Why Libertarians and MRAs Sound the Same When They Talk About Feminism

It's not hard to see that libertarians and MRAs are two sides of the same reactionary coin.

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May 22 2015, 8:23pm

Screenshot via Youtube

To hear some people tell it, freedom of speech in Canada has had a rough month. It's getting so that men can't even shout unfunny, sexually aggressive things at women for no reason anymore without fear of getting publicly (and privately) humiliated! Truly, we are witnessing male chauvinism's Charlie Hebdo moment.

Despite the fact that the "fuck her right in the pussy" post-mortem has been done to death by some of Canada's smartest women, some dudes (inevitably, dudes) are determined to defend their liberty from the creeping gynocratic Gestapo. Stephen Harris, a board member of the Libertarian Party of Canada, took it upon himself last week to mansplain to anyone who'd listen that disrupting a woman's workplace by screaming sexual obscenities at her isn't really a big deal because women love the D.

Why not take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion? I mean, if she's in front of a TV camera, she's probably looking for attention anyway. Why not just say she was asking for it?

At first it might seem sort of surprising that a libertarian would come to the defence of a guy getting fired for saying sexist shit in public. I mean, the whole movement is essentially designed to uphold employers' rights to do almost whatever the fuck they want to their underlings. But it's possible that because the guy was fired from Hydro One, Ontario's government-owned (at least for now) electricity company, this could be seen as an act of state repression as heinous as food safety regulation or public transit.

But this isn't even a free speech issue. A man freely volunteered his considered arguments in defence of criminal sexual harassment to a national television crew. As any good small-l liberal can tell you, the right of free speech comes with an obligation to take responsibility for the things that you say. In this case, the cost of telling a reporter she's lucky she wasn't assaulted with a vibrator was about $106,000 a year. Sounds like an appropriate price to me.

So then why would a libertarian spring to sexism's defence? A cursory visit to the Manosphere can show you a statistical link between libertarians and anti-feminist men's rights activists. Even self-identified "libertarian feminists" like Jessica Flanigan note a tension between the goals and values of libertarians and those of feminists. In the end, even her very generous reading of the situation concedes that feminism will ultimately be subordinate to the libertarian impulse to "not interfere" with "voluntary choices" that perpetuate sexism.

When you look at it this way, it's not hard to see that libertarians and men's rights activists are two sides of the same reactionary coin.

REALLY MAD MEN

For those of you who are blissfully unaware, men's rights activists are basically weaponized douchebags. They tell us that feminism has gone too far and men are now second-class citizens. MRAs believe women wield enormous secret power because they can make men do whatever they want with their sex appeal and/or false rape accusations. Worse, they can banish men to the dreaded Friendzone, a hellish nightmare world where you have to be friends with a girl you aren't fucking. Also, more men die in wars and workplace accidents than women and this is feminism's fault.

MRAs are the disaffected losers of a male-dominated world. They are legitimately upset that they have to put up with all the bullshit that traditionally masculine gender roles impose on men (do dangerous work; live and die by your dick; defer to "naturally" nurturing women in child-care custody battles; etc) but they don't enjoy any of the payoffs they were promised for playing along. Patriarchy is a pyramid scheme, and for every Don Draper at the pinnacle there are a thousand Pete Campbells underneath them, whining that they can't get their due.

But MRAs never ask if there's something wrong with the gender binary itself, or the system that binary upholds. Instead, they blame women and the feminist movement for these problems, despite the fact that the whole point of feminism is to overturn bullshit social hierarchies based on gender. For MRAs, the pyramid scheme of hypermasculinity is the source of all their grief, but it's also the engine of their aspiration and sense of self. When feminists challenge it, it's a challenge to their fantasies of social power.

You can see why these people would get along with libertarians, who are also very emotionally invested in maintaining bullshit social and economic hierarchies under the veneer of individual rights.

YOU CAN'T SPELL FREEDOM WITHOUT 'ME'

One of the basic premises of libertarianism is that only individuals exist. There is no such thing as a group or a gender or a race or a nation or a community of any kind. There are only individuals who may or may not have one of these labels attached to them and who may or may not choose to associate with other like-labeled individuals.

So right off the bat, the idea of feminism makes no sense within this scope. It's incomprehensible, for the committed libertarian, that one group ("women") could be oppressed by another group ("men") in the absence of explicit state violence. Listen, lady: if no one is pointing a gun to your head and telling you to stay in the kitchen, you're just dealing with a few isolated jerks, not an actual social problem. Not all men, remember?

Obviously, the idea that we all go through life as isolated individuals and that group identities (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc) don't define us in any meaningful way could only seem plausible to a white man of at least moderate financial means—or anyone bound up in the aspirational fantasies of whiteness, masculinity, and economic elitism. Whiteness, and especially straight male whiteness, is treated as the de facto standard from which others deviate, to such an extent that a straight white (cis, able-bodied) man can completely forget his experience is not universal. From within that perspective, it's easy to see freedom as consisting in, and only in, being left alone to do whatever you want with your money.

Because feminism is very much in the business of not leaving obnoxious men alone—dismantling gendered hierarchy requires we change the way we relate to ourselves and the people around us—it's not super popular among militant sooks. Anti-feminism has always been in vogue on the radical right. Libertarian YouTube "philosopher" Stefan Molyneux once declared that feminism is socialism in panties (he also gives great dating advice) and The Libertarian Republic recently ran a piece where a man answers 20 Stupid Feminist Questions for Men by arguing that women aren't funny.

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

This vision of atomized individuals isn't even an accurate picture of human existence. Human beings come into the world already bound up in all sorts of social networks. We're born with a name (given and family) already decided for us. We're born with a skin colour and assigned a gender identity (which may or may not reflect the gender identity we eventually come to embody), and both determine many of the life experiences we have in our given society—although how we respond to them is another matter. We're born not even able to live independently from our parental figures for the first several years of our lives.

We are biologically social, and social out of a basic material necessity. We are born and raised into prefigured identities and systems of power that shape our most intimate experiences of ourselves. We are all distinct individuals, but we are also obligated and connected to the people around us in the same way that they are obligated and connected to us. No man is an island; an injury to one is an injury to all.

Both libertarians and MRAs are dedicated to missing this point. They speak in the language of individual rights and equality because by reducing all the complexity of the social world down to a set of isolated units, they can pretend that everyone's privileges and disadvantages are rightfully earned. Or at least they would be rightfully earned, if it weren't for those meddling Social Justice Warriors and their Nanny State. Even the imagery of the "Nanny State" is hilariously sexist—as if the government is a giant woman, nagging the boys to do their homework and making them go to bed before the good TV shows are on.

If there are no systematic patterns of social injustice that operate along lines ofrace, class, or gender, you never have to question your part(s) in them. It's an easy way to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted that still lets you publicly gloat about your moral and intellectual superiority. And if there's one place where libertarians and MRAs often overlap, it's in being smug, condescending pricks on the internet.

So let the feminazis tremble at the manarchist revolution. Dudebros of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your jobs.

Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.

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