Libertarians, Boobies, and All That Other Stuff
Written by Winter Trabex.
As a woman- admittedly as a transgender woman in the middle of a gender transition- I have for some time watched with curious fascination the debate that has sprung up around the libertarian community about the women involved in the community who like to share their thoughts with the world. I am put in mind of the reception that Ayn Rand received when she tried to create a philosophy called Objectivism. Her philosophy was intended as a way for people to understand the world around them objectively. If that were all that it came down to, the philosophy would have outgrown Rand herself.
However, the Ayn Rand Institute of today has largely become something of a shrine to Rand’s work which, although impressive in and of itself, is by no means unique. There have been writers, scholars, and philosophers of all sorts in every age who proclaimed that freedom was to be preferred over slavery. The only difference that Rand has with any of history’s other thinkers is that she just so happened to be female.
In 1936, when Rand published her first novel, We the Living, women were still largely excluded from the realm of ideas. This had more to do with how much labor was required to run a household as compared to today. As this was seven years removed from the crash of 1929, it cannot be said for a certainty that every house in the country had electricity or running water. Though literacy rates were climbing, they had not begun to approach one hundred percent of all people being able to read and write. All these factors combined to create a societal belief that women were generally not as adept with ideas as their male counterparts. All evidence to the contrary- and there is quite a lot of it- was dismissed as being the work of unusual outliers. It was not uncommon to find a woman being put away in a mental institution for acting in a manner inconsistent with what was expected of her. The psychologist Sigmund Freud theorized that women envied men on account of differences in genitalia. It is far more likely that, if any envy occurred at that time at all, it was that women envied men their intelligence and ability to more completely understand the world around them.
Thus it happens that when technological advances have allowed women to engage in intellectual pursuits during their free time, one of the prevailing attitudes is that the women involved are not doing what they do because they enjoy doing it. They are in it for the attention. They are trying to make themselves more popular by appealing to a certain audience. The truth- that women do what they do because they want to do it- isn’t quite accepted, both by men and by women. The ideological imprint that history has left upon us has left us with a sense that men can be taken seriously when they talk about complicated ideas, but women cannot.
The libertarian movement- for so I call it, even though I myself do not identify as such- is supposedly lacking the female element. At least, the men involved in it seem to think so. The reality that I have found suggest something quite different. While Christopher Cantwell goes on angry tirades about people not acting right, while Austin Peterson talks about running for president, while Jeff Berwick scams people out of their money, and while a host of other people who profess themselves to be against government intervention come out in favor of such concepts as social equality, the women of the movement just sit back and have themselves a good laugh.
For you see, the tyrants of the world are very good organizers. They may threaten and coerce, but they inevitably get people on their side. Still today, people in China are building statues of Chairman Mao. The Communist Party of Russia has not completely died out. The Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan of America are still there somewhere in the background, still attracting the refuse of society in order to commit mischief in the name of whatever secular god they hold to.
Meanwhile, all the libertarians of the world can do is fight with one another. The divisiveness is all on the wrong side of the table. Those who believe in the freedom of the individual often fail to recognize that such freedom does not simply mean freedom for people to do what they’re expected to do. It means freedom for people to pursue their passions as best as they are able. To believe that women are libertarians because they want attention necessarily precludes the idea that women can- and often do- have interesting ideas to share.
Biologically speaking, this is just not true. Though there are differences between a woman’s brain and a man’s brain, the differences are not so marked that scientists have been able to find a discernable correlation between brain size and intelligence. If that were the case, then elephants- who have larger brains than humans do- would be smarter than human beings. In the 19th century, one of the popular scientific disciplines of the day was called craniometry. Another was called phrenology. One dealt with the size of the brain; the other deal with what parts of the brain were responsible for which thoughts and which behaviors. Both disciplines have proven to be fallacious when it comes to understanding how the brain functions.
The brain is essentially a mass of glial cells, neurons, and blood cells. Memories are stored as chemicals in the brain’s enormous card catalog. When a memory is requested, the brain looks up the memory- which itself may have been modified over time. Memories are imperfect. People may misremember, or not remember at all. When recall does happen, both women and men are able to recount events that have happened to them in the past. They are both able to recall what they have read and understood.
They both recall conversations that they found significant. They remember birthday parties, times with friends, and important life events. There is no difference between women or men in this regard.
When psychologists look for gender differences among the two genders, they are looking for differences that arise due to acculturation. Women and men are taught differently and treated differently because we believe them to be different- even when the differences are (with regards to cognition) skin deep. The differences that we may observe between women and men today have not arisen out of a biological necessity that has forced each gender to act in certain ways, but in how each gender was taught to act.
Today, there are women who play football, who write an endless number of books, who run their own companies, and who- sadly, it must be admitted- run for office. If women were less capable than men of understanding the world around them, it would not be possible for them to do such things with their lives. They would be treated as invalids who must cared for, but never taken seriously.
Until very recently in human history, it appears that women were treated in exactly this manner. A woman was expected to marry and to bear children, but never to have any opinions about anything. The women who dared to step outside of the confines in which society put them in have come down to us through history as examples of personal courage. But they can also have a teaching effect: they can tell us that, even in the most repressive circumstance, human genius can still shine through. It is a force that is impossible to stop save by the self.
Consequently, the debate over whether women belong in the libertarian ought not to be a debate at all. We ought to be congratulating each other. We should do this not because it is unexpected for a woman to think for herself, but because any person who cries out for freedom in a world full of darkness and depression where the tyrants keep throttling every sign of positive change that they see is an act of determined fearlessness in the tradition of Patrick Henry who declared, “give me liberty or give me death!”
It cannot be so ludicrous to imagine that today’s women differ very much from Mr. Henry. It is far more ludicrous to imagine that people who want others to be free is treated as though she has ulterior motives. It is far more ludicrous to imagine that today’s unsung champions of liberty are really just attention-starved people who don’t know what they are talking about. For myself personally, I would rather believe that my sisters in liberty are more like Mr. Henry who is known for what he himself did than like Madame de Pompadour, whose name comes to us through history only on account of who she chose to associate herself with.
I prefer to give today’s libertarian women more credit than that. They are people who stand against the tidal wave of tyranny, sometimes all by themselves, and say with their own voice, “No, you will not go any further.” Perhaps they will be crushed, or perhaps they will stop the tidal wave from crashing down upon the world. Yet still they stand, exactly as they are. There is no greater compliment I know that anyone can receive than this.
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