. There are a few issues that tend to be problematic with the female demographic. Fortunately, the libertarian community itself is split on many of these issues as well, so as a general rule, don’t discuss them when selling the ideology.

The primary issue which you should avoid like it’s Jimmy Carter is abortion. I’m pro-choice, but I make it clear that not all libertarians feel this way and only discuss it personally, if asked. Same goes for pro-lifers -- a real or perceived restriction of women’s rights can lose some people’s support irreparably, especially (you guessed it) them aforementioned girls.

There are more issues that are no man’s land, but you can usually play them by ear. A good gauge of whether an issue is delicate is whether there are competing rights involved (such as life vs. liberty in abortion or life vs. property in emergency medical care). And don’t bring up prostitution. That’s awwwwkwarrrd.

So what sexy issues SHOULD you flaunt besides how really, really good-looking -- I’ve totally done that -- and funny we are? I’m so glad [that I am pretending] you asked! My favorite issue is gay rights, especially gay marriage, because it’s one of those issues that the Democrats really just suck at (they’re closeted, just like the Republicans) but which is kind of a big deal to their base. Personally, I think the world would be a prettier, less stuffy place if we gay-ed it up a bit. Politically, I -- and most libertarians -- believe that the government should have nothing to do with marriage or sex between consensual adults. Period. Nobody wants a creepy middle-aged government official in their bedroom unless they’re planning a sex scandal. As an added bonus, the birds and the bees discussion is easily segued into the unethical practice of overly-complicated taxation, which, other than religion, is the only real difference between marriage and a civil union. Bizinga.

So this is what’s up: Liberals should see that we’re warm and fuzzy and a billion times better than Democrats on social issues! Politics IS personal; you have to get them to fall for you with your sexy talking points before they’ll even consider your "baggage" -- show them your antiwar sticker BEFORE you talk about the kinky stuff you’d like to do to entitlements.

*Seriously, those of y’all who DO spend all of your time on Al Gore’s interwebs: go forth, absorb some vitamin D, groom thyself, and DO the things you blog/vlog/whine about. You might even flirt up and convert some lady libertarians! (Please?)

This is both excellent and accurate. Guys of YAL, take note.

Especially of that last, italicized paragraph.

Bonnie Kristian's picture

So the way we get more women involved in the liberty movement is by turning it into a gay pride parade? While I'm all for people being free to make whatever unhealthy choices they wish I don't exactly want to promote them or get dragged into identity based more equal status seeking politics.

In my experience most people don't really care what gays do which is far different from supporting them or wanting to make special laws giving them special consideration. I think you would alienate more people than you would attract unless your goal is to start yet another LGBT promotional group.

's picture

I don't think her point is that libertarianism should become an LGBT support group.  On the contrary, the basic argument is that if you're trying to spread libertarianism (to anyone, really, though in this case it's a specific group:  left-leaning women), you should make the starting point of your discussion the issues where you agree, not the places you disagree.

Basically:  Be diplomatic, not confrontational.

Bonnie Kristian's picture

There is an LGBT libertarian group. They call themselves "Outright Libertarians". The Libertarian Party candidate for governor of Pennsylvania was an Outright Libertarian, Marakay Rogers, until she was forced off the ballot, with all other third party candidates, through the legal trickery of both Republicans and Democrats.

's picture

I am Libertarian. The boundary line of Libertarianism for me is when it affects other's rights. The murder of an unborn baby certainly affects someone else. It is too much of an issue for me to not make a point and dividing line. That you say we shouldn't divide over this is upsetting to me.

's picture

I'm an essentially deontological libertarian, and also believe elective abortions, even in cases of forced conception, should not be legal. But I also recognize that a libertarian line of thinking can unfortunately also accommodate a partially or fully different conclusion regarding the legal status of or even the, as disgusting as it may sound, moral validity of abortion.

It's for this reason that I do my best to tolerate and work with pro-choice libertarians towards the myriad of similar goals we share. Let's also not forget the pragmatic implications of working with pro-choice libertarians: essentially all with to repeal RvW as well as enact economic policies which would undoubtedly reduce to the number of abortions, even if not to the same extent as having the state protect life.

's picture

The deontologicalposition is "evictionism". Both Murray Rothbard and Walter Block have covered this in detail.

's picture

The issue regarding abortion comes down to when life actually begins. A baby especially in the first trimester doesn't have brain functions which many consider the differentiation between humans and animals. They are also completely depended upon their mothers and cannot survive outside the womb. For some this brings the conclusion that as the mother is required to keep the baby alive she also should have the choice not to share her resources with the baby. She cannot physically will her body to stop the baby from basically stealing her nutrients so an abortion is the only solution to this. This may sound absolutely horrific to you but for some it is their moral belief. Just the same as you would want to reserve the right to stop someone from physically stealing from you in order to maintain their survival even by lethal force if necessary.
The point is there is no clear-cut time in which we become a human-being that is deserving of the equivalent rights of a full-grown human-being, because of this just as with other moral issues letting the affected decide is about the best we can do. More importantly you cannot let abortion to become the devisive issue that Republicans have made it into. The important issue of today is the economy plain and simple, and to turn someone away from the best solution to that problem because of an issue like abortion would be a shame. 

's picture

She did not say that libertarians should not divide over the abortion issue. She said they ARE divided over it. She said you shouldn't lead a discussion with a woman you are attempting to convert to libertarianism with it, just as you wouldn't lead a discussion about anything with the most controversial or alienating aspect of it. That's common sense. Don't lie about it, but don't lead with it. It's not necessary in order to convey the liberty message effectively, and it will probably sound a bit self-righteous and off-putting to someone unfamiliar with the liberty movement. Also, discussing the de-regulation of marriage/sex/whatever between two consenting adults is not exactly throwing a gay pride parade. When you lead with the idea of removing government from the idea of defining marriage entirely, you can more easily persuade those who would otherwise want to legalize it AND those who just don't care.

mdsnrey06's picture

I am not certain that attempting to convince women (or men) from the left is the best way to go about this.  Anecdotally, many (if not most) of them care quite a bit more about protecting welfare and entitlements than they do about social issues.  Even well-reasoned economic arguments and appeals to liberty are weak in the face of blind hatred of the rich and devotion to protecting the poor.  Additionally, to address a specific example given, as more states legalize same-sex marriage the incentive to change the status quo for those on the social left is reduced.

However, as more states legalize same-sex marriage (and the risk of a successful Supreme Court challenge to a same-sex ban looms in the future) the incentive to protect their own states from enshrining in law something that is morally repulsive to them increases among social conservatives.  If marriage is taken out of the government's hands though, then such an endorsement of same-sex relationships will not occur.  If we wished to attract more women to the liberty movement, we should be aiming for the religious right rather than the left.

Of course, trying to attract both is great, but I question the feasibility of keeping those from the left once they discover we "don't care about the poor" or some other rubbish of that sort, whereas the conservatives are less likely to care so long as we support private charity.

's picture

What about polygamy? You say it'd be a good idea to talk about gay rights, but if you talk about gay marriage it's almost inevitable that someone will bring up polygamy. And then we will have to say that we want to legalize it if we don't want to lie. But I fear that this position wouldn't help in popularizing libertarianism.

's picture

If they don't like the idea of polygamy ask them who the victim is. If their response is simply that they don't like it, ask them how they'd feel if someone wouldn't let them get married simply because they didn't like it. Many things leave people uncomfortable, but that is something we all just need to get over while letting people live their own lives.

's picture

Exactly. If you want the government in your bedroom, follow Anthony Weiner on Twitter. The rest of us would rather do whatever it is we do in our bedrooms (and that includes our faaabulous window treatments!) in PRIVATE.

Wes Messamore's picture

That's actually the visual that I had when I said that, haha.

And Wes, the only ethical thing to do would be to share your fabulous interior design with the world. Unless it's paisley; keep that to yourself.

caitlynbates's picture

I frankly wish everyone would stop thinking they have the superior view and all the answers.  We could all benefit from simply asking more questions--and listening to the answer--while suspending your own disbelief for a moment or so.  Everyone can filter out what they find offensive or "unAmerican", and adopt what they find reasonable and responsible.  

Our politicians have forgotten how to listen.  They have forgotten that this country was founded by revolutionaries who also knew that if you fail to compromise your own beliefs, you censor the "rest".  Our founding fathers fought like tigers between themselves, but were smart enough to compromise rather than tear everything they had fought for--torn apart.

's picture

I love how several of the responses to this article absolutely validate it.

Elliot Engstrom's picture

Awesome article.  Although, I think there are already a lot of girls sold on the libertarian philosphy, but I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on the kinds of things you think girls would be comfortable doing in terms of activism.  Guys and girls seem a bit different on what they're comfortable doing in spreading the message.   I'd really love to hear ways you think it's best for us guys to encourage and support girls being involved out on the street or in a group.  

Justin Page Wood's picture

Hm... I don't think I really understand what you're asking, but if you write to me on Facebook about it, I'd love to at least attempt to give you an answer (or another blog post, if it seems appropriate), haha!

caitlynbates's picture

Don't get me a wrong- I'm a huge fan of the liberty ladies, but I don't think they're the most approachable. Smart, passionate, AND pretty can make a guy feel like they're walking into a trap. 

's picture

There was once a libertarian bumper sticker that said we were "Pro-Choice On Everything" -- not just abortion, but also serving in the military and going to school.  The basic problem is that most women were raised to live for others, and to obey authority -- particularly their husband and the government.  What women seriously need to understand is that other people have no claim over women -- just as women themselves have no claim over other people.  Books that teach women to be more self-centered, such as The Rainbow Cadenza and Atlas Shrugged, will be necessary to re-educate women in libertarianism.

's picture