Posted to Libertarian Republic
By Avens O’Brien
There are two questions I find most often asked pertaining to libertarianism. The first is, “who will build the roads?” The second is, “why aren’t there more libertarian women?”
The question of women in the liberty movement feels like an annual resurgence—last summer the question was publicly raised again after an article about how Rand Paul was not polling well with women, allegedly due to his libertarian streak. The New Republic really seems to love to ask the question, as well.
Let’s be clear—there have always been libertarian women in the movement, women launched this movement, and many women have even tried to explain why there appear to be less of them; from Joan Kennedy Taylor, to Julie Borowski , to Gina Luttrell, to Cathy Reisenwitz , to Sarah Skwire. There are many theories. Men, women, non-libertarians, libertarians; everybody has an opinion based on their perspectives on liberty.
Last summer I started to wonder what actual data existed on this topic. I began reaching out to libertarian organizations, to ask what their demographics breakdowns were of male and female leadership, membership and/or readership.
I created a survey asking for this information and sent it off to dozens of organizations. A total of nine replied. Many told me they didn’t track that data. Many just didn’t get back to me at all.
How can you know anything about *why* when you don’t even know your own numbers? How can you know if things have changed if you don’t have basic starting information?
This is such a glaring omission of data to me—we are questioning why women may not be libertarians, but, even organization by organization, we don’t keep track of how many female members there are and compare over time? So we have no way of checking which groups may have less disparate ratios compared to others, or which ones may have implemented changes and thus can accurately measure their success or failure if they were seeking to improve their female numbers? The entire narrative of “there aren’t that many female libertarians” is strictly anecdotal with occasional generalized polling, that offers no verifiable, measurable, solid data? We can do better.
I began asking women in an informal poll on Facebook why they were or were not libertarians. If they knew what a libertarian was. If they’d considered the philosophy. If they embraced it. This got many fascinating replies which I compiled with the intention of reporting.
But it isn’t enough. People love to tell us that women aren’t libertarians because they “don’t mind being dependent,” or “don’t want freedom and the responsibility that comes with independence.” The implication is that they’re naturally disinclined towards liberty.
Avens O’Brien is an activist and writer in the Los Angeles area. She is a second-generation Libertarian. Among other things, she has served as 1st District Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.