Uh oh, I wrote a thing about feminism . . . here goes nothing.


If you ask me point blank if I’m a feminist, I do not know what to say. It entirely depends on how you define the term.

In the strictest sense, I am a feminist. Legally, I believe that men and women should have exactly the same rights and be treated equally under the law. And in personal life I believe we should judge people on merit regardless of gender.

But if we are to take feminism in a positive sense, there are big problems.

First of all, one might think by the arguments of popular feminists, that in order to be a feminist, one has to believe in the reality of a patriarchy, the wage-gap, male privilege and rape culture. If you dispute the extent or even existence of those things, are you a feminist?

In turn, can you call yourself a feminist if you oppose policy recommendations the majority of feminists recommend? If you oppose affirmative action, quotas, publicly-funded battered women shelters, planned parenthood, ‘free’ contraception; can you be a feminist? This is not clear.

In my estimation, the only practical way of understanding feminism is the ‘thin’, normative definition, without the baggage of ‘thick’ feminism, that requires positive beliefs and policy recommendations.

Consider the debate over the extent of certain social problems listed above. Even if one believes in male privilege, for example, no two people agree on how much privilege males enjoy and in which areas of life. Any decision on what defines feminism based on what people believe about these subjects is essentially arbitrary, and excludes a huge swathe of self-identifying feminists.

The logical implication of this is that any positive opinion on these subjects, insofar as their importance or influence in daily life, is irrelevant to whether you are a feminist or not. What matters is one’s normative opinions about those things. Provided that if you disagree with oppressive patriarchies, one is a feminist, regardless of whether one agrees that we are living in an oppressive patriarchy right now.

To make a comparison: one can be against police states, but dispute that we are living in a police state right now. The disagreement about things in the real world has no bearing on the principle itself. That is a different debate.

What is troublesome is that even though I am a normative feminist, I don’t believe that we in the West live in an oppressive patriarchy, and this position would come into much criticism by most feminists. I might not even be considered a feminist. This goes for many of the dubious empirical claims made by the wider feminist movement.

They may also take issue with my positions on the popular policy recommendations listed above. As all of them would require state power, and necessarily violate the non-aggression principle, they are all inconsistent with libertarianism and therefore impermissible.

This is liable to have me shunned by feminists, but there is no logical reason to be. I may agree that companies should have diversity of gender, people should open shelters for abused women, there should be family-planning support and charity that gives contraceptive aid, yet still oppose those government policies that many feminists lobby for. The only real difference between them and I is that I don’t wish the state to enact these policies. Which is not grounds for claiming that I am not a feminist. Feminism in its strictest definition does not imply that the state enforces all of feminism’s aims.

Even though in the technical sense I am a feminist, I am reticent to publicly identify myself as one. The modern feminist movement is way off track in its insistence on particular views about society and policy and I don’t want to be associated with it.

If you ask me if I believe in the principle of equality under the law and treating people based on their individual value rather than their gender, then yes, I am a feminist. If you ask me if I am part of the feminist movement, I’d say definitely not.

What do you think?