As a female libertarian, I’m a rare breed. Libertarianism should give women more choice in their healthcare and their child’s education, it’s a key mechanism for alleviating poverty and creating greater personal freedoms, so why do so few women align themselves to this political theory?
Looking online, there are a number of (mostly misogynistic) arguments for the lack of women in our circles. It’s because women are ‘mostly emotional rather than rational’ or it’s the fear that libertarian events are filled with wild-eyed fanatics, that keeps them away. Or perhaps women just aren’t educated or encouraged to engage in political debate – we would rather study fiction and the arts – so discussing government policy and individual liberty isn’t something we feel at home with.
There may be some truth in the argument that women and men are wired differently. A study by Abrams found that with women’s suffrage the decisive voter was more likely to support increases in government social welfare spending. Women are socialised as nurturers, we expect society to care for people who have nothing, and as such are more attracted to a state that provides for the weakest. As Jessica Ashooh, an American libertarian argues, “If one’s primary role is a wife and mother, rather than as a member of political society or the workforce, then issues involving individual rights fall to the wayside. Preferences become by definition collective and having a state safety net becomes much more desirable.”
I’m not so sure. Talking to women in my peer group they are completely aware of the dangers of big government, high taxation and a floundering economy. They also know they don’t want their children to grow up in a world of health and safety rules, they want choice in their children’s education, and want access to the right drugs and best healthcare when they are ill. If you ask me, plenty of women have been libertarians for years – they are just not familiar with the term or philosophy. We could blame the state education system or an apparent lack of interest in politics, but ultimately I think some of the blame must fall on us for not making libertarianism accessible. Whoever is to blame, one thing I do know is that if we want libertarianism to enter mainstream politics and influence government, then we need to start getting women on board and making libertarianism a real choice for both genders.