Gender and Freedom

I am a feminist; I believe in complete gender equality before the law. Economically speaking, there should be no gender based restrictions on holding a certain occupation. I understand that any assertions concerning an individual’s character, intellect and emotional fortitude that utilize gender as an explanation are redundant. Furthermore; I think that it’s obvious that historically, there have been considerable injustices associated with being a woman. Finally, I think that the way many women (in some situations) are expected to behave in the modern society is degrading, unrealistic and dehumanising.

My assertion, that I am a feminist shouldn’t be at odds with the fact that I am also a libertarian. Unfortunately many would have me believe that it is…

It would appear that there is a considerable atmosphere of hostility between self-identified ‘libertarians’ and ‘feminists’ out there on the internet. For simplicities sake I will refer to this animosity as the libertarian ‘war with feminism’. However, this article will attempt to persuade the reader that the freedom movement’s hostility towards feminism is intellectually misplaced and ultimately damaging to libertarianism. Feminism is the assertion that both men and women should be equal, libertarianism is the belief that the best society is one where everybody is free- there is no obvious contention between these two desires.

A free society is one where gender doesn’t determine status or occupation; similarly a culture that fully appreciates individualism would be a culture that doesn’t demand women to behave ‘like women’ or a man to conduct himself in a ‘masculine’ way. There are of course certain biological realities that are relatively inescapable, but the idea that these purely physiological features should in any way dictate status in a modern society is a deeply repulsive concept.

To start further unpicking the war with feminism, we first need to understand that there is no large homogeneous entity call feminism. The same could be said of libertarianism (or any other ism). The catch-all term ‘feminism’ creates more problems than it solves, it would be more appropriate to use the plural ‘feminisms’. It needs to be stated here that the women’s movement is currently undergoing what could be described as a civil war. The feminist activists that are so often criticised by libertarians are part of what we might refer to as the ‘women only’ camp. But they are indeed only one side of a vicious intellectual exchange and certainly don’t represent all feminist thinking. The war with feminism predictably relies on the false assertion that the fight for gender equality has been won and the need for feminism has disappeared. This statement is of course, ridiculous because it swings the proverbial hammer where the scalpel is required.

Yet, we don’t have to go very far before we find certain tensions between the two ideological frameworks. It is an unmistakeable feature of nations that they have an ‘ideal citizen’; an individual who is that particular nation’s values and idiosyncrasies personified.  Of course this ideal national personality doesn’t exist, but their image is an almost essential feature of their country’s national mythology. Yet, for most countries the above citizen is almost exclusively a man. As I understand it contemporary feminist movements have the objective of significantly altering the ‘ideal citizen’. The libertarian argument on the other hand suggests that there is no such thing as truly ‘national’ values, we exist as individuals and subsequently, the concept of an ideal citizen ceases to make sense. This crucial caveat explains the basic contention between these two philosophical constructs.

Ultimately  there are important aspects of feminism that are deeply compatible (perhaps even essential) to libertarian outlook. No libertarians I have ever read or met would deny the right of women to be equal with men in the workplace if the nature of the work was identical. Similarly, a law system that enforces gender roles strikes me as just as oppressive. Importantly there is an important message in feminist literature for men; that there should be no duty for a woman to be womanly, and there should be no requirement that a man be manly (what Germaine Greer calls ‘penis envy’). Additionally the microeconomic analysis that was ultimately championed by Mises in some  aspects, is analogous to ‘feminiomics’. We all play complex roles in the economy the fact that economists (at the time Human Action was published) were more comfortable discussing national policy rather than how people in all their perplexity play different roles in the market is a pertinent issue for libertarians and feminists alike.

Modern feminism that is often described as having a more authoritarian streak that its predecessor. Yet some innovative ideas have become popular over the past twenty years. Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble articulates that popular notions of male and female are redundant, gender is something that we identify with. There are other issues that Butler addresses, but the main idea is deeply compatible with libertarianism because it introduces another dimension of self-identity into individualism. There is also a conflict between gender activists concerning transgender people, the liberal feminist cluster want to include transgender individuals whereas the ‘women only’ camp assert that people like Caitlyn Jenner are not real women and shouldn’t claim to be. These feminists of course have the right to believe that transgender people are not genuine, but the libertarian ethos certainly seems to suggest that the individual is the authority on their own identity- not a group of students’ union radicals.

Clearly we can confidently assume that there is no a priori contention that inseparably divides the feminist movement and libertarian political thought. This brings us to the question, how did we end up in a situation whereby many people assume that they are mutually exclusive? I would suggest that the biggest factor could be summarised as cultural. Both sides are assumed to be on either side of a deep symbolic divide. I use the world culture here cautiously, what I really mean is the way in which libertarian activists and feminists interact with the media and how they use (and abuse) history.  Broadly speaking there is an element of a self-fulfilling prophecy when a libertarian defines themselves as right wing.  I don’t find the left-right political spectrum particularly useful, and is often actively misleading *.

Decades of being positioned alongside right-wing political parties has nurtured a certain aversion to ‘the left’ in all its manifestations. I have even heard libertarian writers use the strange and elusive term ‘cultural Marxism’ (often a dead give-away that the person doesn’t know what they are talking about) to object to modernistic ideas. Similarly, despite being a diverse panacea of different opinions; feminism often gets lumped as part of the political left. This dividing line that forms that basis for the war with feminism isn’t a natural product of differing philosophical positions in their own right but one made and maintained by political context and expressed through culture.

The idea that there is a cosmic struggle between the two ideologies instead of an interesting and fruitful interaction has been compounded by how feminists and libertarians interact with history. Feminist history (or the history of women) broadly speaking, is usually very good. Pretty much every university in the country provides modules concerning the role of women in history and university libraries are often well stocked with books and journals concerning feminist theory. One critique of the feminist movement it that it lives only in university campuses, art galleries and on the stage- far removed from the lives of ordinary women. This may be true but the consequence has been that feminists despite being radical are heavily invested in mainstream academia. On the opposite cheek is the libertarian movement: being reliably concentrated in economics and virtually non-existent on most academic bookshelves.  A significant casualty of this imbalance is the so-called libertarian reading of history: completely lacking in nuances, context and healthy discussion. This is relevant to the discussion about modern feminism because certain libertarian readings of history would have us believe that over the past few centuries; working class protesters, ethnic minorities and feminist activists have been an intrinsically malevolent force directly responsible for the rise of the evil modern nation state. This miserable view abuses historical figures and deploys past events as fodder for arguments over the internet. This is history as Nietzsche envisioned it; only important as a source of intellectual ammunition.

It is something of a running joke that libertarians tend to be men’s rights activists. An often espoused critique of libertarianism is that it is a movement for rich white men **. This link has been compounded by Canadian libertarian Lauren Southern who has made an extremely popular video declaring her distaste for feminism. The accusation (and main focus of the war with feminism) is that feminists are extremely vocal about issues that affect women and silent about issues that impact men. However, libertarians that promote ‘men’s rights’ and ‘women only’ feminists are essentially two sides of the same divisive coin. As I outlined above, at its best feminist thought applies to both men and women who both have an equally important role in smashing sexism.

There is an existentialist strain of thought that exists in certain feminist circles that suggests that a man cannot under any circumstances understand the issues that women face. This view is of course ridiculous and intellectually moribund but to suggest that because of the voices of a deranged few, a whole political movement must be opposed is to give an enormous amount of legitimacy to that small group of anti-men activists. Both the Andrea Dworkin acolytes and men’s rights activists promote a banal form of zero-sum identity politics completely lacking in intellectual merit.

Perhaps the tone of this article has been too rosy and accommodating because I have attempted to put forward the view that the war with feminism is a product of historical context and political positioning; not pure ideology. However it needs to be stated that there are significant areas were feminists and libertarians legitimately disagree. Firstly is the issue of the ‘glass ceiling’, it is extremely regrettable that there are not more women in the top echelons of academia and business but should there be legislative intervention on this issue? The libertarian answer must be an emphatic no whereas the majority of feminist activists might well answer yes. I would assert that that as long as there are no formal barriers to women holding a high position than there is no further need for action. The idea that women have a particular ‘nature’ that boardrooms, offices and laboratories must cater too runs counter to the narrative that men and women are equals (remember Judith Butler?). Furthermore, the composition of the workplace is slowly changing, I would happily argue that feminist (and libertarian) groups are well within their rights to bring attention to a particular company or institution that actively discriminates against women. The same goes for prominent individuals that assume that women aren’t tough enough to cut it in their particular profession.

Secondly there is the issue of patriarchy. This historical importance of patriarchy is of little doubt. However the question remains, how is patriarchy practised today? The main contention between libertarian thought and feminism is that patriarchy is inherent in capitalism. It is no secret that many feminist writers have happily incorporated socialist economics as part of their ideology (intersectionality), this as I have argued above is part of long context of both being considered ‘left wing’ rather than being genuine ideological partners. The assumption is that capitalism encourages a Darwinian approach to social interaction; we are simply brainless husks of flesh that try to satisfy our material desires. This then operates at the expense of women, who are often at the receiving end of predatory male desires. As well as there being no serious capitalist thinker who argues such a view point, the assessment of capitalism as inherently exploitative is wrong one. Of course a society that functions along capitalist lines has the potential to be patriarchal and exploitative, but this is by no means an inevitability. The main similarity between feminism and socialism is that both assume humanity can best be analysed in large blocks; that this enormous group interacts with another equally enormous group in a certain way. This of course ignores the complex realities that form the lives of real people, we are not just cogs in a cosmic ideological machine.

Lastly, another area of contention is the philosophical issue of structure versus agency, or free will versus determinism. Feminist thinkers are often more inclined to be deterministic whereas libertarianism emphasises the importance of human agency. Yet, the finer details of this point would constitute another essay in its own right.

I hope that I may have come close to convincing some of you that the libertarian dialogue with feminism is indeed founded in some real philosophical differences, but does not constitute a war. Libertarianism is a movement, it matters how we are perceived by others. By assuming that our default position is directly opposed to feminism alienates us from some great ideas but more importantly it might deter more women from becoming interested in liberty.

 

 

*Arguably, the greatest political achievement of the libertarian activists of the 60s and 70s was claiming the word ‘libertarian’. In academic books and journals the word libertarian is almost exclusively used to mean ‘left-libertarian’. It’s only in more modern studies that libertarian isn’t used in its old socialist sense.

** It might be worth noting here that in my experience most political organisations of all sizes are male dominated.

24 Comments

  1. People who discriminate against women (or against men) are idiots – utter morons.

    However, a libertarian believes in the right of people to choose badly – as long as they do not aggress against anyone else.

    And “aggress” does NOT mean “refuse to trade with” or “refuse to employ” – the right of people in business (and so on) to be utter and complete morons, is part of what liberty is. If people are not free to choose badly – they are not free to choose.

    And saying that a business is “open to the public” and is therefore a “public matter” (meaning a state matter) is a horrible dodge – something that the Emperor Diocletian (and the rest of late Roman despotism) would approve of. Libertarians have no place for special laws for “common carriers” and “public accommodations” and so on. A place of business is just as much a private thing as a private home is (if that puts me at odds with the late J.S. Mill – so be it, unlike him I believe the same “simple principle” covers BOTH).

    As for “feminism”.

    It depends what one means by the term.

    A lot of modern “feminist” activists seem to be out of the same source as “Critical Theory” and other manifestations of the Frankfurt School of Marxism. Although, yes (YES INDEED), “feminism” can also have a libertarian definition.

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  2. I am a feminist; I believe in complete gender equality before the law.

    Well then, why are you not a blackist or a gayist? Why is this focus on gender inequality (if there is any in the West, which there really isn’t, but I could always be wrong)?

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  3. “Feminism is the assertion that both men and women should be equal, libertarianism is the belief that the best society is one where everybody is free- there is no obvious contention between these two desires.”

    Equal can mean two opposite things. It can either mean everyone would have the same rights, or it can mean that there is no difference between people. The first is the libertarian idea. The only way to give everyone the same rights is to give everyone the same amount of liberty. Therefore equal rights is pure libertarianism. The second one however, for the same reason is completely incompatible with libertarianism. That is because there are differences between people. People, are male – female, tall – small, intelligent – retarded, ugly – beautiful, born rich – born poor, etc. In order to make unequal people equal you need to start treating them differently. In other words you need to give them different rights.

    Unlike you say, feminism is not about equal rights. If it were, why would we call it feminism and not individualism or better libertarianism. If you call something feminism than that word suggests that you are focusing specifically on the interests of females. There have been women’s rights movements that were worth supporting, but they often did not even call themselves feminists. Modern, western feminism is at best about turning women into men and men into women, respectively. At best, they want equality, as in abolishing all differences. At worst it is about legally privileging women. It is not an accident that it has turned into a totalitarian movement. From all we know there are some differences between women and men. If that is true than it would take a considerable amount of force to make them equal. That is why libertarians tend to not like it. I don’t think libertarians have ever been against cutting out laws that oppress a certain group of people out of the legal code.

    It is of course completely compatible with libertarianism to advocate certain ways of looking at the world and human beings. There might be an issue specifically concerning women that you want to spread awareness about. But as long as we are not talking about an outright legal discrimination this not part of libertarianism, but simply within your liberty to do so. It is also in the liberty of others to reject your viewpoint.

    “I understand that any assertions concerning an individual’s character, intellect and emotional fortitude that utilize gender as an explanation are redundant.”

    That is a remarkable statement. How can you know that this is a priori true?

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  4. “Unlike you say, feminism is not about equal rights. If it were, why would we call it feminism and not individualism or better libertarianism.”

    I agree with you up to a point, one of the big contentions in modern feminist thinking is whether or not to be more inclusive of homosexuals, transgender individuals and men- hence some of the better feminist thinkers have for a long time tried to broaden their approach. The term ‘feminism’ itself is rather outdated and leads to numerous misconceptions about what genuine feminism is all about.

    However I must disagree with idea that feminism is purely about ‘women’ and libertarians can’t interact with feminist ideas. To assume that ‘feminism’ is only concerned with achieving rights for women, at the expense of men is to make the same mistake that the ‘women only’ group make- using political action as a shovel, to extract rights and privileges from the state. The same is true for ‘men’s rights activists’.

    But, as you rightly point out the best feminism happens when the objective is to give both genders equal rights (not equality in terms of formal privileges or wages). There is a stigma in libertarianism about using ideas that were originated within feminist thinking, to our detriment…The philosophical issues surrounding gender are important, by dismissing ALL feminism as ‘socialism with panties’ is not only wrong but also damaging.

    “That is a remarkable statement. How can you know that this is a priori true?”

    Gender is performative. Certain characteristics may lead us to describe a man (even if he is a 6ft 5″ tall body builder) as ‘feminine’. Gender is not the stating point for assessing someone’s personality, a person with female physiological features gives us no clues about that person’s mental capacity. People who are biologically female don’t universally behave in a certain way.

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    1. “The term ‘feminism’ itself is rather outdated and leads to numerous misconceptions about what genuine feminism is all about.”

      Then why use it? The best case scenario is that it is used like libertarianism. But there are only a very few people like Wendy McElroy who use it that way. And I never understood why. It does not seem to add anything. Why not forget about feminism and stick with the much clearer libertarianism.

      “However I must disagree with idea that feminism is purely about ‘women’ and libertarians can’t interact with feminist ideas. To assume that ‘feminism’ is only concerned with achieving rights for women, at the expense of men is to make the same mistake that the ‘women only’ group make- using political action as a shovel, to extract rights and privileges from the state. The same is true for ‘men’s rights activists’.”

      Yes, I am also very sceptical of men’s rights activists. Again, if you want feminism to mean equal rights for everyone then why call it feminism? I mean we can of course in principal define words as we like. But feminism does not seem to add anything to libertarianism. And most feminists are in fact egalitarians and not libertarians. So they use the word in a very different way.

      “The philosophical issues surrounding gender are important, by dismissing ALL feminism as ‘socialism with panties’ is not only wrong but also damaging.”

      Very occasionally I can find a gender specific issue that is worth spreading awareness about. But even then I cannot see an advantage in turing that issue into a complete ideology. I would simply address the specific issue. My political ideology is libertarianism.
      There is only one feminist I know of that I can agree with. That is Wendy McElroy and individual feminism. Individual feminist sounds to me like individual collectivist. It seems like an oxymoron. But even if there is some way in which that term makes any sense, this branch is pretty much insignificant within feminism. When people hear feminism they do not think of Wendy McElroy. Most people don’t know her. So why call yourself a feminist, if what you really want is liberty?

      “Gender is performative. Certain characteristics may lead us to describe a man (even if he is a 6ft 5″ tall body builder) as ‘feminine’. Gender is not the stating point for assessing someone’s personality, a person with female physiological features gives us no clues about that person’s mental capacity. People who are biologically female don’t universally behave in a certain way.”

      That is a thesis. Whether it is true or not, it is definitely testable and not a priori true. In fact it does not seem to be true. The most obvious psychological counter example is that men fancy women and women fancy men. Of course there are exceptions. But in general it seems to be a female or male way of thinking. And we do identify women and men through physiological features.

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      1. “So why call yourself a feminist, if what you really want is liberty?”

        If most prominent libertarian thinkers took gender issues seriously then I would happily call myself a libertarian when talking about women’s issues. Unfortunately many well-known libertarians don’t. Or rather, they take it seriously but come to what I believe are erroneous conclusions that would be counter productive to freedom and voluntary association.

        In a debate on gender, I call myself a feminist because it leaves no room for ambiguity. It’s a question of semantics, rather than me (a lone keyboard warrior with too much spare time on my hands) trying to force two ideological systems together. Ideologies aren’t separate entities that have no interaction with each other- there is a social interplay between philosophical frameworks. I believe that by interacting with feminist writers in a positive way (with regard to gender) would help libertarian theory develop a more refined and nuanced conception of liberty.

        I fully accept however that a significant proportion of feminists are anything BUT libertarians and I’m not trying to organise some sort of shotgun wedding between the two ideologies.

        Also, there are many liberal feminists that aren’t involved with the libertarian movement. Wendy McElroy isn’t the only game in town!

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  5. Sorry Jordan, but you seem to be intent on stretching the semantics of words beyond the logical limits. The meaning you want to assign to the term ‘feminism’ is and has been for centuries covered rather well by the term ‘humanism’, or more recently, ‘libertarianism’. ‘Feminism’ has always been specifically about women, and if someone feels uncomfortable about with a narrow focus (quite understandably and rightly, I might add), maybe they should just abandon it, rather than trying to wist words out of their shape.

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    1. “Feminism’ has always been specifically about women, and if someone feels uncomfortable about with a narrow focus (quite understandably and rightly, I might add), maybe they should just abandon it, rather than trying to wist words out of their shape.”

      That is the reason I DON’T call myself a ‘libertarian feminist rather than just a libertarian. There are some feminist thinkers for whom gender is everything and has a bigger impact than anything else. For Socialists a similar logic applies but with class.

      One of the reasons libertarianism appeals to me is because it revels in humanity- in all it’s complexity. There is no simple ‘narrative’ that can explain complicated processes. Here I agree with you.However, the reason I stated that I am a feminist is that if I said “I am libertarian that is concerned with women’s issues’ my position would lack clarity. In the debate on gender being a feminist is a widely recognised position- namely that on a very basic level I believe that a woman is just as much of a ‘person’ as a man is. Also- I think there are some very ‘libertarian’ ideas that have come out of feminist literature in the past couple of decades. Sadly lots of people would assume that libertarianism and feminism are mutually exclusive terms.

      When libertarian thinkers begin to take issues about gender seriously, or contribute to the sociological dialogue around gender in a positive and constructive way I would happily drop the feminist label.

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  6. What issues about gender? Have I lived a hundred years ago or more, or currently in, for example, a Muslim country, I could see the point. But what issues are women currently facing in the West that require their own political movement, and indeed their own semantic “handle” that simple humanism or libertarianism (or classical liberalism) don’t cover?

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    1. You’re right that the issues women in the west face are nothing compared to what millions of women around the world face ( and used to face in our own societies). Indeed the idea of a strong and politically active feminist movement in the UK does seems slightly baffling when compared to Saudi Arabia (for example).

      However what I mean by gender issues is the philosophy of gender- which we have only really begun to discuss. Investigating why women are expected to behave a certain way and men another is an interesting area to explore. It’s also worthwhile, imagine how many men in this country feel inadequate because they are not sufficiently ‘masculine’ enough ( not a big enough car, not a good enough job and not an acceptable body). This also has big implications for our ideas about a ‘free market’. A more nuanced concept of gender identity should compliment any individualist outlook.

      That’s without even mentioning areas like sexuality, relationships and child development.

      I agree these areas don’t need their own semantic handle- that fact that they currently DO and mainstream libertarianism ISN’T engaging with these issues is the reason I wrote the article in the first place!

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      1. Libertarianism is about minding one’s own business and leaving others to do the same – what does any of those “issues” have to do with it? Of course libertarians are staying away from these discussions (interesting as they may be in and of themselves), and I’m glad they are.

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      2. Jordan is a *cultural* Libertarian (like all good cultural objectivists I am a *political* libertarian). So for Jordan a culture that is in any way discriminatory is a problem.

        (for me, there are only certain kinds of discrimination that are intolerable i.e. discrimination by political actors, the rest is merely horrid)

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      3. OK, but how is liberty compatible with objection to discrimination? It is a clear contradiction, as far as I can see.

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      4. There is no contradiction at all if the “objection” is just a moral one. For example someone saying “Paul Marks you fat-bald man – you are not hiring enough women for senior positions in your [fictional] enterprise”.

        There is only a contradiction when the “objection” is a LEGAL one – as in “Paul Marks hire more women or you will be PUNISHED”.

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      5. No Paul, they should be free to object, but it does not mean that they promote liberty – quite the opposite, as it is none of their business.

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      6. A culture in which there is no discrimination is only possible if no discrimination is tolerated. That means it’s a totalitarian culture=society=(almost certainly) political regime.

        It is also is impossible in principle, because we live by making choices, i.e. by discriminating. Among foods, among sources of energy, among people to love and people to hate, people to trust completely and people to trust as far as you can throw them; and between people who are at least on the face of it designed to be capable of motherhood, and those so built as to be capable of fatherhood.

        But the real issue is whether, in the Western world at the start of the 21st century, women are somehow not treated as having the moral status of those humans who are not men. People can think it OK to break this or that social convention (for instance thinking that pinching milady’s bum without permish is cute and dandy, which is boorish behavior and in most parts of the culture is frowned upon), but individual boorish behavior does not indict half the membership of Western society as “discriminating against women.”

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      7. Hm, let’s try that again.

        …[T]he real issue is whether, in the Western world at the start of the 21st century, generally women are somehow treated as not having the moral status of those humans who are men.

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  7. “A free society is one where gender doesn’t determine status or occupation; similarly a culture that fully appreciates individualism would be a culture that doesn’t demand women to behave ‘like women’ or a man to conduct himself in a ‘masculine’ way. ”

    I don’t see that this use of the word “culture” is compatible with individualism. An individualist would surely have to reject the notion that culture or society are separate or outside the individuals who comprise that culture. As such, to say that a culture demands women and men to behave within somewhat set boundaries of ascribed behaviour, means that a large number of individuals in that society think it so. Only when individuals enforce such demands by violence or the threat of violence is liberty infringed, and then not by culture or society but by the perpetrators.

    If you, as a man, wish to behave in a way others see as somewhat lacking in masculinity, that is your free choice, and you should be allowed to do so. If others view your behaviour with disdain, that is their opinion, which they are entitled to hold, whether they are in the minority or indeed the majority. This is no different if, instead of gender we consider personal hygiene. You are free to never wash, despite the pressure of society to conform. Others are free to disapprove and avoid coming too close.

    The attempt to create through political means a “culture that doesn’t demand women to behave ‘like women’ or a man to conduct himself in a ‘masculine’ way” does not seem to increase individual liberty. It’s more like a social engineering experiment. There’s no guarantee that teaching little boys to play with dolls and little girls that they shouldn’t will make our society more individualistic or freer.

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  8. Nuts. When I was eight years old I woke up one morning to discover that my heart’s desire had come true — the Christmas tree had sprouted a BICYCLE!!! And a “girl’s bike,” too, so you get on the thing without painfully smooshing your delicate members.

    Alas, the miracle was never repeated. I kept hoping against hope (even after the barn burnt down) that a horse, or at least a pony, would magically appear. But the closest I ever came to it was watching Trigger in the movies, and once or twice riding my best friend’s family’s horse Gypsy.

    And I never got my Erector set, either. I could at least make a rational argument for No Horse, but why in heaven’s name didn’t my folks suss that I would go through life in a near-suicidal depression if I couldn’t have an Erector set? –I mentioned it to Mother one day when I was all grown up and married and everything, and she looked a bit surprised and said, “Child, it never dawned on me that you wanted an Erector set!” So I had to make do with Tinker-Toys and my little bro’s really nice set of building blocks of various shapes, so that one could at least create architectural masterpieces, at least if one weren’t all thumbs.

    So when the Young Miss was young…six? Younger? …I found in the toy store a really evil-looking 18-wheeler Mack Truck, a semi, properly coupled too. I thought, Yow! She’ll LOVE that! In the event it was OK for her, but nothing special. What she did turn on for was the portable radio she got for her eighth birthday.

    Of course all we kids had bows and arrows (usually made by Dad, not to terribly precise standards) and cap guns. And squirt guns. And if we were lucky, electric trains. (I loved mine. In my day, they had engines heavy enough to do in your little brother if you bonked him on the head hard enough with one. Which I never did. Although he did pull the Christmas tree down onto himself right after his second birthday.)

    Give ’em whatever toys you feel like giving them, and they will figure out which ones float their boat(s). –Plural in case, like me, they are schizophrenic. I loved my teddy bear with the music box inside, and my toy stove, but dollies never did a lot for me although the one that could cry and pee was mildly interesting in that at least it did SOMETHING. But puppies (and other dogs) are better than dollies any day, except for my collection of really nice display dolls–all the rage at the time, and meant to be collected, not played with. Never could see what anybody saw in those ugly Cabbage Patch kids! Other than that, I liked coloring books, READING books and plenty of ’em, and building sets. I did get a chemistry set one Christmas. That was very nice. :>))

    And when I was in my mid-thirties or so I asked my Honey, a physicist, for one of those Junior Electronics sets. (Don’t remember what they were called.) Which was duly forthcoming, the sweetie.

    (I ended my computer career laying cable under the floor in the new computer room. That was a year after I switched all the modems and their cables from the old System/7 to the new 3705. Heh…it was supposed to be just a test, but as it happened the S/7 had croaked for the last time that very morning, so…. And the earth still turns on its axis. I think.)

    Apologies if this seems too O/T, but people shouldn’t have brought up the business about whether children should be given “gender-appropriate” toys or whether, contrariwise, they should be deluged with toys considered “appropriate” for the opposite “gender.”

    I’m sick of having the soi-disant “feminists” behaving like the very worst of Pampered Princesses and squalling at the top of their lungs about What’s Wrong with the World is Men and We Poor Snowflakes are OPPRESSED !!!! by the PATRIARCHY !!!!!

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  9. Besides, while men and women are certainly equal in their moral status as human beings, they are also not the same thing and not interchangeable. Little Women are never going to come with wee-wees, and Little Men are never going to come with internal incubators.

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  10. Richard, I don’t know what to say. First there’s this–from your linked article about the swell new kindergarten “Egalia” in Sweden:

    …[S]ociety gives boys an unfair edge.

    For some reason I don’t feel particularly fair-minded at the moment, but rather in the mood to be a bit obtuse, so I shall just observe that’s it’s been admitted since the time of Gilgamesh or maybe Marduk his own self that girls tend to do better than boys in school, at least as measured by grades. I sort of wish I had handy a heavy blunt object to help in rearranging some people’s cranial furniture, such as it is.

    Then this (my boldface):

    Many pre-schools have hired “gender pedagogues” to help staff identify language and behaviour that risk reinforcing stereotypes. Some parents, however, worry that things have gone too far. An obsession with obliterating gender roles, they say, could make the children confused and ill-prepared to face the world outside kindergarten.

    Bless those old-fashioned, backward, mulish parents! They are quite right! What about when the kids arrive in First Grade with no incentive at all to play Train, since there’s nothing to see anyway? What about when they finally want to get married at age 34 (or even age 24) but decide there’s no point, since they can just be Stepford Friends?

    And besides, everyone knows the Stork brings babies. Except me. My folks always told me they found me in the gutter. (I always assumed it was the roof-gutter, not the street one.)

    Life will be much simpler and easier when humans are all androgynes. And it will solve the Malthusian problem as well. And humanity, being then non-existent, will be freed from the curse of constantly having to invent new fears (or dredge up old ones, re-costumed) to get all moral-panicky over.

    Is everybody happy now?

    —-With many thanks to Richard, for giving me the excuse to gin up some ventable spleen. Good job, Richard! 😉

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  11. Oh yeah, I knew I was leaving something out. In that second quote, am I correct in inferring that some parents think there is a world outside kindergarten?

    (If that were true, surely it would be the duty of humanity in general and the hall monitors–er, “gender pedagogues” to destroy it forthwith, as an unconscionable blot on societies constructed by the human species.)

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