Kerry Howley recommended this essay by Roderick Long and Charles Johnson as a more-thoughtful exploration of libertarianism-feminism parallels than some of us have supposedly offered.
I will just say as a broad reaction and tease of more-complex future discussion:
•Isn’t libertarianism’s great strength (such as it is) precisely that it does not attempt to smuggle some specific vision of how life must be lived into its definition of freedom, as long as everyone respects everyone else’s property rights (including the right not to be bodily harmed)?
•If, indeed, both the hippie and the evangelical are free, isn’t it extremely dangerous for the libertarian — who could aim for a form of “neutrality” (if not about moral questions and advice-giving generally, at least about what actions are “free” ones) — to start taking sides (qua libertarian) and saying which of those two figures is “more free”?
•Shouldn’t I have received a memo if some lifestyles are now “more free” (in libertarian terms) than others, since last I knew I thought everything conforming to property rights qualified (not as a good idea, mind you, but as consistent with libertarianism)?
•Aren’t passages like the following from the Long/Johnson essay precisely the sort of thing I feared feminism would lead to (if it’s to be taken as a model for changing libertarian thinking today, rather than merely as a historical description)?
19th-century libertarians saw themselves as facing an interlocking system of private and public oppression, and thus recognized that political liberation could not be achieved except via a thoroughgoing transformation of society as a whole. While such libertarians would have been gratified by the extent to which overt governmental discrimination against women has been diminished in present-day Western societies, they would not have been willing to treat that sort of discrimination as the sole index of gender-based oppression in society.
Moses Harman, for example, maintained not only that the family was patriarchal because it was regulated by the patriarchal state, but also that the state was patriarchal because it was founded on the patriarchal family: “I recognize that the government of the United States is exclusive, jealous, partialistic, narrowly selfish, despotic, invasive, paternalistic, monopolistic, and cruel — logically and legitimately so because the unit and basis of that government is the family whose chief corner stone is institutional marriage” (In McElroy 199, p. 104). Harman saw the non-governmental sources of patriarchy as analogous to the non-governmental sources of chattel slavery (another social evil against which libertarians were especially active in fighting)…
•If that doesn’t make libertarians a bit nervous, what about this passage from the same essay?
19th century libertarian feminists, and the 21st century libertarian feminists that learn from their example, may find themselves far closer to Second Wave radical feminism than to liberalism. As we have argued, radical feminist history and theory offer a welcome challenge to the authoritarian theory of politics; radical feminists are also far more suspicious of the state as an institution, and as a means to sex equality in particular, than liberal feminists. While liberal feminists have bought into bureaucratic state action through mechanisms such as the EEOC and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, Catharine MacKinnon has criticized the way in which feminist campaigns for sex equality “[have] been caught between giving more power to the state in each attempt to claim it for women and leaving unchecked power in the society to men”…
Catharine MacKinnon? Catharine MacKinnon who favors state censorship of sexist texts, is our model for a productive — and no doubt fun-filled! — dialogue about decreasing the size of the state and fostering free markets? Why don’t we just go for the gold here and argue that totalitarianism is really the best model for a fully-realized libertarianism while we’re at it? And that up is down and day is night?
If this is not the face of a political movement’s self-negation, I do not know what is. I would feign humility at this point by saying “I must be missing something here” — but you know I’m not. They’re just wrong.