What is individualist feminism?
Individualist feminism advocates the equal
treatment of men and women as individuals under just law. The core principle
of individualist feminism is that all human beings have a moral and legal
claim to their own persons and property. It is sometimes called libertarian
What is « just »
Just laws are those that protect the person
and property of peaceful individuals – for example, laws against rape.
Unjust laws are those that infringe upon the freedom of peaceful individuals
– for example, laws against consensual adult sex acts.
Why call yourself a « feminist?
» Why not just call yourself an individualist?
Being a feminist is a form of specialization.
In fighting for individual rights, some people focus upon injustice to
women just as others focus upon injustice to gays or children.
Sometimes the inequality works to women's
advantage, as in affirmative action laws. Do you oppose them as well?
Absolutely. Equality means neither privilege
nor oppression. Besides which, it hardly benefits women to have a paternalistic
state treat them as children or « lesser » human
beings who need state assistance to become equal.
Isn't government trying to help women?
Governments have been the greatest violators
of women's rights for centuries. In the 18th and 19th centuries in America,
government denied to women the most basic rights of controlling their own
bodies (e.g. birth control) and their own property (e.g. wives did not
have an uncontested claim to their own wages). By the late 20th century,
government cemented gender hostility into society by assuming a paternalistic
role that advantaged women at the expense of men (e.g. affirmative action).
Whether through privilege or oppression, governments seem unwilling to
respect the full and equal individual rights of women.
Opposing affirmative action and defending
property rights is generally associated with conservatives. Isn't individualist
feminism just conservative feminism?
Many conservatives are uncomfortable with
the way individualist feminism embraces radical civil liberties. For example,
it calls for the decriminalization of prostitution and pornography. To
an individualist feminist, there is no schism between economic and civil
liberties. They are both expressions of an individual's right to use her
own body and property in any peaceful manner she chooses.
Does this mean individualist feminism supports
This is a controversy within individualist
feminism. The majority of opinion is pro-choice on the grounds of a woman's
self-ownership. A vocal minority within individualist feminism, however,
oppose abortion. They believe that the developing fetus can rightfully
claim the same human rights as a newborn baby.
This sounds like a new feminism. Where does
it come from?
Individualist feminism is enjoying a new
revival, but its roots go back to the anti-slavery movement of the 19th
century. In working for the equal rights of slaves, female abolitionists
asked themselves « do we not have a claim to such rights
ourselves? » When these women began to lecture and write
on their own behalf, individualist feminism (as a movement in America)