Libertarian “feminist” to actual feminists: stop whimpering like a bunch of p*ssies!

Why is it that Libertarian “feminism” is only expressed as criticism of any kind of feminist activism?  Take Cathy Young, for exampleplease!  Here she instructs us that “letting ideologues dictate the boundaries of acceptable speech on a large area of the Internet is a very bad idea.”  OK–that’s an interesting point, right?  The problem is that the only “ideologues” in her column are feminists who object to online misogyny.  She fails to identify online misogyny as ideological commitment, too.

First, she introduces the problem by using language that implies that it’s not online misogyny that threatens violence against actual women, but online feminism threatens violence against free speech, suggesting a false equivalence between the two points of view:

Feminist activists are on the warpath against Facebook, which, they claim, condones woman-hating even as it censors not only other hate speech but “indecent” images of breastfeeding mothers.  When I was asked to discuss this initiative on HuffPost Live WebTV,  I wasn’t sure where I stood.  The examples collected by the activists—such as a photo of a bloodied woman captioned, “She broke my heart.  I broke her nose”—are certainly repellent; the First Amendment is not at stake, since it’s a matter of private citizens using speech to pressure a corporation that already restricts content it deems offensive.  Yet a closer look suggests that the real agenda in this campaign is to whip up outrage about our culture’s alleged misogyny and flex muscle that could be used to intimidate and curtail legitimate speech.

Got it?  One group of people posts a photo of a bloodied woman with a violent caption, but that’s not the side that’s described as “on the warpath” against women.  It’s the side critical of this use of Facebook that is “on the warpath” in their attempt to “whip up outrage” and “flex muscle”–to beat up violent misogynists?  No, just to get @ssholes stopped from posting misogynist garbage online–but all of that feminist violence “could be used to intimidate and curtail legitimate speech.”  Oh–OK.  Noting as she does the fact that online feminists do not comprise “the government,” the slight possibility that their activism *could be* used to intimidate “legitimate speech”–that’s just as bad as the reality of physical violence?  You betcha!

And that’s just the lede!

Young resorts to more false equivalencies throughout the article, as well as the old Libertarian “feminist” standby, which is to imply that it’s tough, uncomplaining women like her who are the real feminists, not those whiners who can’t take it (“It’s hardly news that the Internet is full of toxic people—attention-seeking trolls, crazies, bigots, or all of the above—posting vile stuff,” and “Of course there is some real, gross misogyny on the Web.”)  The next move, of course, is to accuse real feminists of just looking for something to complain about (“[H]ow likely is it that a Facebook user would encounter such content on the site without actively looking for it?”), as well as throw in lots of martial and violent language to describe activities like signing and circulating electronic petitions (“up in arms,” “overzealous in her vigilance toward allegedly misogynistic expression,” etc).

Finally, make sure to portray anyone who angers a feminist as a brave contrarian against extremist orthodoxy (“a male heretic challenged feminist rape statistics and suggested that unwanted drunken sex does not equal violent rape.”)  Really?  How innovative–I’m sure no one on the internets has ever read a comment of such striking originality!

Libertarianism claims that it’s merely in favor of a judicious role for the state in public and commercial life, but the internet feminism under attack here isn’t coming from “the government,” and represents nothing but individual activists banding together to petition a for-profit corporation and its for-profit corporate advertisers to do the right thing.  Those for-profit corporations are free to tell the activists to f^(k off and start their own social networks.  There is no undue coercion here.  Clearly, Libertarianism is all about justifying the status quo–what is, is right.  Power and money go to those who earn it.  Libertarianism is just an apologia for the ubermensch.  Feminism, like all social justice movements, is for pussies.

10 thoughts on “Libertarian “feminist” to actual feminists: stop whimpering like a bunch of p*ssies!

  1. Libertarian feminists, for the most part, when they criticize collective feminism (!= theirs), sound like jaded madams in between procurement assignments and group abortion arrangements.

    With all that firepower they insist upon as a right, not once do they suggest that their empowered landholdin’ broads go out and terminate any child molesters known to them, since the law is an ass, and kids can’t carry their guns to school? Even make any lil’ bit of capitalist heaven safe for women to walk down the street, in case she left her shootin’ iron at home?

    To them, life is pain, only assuaged by major bank, and anyone more compassionate’s indulging in restraint-of-trade activities.


  2. Great observations. Though it’s definitely not just libertarian “feminists” whose commentary seems solely directed at telling real feminists they’re going too far: there’s a whole subgenus of anti-feminists who say that they’re the real feminists.

    Some of it is like what you describe, placing a premium on being “tough enough” to survive and thrive in a sexist environment, and fear that feminists’ calling attention to sexism might make men think women are too weak to hack it in male-dominated spaces without special protections.

    It can be a cult of individual female strength and hypermasculinity. (I know that was the place I was in that kept me from espousing feminism for a long time). It was really only after I learned how to see things from a perspective other than that of totally autonomous, rational individual actors that I was able to understand feminism. And, of course, libertarianism means only seeing things from that perspective, so I’d be surprised to see someone manage to be a libertarian feminist. (Or a libertarian anti-racist, or disability activist, or whatever.)


  3. @cgeye:

    With all that firepower they insist upon as a right, not once do they suggest that their empowered landholdin’ broads go out and terminate any child molesters known to them, since the law is an ass, and kids can’t carry their guns to school?

    Good point. You *would* think the logical endpoint of 1) a libertarian worldview and 2) knowledge that male violence against women and children is a problem would be just that.


  4. In a true libertarian household, there would be no domestic abuse.

    However, there would be domestic adult male casualties, for a man gets to hit his woman or kid once — only once.

    And cash couldn’t paper it over, since ain’t freedom of self part of natural law?


  5. And of course Young is overlooking, ignoring, or ignorant of the long history of internet trolls and misogynists using threats of violence, including rape threats, against female bloggers/internet feminists in order to silence them. These threats have gone to far as to include the female bloggers name and address. The stories that internet feminists tell can be hair curling.

    Poor men and their curtailed rights!


  6. “Good point. You *would* think the logical endpoint of 1) a libertarian worldview and 2) knowledge that male violence against women and children is a problem would be just that.”

    That they don’t seem worried about the possibility tells you everything you need to know about their built-in assumptions.


  7. Libertarians are greedy infantile pigs, and their supposed political philosophy is nothing but transparent (and delusional) rationalization of their greedy infantile piggishness.


  8. You start off with the “no true Scotsman” sort of logical fallacy. And while I genuinely understand and agree with your *concern* about language, as such, what you’re offering (and what several comments seem to deal in) are nothing but a caricature of Libertarian thinking.

    Defend the status quo?


    Libertarianism, it is true, focuses on government coercion, and individual rights, and broadly has less focus on social inequality – as something that government should mediate. I think that is by and large its strength.

    If it is “greedy” or “infantile” to, for example, resist speech ‘codes’ {who defines “misogyny” – you? What if I have a different opinion?} or to adhere to the idea that the fruits of my labor are mine, rather than the state’s or ‘society’s’ then, what adjective to you use to describe people who think they have a right to the fruits of others labors? Or to have government enforce their moral worldview?

    As the old saying goes, it is easy to be generous with the property of others.

    It is also easy to presume that your particular ethical view of the world is the only/right one. If Young focuses on feminist attacks on speech – isn’t that largely because feminists are often the most vociferous about protesting speech they don’t like?

    Now, I think Young happens to be wrong on this one – if and to the extent FB as a private organization already prohibits certain type of speech, feminists have every right to try to encourage FB to apply what they see as the same standard to speech directed against women. One wonders of course how much violence against men feminists even ‘see’ given their ideologically-biased perception of speech.

    Young’s position is at least consistent if it were to *also* argue against other forms of speech codes – criticism of anything Israel comes to mind. But we can at least take her point that assaults on speech – just speech – is a kind of slippery slope. In other words, you’re free to decry some statement as “misogyny” – but we Libertarians are free to take the position that people have a right to make such statements. Feminism, and indeed the extremes of both left and right would be happy to ban books if given the power to do so. It is Libertarians (and Classical Liberals) who stand against this impulse to use government force to prevent speech.

    Here, it’s about some sort of speech code FB apparently applies inconsistently.

    It’s fair to argue they should be consistent. But it’s also fair, as to speech, to argue that they have every right to *not* be consistent, and if you don’t like it… voice your own opinion and/or stop using the site.


  9. You really hate libertarians, don’t you? Every point made on the entirety of this page, especially in the comments section, could be used to make a counterargument against the argument against feminism made by libertarians. Instead, you use this as an opportunity to attack libertarianism itself. How is that going to persuade libertarians that their argument is wrong and they should support the feminist viewpoint? It seems like what you are trying to do is defame libertarians more than try to convince everyone that nonfeminist libertarians (not feminist libertarians) are wrong. And for the record I am not a libertarian. From what I know about libertarainism, the theory just doesn’t hold for me.


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