Radical Feminism and Ron Paul
In his reply to David Gordon below in Roderick Long’s post, Charles Johnson wrote ”First, I don’t think that libertarianism should be subordinated to certain cultural values such as radical feminism. I believe that libertarianism, rightly understood, is both compatible with and mutually reinforcing with the cultural values of radical feminism, rightly understood.” Back in the day at the University of South Florida I once took seminar in women’s history with fifteen students where I was the only male in the classroom. I liked the professor very much, aced the course, and published a paper out of it; however, one day towards the end she brought in some old boxes of radical feminist writing, newspapers pamphlets that sort of thing from the 1970s, to show the class. I could not help noticing the extraordinary number of depictions of men having their genitals cut off in this literature. I also recall prominent radical feminists arguing that sex between a man and a woman in marriage was a form of rape. In addition, calls for an extremely broad definition of workplace sexual harassment and assertions that government should intervene to raise the pay of occupations staffed primarily by women have been a mainstay of radical feminist ideology. This going hand in hand with demands to expand the welfare state to include such things as free daycare and employer paid maternity leave for long periods of time. I do not see how this practical record of radical feminism, which I have always viewed as a thinly veiled form of collectivist socialism, is compatible with libertarianism.
Now, Johnson uses the qualifier ”rightly understood” to reconcile the differences no doubt finding some philosophical compatibility and I think this reveals the essence of the controversy over libertarian support for Ron Paul. The question is are we going to be concerned about winning a philosophical argument or are we going to be concerned about some American soldier in Iraq being blown up by a roadside bomb in 2010?
comments powered by Disqus
Keith Halderman - 12/21/2007
Violence is violence, are you saying it is OK to cut your penis off because some other man raped a woman? In order for there to be a real difference no black person could have ever committed a crime because both sets of propaganda call for group punishment. Yours is the kind of thinking that got the Czar's 12 year old daughter executed as an enemy of the people.
Charles Johnson - 12/16/2007
Keith wrote: "Also when I read that radical feminist literature the thought that kept going though my head was how similar it was to some KKK propaganda I had seen before. I wonder if you would be so quick to excuse pictures of people with grotesquely large lips being lynched."
White supremacist caricatures of black men and women were forms of propaganda by the supporters and perpetrators of an actually existing pervasive system of violence (lynch law under white supremacy) that killed, maimed, and terrorized thousands of innocent people. Their purpose was to support and reinforce that system of violent domination in the name of race privilege.
Radical feminist caricatures of men are a response by the VICTIMS of an actually existing pervasive system of violence (male violence against women) that kills, maims, rapes, and otherwise terrorizes millions of innocent women. Their purpose is to PROTEST and UNDERMINE that violence in the name of sex equality.
This facile attempt to equate the two, while completely ignoring their contrary relationships to a context of actually existing violent domination, is grotesque. It also completely glosses over what should be a central issue for libertarians -- whether the violence depicted is aggressive, or a defense against prior aggression.
Charles Johnson - 12/16/2007
The fact that Roe has survived this long in spite of long-standing presidential opposition has little to do with any great security that the ruling (which is currently supported by at best a 5-4 margin) has, and a lot more to do with the fact that historical accidents -- like Bush Sr.'s deicision to appoint the moderate Souter, or the counter-to-expectations behavior of Reagan appointees Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- can profoundly influence the direction of a divided court for long periods of time, thanks to lifetime terms and the small number of justices involved. The Roberts court has already upheld substantial new federal restrictions on abortion in Gonzales v. Carhart, and several anti-abortion state legislatures are already chomping at the bit to pass state abortion laws in order to force a review of Roe v. Wade before the new court. You'll forgive me if I'm not as sanguine as you are about the threat of new forced pregnancy laws.
As for your comments on immigration, I simply have no idea what you mean. Immigrants *are* wanted in the United States; they come here, in spite of great physical danger from both the law and the physical conditions that the legal situation forces them to endure in their crossing, precisely because there is ample work to find. The reason that every year there's one or two dozen immigrants who die from exposure or dehydration in the southwestern deserts is precisely because the statist federal immigration controls, which Ron Paul wants to enforce even more aggressively and rigidly than they are currently enforced, force them to try to cross in remote desert areas where they can evade detection, rather than at urban border crossings in Tijuana, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and similar border towns. Ron Paul has directly stated that he wants to continue, and in fact *escalate*, the border policies that cause these deaths. He also wants internal immigration cops to enforce immigration controls even more aggressively than they have been, which means more of the "Ihre Papiere, bitte" treatment for both non-immigrants and immigrants, more paramilitary raids on workplaces, and threatening millions of undocumented immigrants with arrest, jail, and government-imposed exile from their current homes, their livelihood, and their families.
As for feminism, you wrote: "In your comment above you laid down a laundry list of statist policies that you support in the name of radical feminism".
Could you please list a single statist policy that I stated my support for in my comment above?
As I explicitly stated in my comments, all of the items that I listed -- broad sexual harassment policies, free daycare, employer-paid maternity leave, and worker ownership of the means of production -- are things that can be brought about voluntarily within a free market, without government intervention.
The issue of libertarianism or statism only arises when it comes to the question of MEANS -- whether these projects are to be brought about through voluntary cooperation or through government coercion. Government-imposed sexual harassment policies (whether broad or narrow) are statist; government-funded daycare is statist; government-required paid maternity leave is statist; but in a free market employers can adopt any sexual harassment policy they want, including the kinds of policies that radical feminists favor; and community groups can provide free or sliding-scale daycare if they feel like it; and employers can offer whatever sorts of parental leave policies they like, including gender-neutral employer-paid leave benefits of the kind that liberal feminists generally advocate.
You might think that these sorts of things won't happen on a free market, because they are impractical ideas; you might think that they oughtn't happen on a free market, because they are foolish ideas. But you had better make sure that you understand the difference between free market principles and favoritism for your preferred business model. And, as I directly stated above, and as Roderick and I also spent quite a bit of time explaining in detail in the essay that, I've repeatedly referred you to, there is an existing tendency *within* radical feminism that has favored grassroots cooperative action rather than attempts to seize or influence state power, and it is that kind of non-statist or anti-statist activism that Roderick and I support.
It is extremely frustrating to have to repeat this point once again when I already made the same point obliquely in the post you were putatively replying to, and made it directly and in some detail in the essay linked from that post, and made it directly again in the rejoinder to your comments immediately above your most recent reply.
You wrote: "... excuse me for questioning your commitment to limited government"
I have no commitment whatsoever to limited government. But your suspicions are pointed in the wrong direction. I am an anarchist, and so I oppose both limited statism and welfare statism. Less destructive governments are preferable to more destructive governments, but given the abject failure of every single attempt in the history of the planet earth to sustain a "limited government" against mission creep and the ambitions of professional politicians, I don't think it's worth devoting a lot of energy to such a doomed project.
If you seriously believe that Chairman Ron's Great Libertarian Electoral Revolution is the only real shot we have to resist an ongoing slide into totalitarian hell, then I'd suggest you get out of the country as quickly as possible, because your plan has an awfully limited chance of success, and if he fails to make it past the primaries, then you have about 1-3 months before it's all over.
Personally, I'm rather more optimistic, because I don't think that the only way for good men and women to do something is for them to support a candidate for a government election. I prefer to spend my time on forms of activism that are more practical than the proven failure of libertarian electioneering.
Keith Halderman - 12/12/2007
Since Roe v. Wade every president except Bill Clinton has been pro-life but the law has not changed, no one is going to be dying in back allies just because Paul wins. And, whether or not Paul is elected immigrants will still cross the border but if he changes the economy in the direction of the free market there actually will be much less chance that they will die in the desert because they will be wanted here. However, if we do not elect Ron Paul it is a lock that more Americans will be dying in Iraq in 2010 and in other places for years to come. In your comment above you laid down a laundry list of statist policies that you support in the name of radical feminism, excuse me for questioning your commitment to limited government. Also when I read that radical feminist literature the thought that kept going though my head was how similar it was to some KKK propaganda I had seen before. I wonder if you would be so quick to excuse pictures of people with grotesquely large lips being lynched. I again submit that your objections are philosophical not practical ones and in the present situation we do not have luxury of such disputes. Here we have a once in a lifetime chance to elect a man that will actually do something about our century long slide into totalitarian hell but you would rather spend your time comparing him to your own personal vision of the ideal candidate. "In order for evil to triumph all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing."
Charles Johnson - 12/12/2007
You wrote: "The question is are we going to be concerned about winning a philosophical argument or are we going to be concerned about some American soldier in Iraq being blown up by a roadside bomb in 2010?"
Dude, this is a ridiculous cheap shot and you know it. I could just as easily go around telling those, such as Gordon, who attempt to give philosophical defenses of voting for Ron Paul, "The question is are we going to be concerned about winning a philosophical argument or are we going to be concerned about some woman dying in a back alley in 2010?" or "The question is are we going to be concerned about winning a philosophical argument or are we going to be concerned about some immigrant dying of dehydration in the Arizona desert in 2010?" Your argument cuts as much ice as either of these, which is to say, none at all. All the parties to this debate are arguing over issues that have real and grave human consequences in the near term.
As for radical feminist literature and action, Roderick and I discuss that at length in our essay, so it would be more productive to engage with what we said there. For what it's worth, there's nothing inherently unlibertarian about broad sexual harassment policies, free daycare or employer paid maternity leave (or, what radical feminists are more likely to advocate, radical transformation of the economy away from an employer-employee model and towards ownership of the means of production by working women and men). These ideas may be wise or foolish for other reasons, but libertarianism as such only comes up when we turn to the question of whether these kind of measures are to be attained through voluntary means or by means of the State. As Roderick and I explain in the essay, while there are many radical feminists who advocate State action, there are many others who distrust State action for practical reasons or even reject it entirely on principle.
You write: "I also recall prominent radical feminists arguing that sex between a man and a woman in marriage was a form of rape."
Can you specify which radical feminist(s) you're referring to and where she or they say this? (If you're referring to Andrea Dworkin's discussion of martial rape laws in Right-Wing Women, that's not actually an accurate statement of her conclusion, but in any case you should know that even if it were, she was discussing the ramifications of a legal context has mercifully ceased to exist since the book was written.)
As for the radical feminist menace to the safety of men's wing-wangs, the legitimacy of violence depends on whether it is aggressive or defensive. Given the radical feminist emphasis on the prevalence of violence against women, I'd suggest that even if that talk were meant literally rather than rhetorically, that wouldn't necessarily be an objection to it.