The subject of the lack of female libertarians comes up quite a bit in libertarian circles. It seems like every few months or so we feel the need to ask ourselves “why?” Why aren’t more women in our movement? Do they hate freedom? What’s the deal?
Here’s the thing. When we ask this question, libertarians jump over themselves to find answers, make asses of themselves, stereotype women, and, in the end, drive more women away.
A prime example of this is the much-discussed video by Julie Borowski, which has received a lot of justly-deserved criticism. This conversation, of course, has continued, and, of course, we are confronted yet again with why there aren’t more women libertarians: libertarians trivialize women, their decision-making capabilities, and the issues that they care about.
Bryan Caplan chimes in at EconLog to the debate. He proposes that the reason more women aren’t libertarians is a social psychology issue.
…And then he invokes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Mr. Caplan. Please. You say that your “study of personality psychology” is what leads you to you conclusions. I must respectfully call into question your study of personality psychology. MBTI is, at best, considered pop psychology and has been subject of much psychological criticism, particularly with regard to its reflection of reality. You can find a brief overview of MBTI criticism on Wikipedia, something a basic search would have shown you.
More importantly, even if we assume that MBTI is reflective of reality, you still are not fully showing that you comprehend what the type indicators mean. First of all, the MBTI dichotomies are meant to express preferences, not abilities or deficiencies. Feelers are not incapable of logic, nor do they never use it. They just “default” towards their feeling preference.
For that matter, you have misunderstood or misinterpreted what the T/F dichotomy is. Again, from the most basic source, Wikipedia:
Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. (Emphasis mine)
It simply does not follow, sir, that a “thinking” person arrives at markets and a “feeling” person does not or cannot. Feeling people make rational decisions just like Thinkers do. They just come at it a different way.
While the T/F split among men and women may be true, it, again, does not follow that Feelers will not come to libertarianism because they are “soft hearted” or “soft headed” (how insulting!). The majority of the writers for this website are Feelers—Rachel is an ENFP and Elizabeth is an INFJ.
There are more complexities involved, particularly because the dichotomies do not act independently, but this short explanation suffices. If you are intrigued by the system and would like to use it properly in the future, I highly recommend Please Understand Me II.
By associating women with feelers—no matter how statistically justified that assertion may be (and it is certainly debatable)—you are essentially making the claim that women or most women are “soft-headed” and “soft-hearted.” You are denying them their individuality, grouping them all together as if they have one mindset—something that is certainly an unlibertarian principle!
I see “arguments” like this all the time. Whenever the question of why women aren’t libertarians comes up, we fall over ourselves to provide a “logical” answers, almost all of which include treating women as if they aren’t thinking, rational, capable people who make decisions the same way anyone else does.
And then we wonder why women don’t like libertarianism!
It’s not about selling libertarianism a particular way. There’s no way to repackage and “pretty up” what Caplan said to make it somehow appeal to women. He called them emotional and “soft headed”. Because the claim itself is insulting, irrational, and factually ill-based, to presume that women would somehow “buy” that if we package it a particular way just piles on the insult.
Women aren’t libertarians because of things like this. Because of things like Borowski’s video. Because libertarians prefer to chalk it up to “natural differences” between the genders rather than look at themselves and what they are doing to drive women away. Too many libertarians ignore those who cry out to them, “You’re not talking about issues that matter to me. You’re saying that the oppression I experience is somehow made up, but it’s not even something you can experience, so how do you know?”
My advice to Caplan, Borowski, and all those who are tempted to make pseudo-arguments like this: If you want to know why there aren’t more women libertarians, why not ask them? And listen to the answer instead of presuming you know.
You might be surprised as to what you hear.