published as “The Great Women’s Liberation Issue: Setting It Straight”
in The Individualist, May 1970
is high time, and past due, that someone blew the whistle on
"Women's Liberation." Like The Environment, Women's
Lib is suddenly and raucously everywhere in the last few months.
It has become impossible to avoid being assaulted, day in and
day out, by the noisy blather of the Women's Movement. Special
issues of magazines, TV news programs, and newspapers have been
devoted to this new-found "problem"; and nearly two
dozen books on women's lib are being scheduled for publication
this year by major publishers.
all this welter of verbiage, not one article, not one book,
not one program has dared to present the opposition case. The
injustice of this one-sided tidal wave should be evident. Not
only is it evident, but the lack of published opposition negates
one of the major charges of the women's lib forces: that the
society and economy are groaning under a monolithic male "sexist"
tyranny. If the men are running the show, how is it that they
do not even presume to print or present anyone from the other
the "oppressors" remain strangely silent, which leads
one to suspect, as we will develop further below, that perhaps
the "oppression" is on the other side.
the meanwhile, the male "oppressors" are acting, in
the manner of Liberals everywhere, like scared, or guilt-ridden,
rabbits. When the one hundred viragos of Women's Lib bullied
their way into the head offices of the Ladies' Home Journal,
did the harried editor-in-chief, John Mack Carter, throw these
aggressors out on their collective ear, as he should have done?
Did he, at the very least, abandon his office for the day and
go home? No, instead he sat patiently for eleven hours while
these harridans heaped abuse upon him and his magazine and his
gender, and then meekly agreed to donate to them a special section
of the Journal, along with $10,000 ransom. In this way,
spineless male Liberalism meekly feeds the appetite of the aggressors
and paves the way for the next set of outrageous "demands."
Rat magazine, an underground tabloid, caved in even more
spectacularly, and simply allowed itself to be taken over permanently
by a "women's liberation collective."
in fact, this sudden upsurge of women's lib? Even the most fanatic
virago of the Women's Movement concedes that this new movement has
not emerged in response to any sudden clamping down of the male
boot upon the collective sensibilities of the American female. Instead,
the new uprising is part of the current degeneracy of the New Left,
which, as its one-time partly libertarian politics and ideology
and organization have collapsed, has been splintering into absurd
and febrile forms, from Maoism to Weathermanship to mad bombings
to women's lib. The heady wine of "liberation" for every
crackpot group has been in the air for some time, sometimes deserved
but more often absurd, and now the New Left women have gotten into
the act. We need not go quite so far as the recent comment of Professor
Edward A. Shils, eminent sociologist at the University of Chicago,
that he now expects a "dog liberation front," but it is
hard to fault the annoyance behind his remark. Throughout the whole
gamut of "liberation", the major target has been the harmless,
hard-working, adult WASP American male, William Graham Sumner's
Forgotten Man; and now this hapless Dagwood Bumstead figure is being
battered yet once more. How long will it be before the put-upon,
long-suffering Average American at last loses his patience, and
rises up in his wrath to do some effective noisemaking on his own
current Women's Movement is divisible into two parts. The older,
slightly less irrational wing began in 1963 with the publication
of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and her organization
of NOW (the National Organization of Women). NOW concentrates
on alleged economic discrimination against women. For example:
the point that while the median annual wage for all jobs in
1968 was almost $7700 for men, it only totaled $4500 for women,
58% of the male figure. The other major point is the quota argument:
that if one casts one's eye about various professions, top management
positions, etc., the quota of women is far lower than their
supposedly deserved 51%, their share of the total population.
quota argument may be disposed of rapidly; for it is a two-edged
sword. If the low percentage of women in surgery, law, management,
etc., is proof that the men should posthaste be replaced by
females, then what are we to do with the Jews, for example,
who shine far above their assigned quota in the professions,
in medicine, in academia, etc.? Are they to be purged?
lower average income for women can be explained on several grounds,
none of which involve irrational "sexist" discrimination.
One is the fact that the overwhelming majority of women work
a few years, and then take a large chunk of their productive
years to raise children, after which they may or may not decide
to return to the labor force. As a result, they tend to enter,
or to find, jobs largely in those industries and in that type
of work that does not require a long-term commitment to a career.
Furthermore, they tend to find jobs in those occupations where
the cost of training new people, or of losing old ones, is relatively
low. These tend to be lower-paying occupations than those that
require a long-term commitment or where costs of training or
turnover are high. This general tendency to take out years for
child-raising also accounts for a good deal of the failure to
promote women to higher-ranking, and therefore higher-paying
jobs, and hence for the low female "quotas" in these
areas. It is easy to hire secretaries who do not intend to make
the job their continuing life work; it is not so easy to promote
people up the academic or the corporate ladder who do not do
so. How does a dropout for motherhood get to be a corporate
president or a full professor?
these considerations account for a good chunk of lower pay and lower
ranked jobs for women, they do not fully explain the problem. In
the capitalist market economy, women have full freedom of opportunity;
irrational discrimination in employment tends to be minimal in the
free market, for the simple reason that the employer also suffers
from such discriminatory practice. In the free market, every worker
tends to earn the value of his product, his "marginal productivity."
Similarly, everyone tends to fill the job he can best accomplish,
to work at his most productive efforts. Employers who persist in
paying below a person's marginal product will hurt themselves by
losing their best workers and hence losing profits for themselves.
If women have persistently lower pay and poorer jobs, even after
correcting for the motherhood-dropout, then the simple reason must
be that their marginal productivity tends to be lower than men.
should be emphasized that, in contrast to the Women's Lib forces
who tend to blame capitalism as well as male tyrants for centuries-old
discrimination, it was precisely capitalism and the "capitalist
revolution" of the 18th and 19th
centuries that freed women from male oppression, and set each
woman free to find her best level. It was the feudal and pre-capitalist,
pre-market society that was marked by male oppression; it was
that society where women were chattels of their fathers and
husbands, where they could own no property of their own, etc.1
Capitalism set women free to find their own level, and the result
is what we have today.
Women Libs retort that women possess the full potential of equality
of output and productivity with men, but that they have been
browbeaten during centuries of male oppression. But the conspicuous
lack of rising to the highest posts under capitalism still remains.
There are few women doctors, for example. Yet medical schools
nowadays not only don't discriminate against women, they bend
over backwards to accept them (i.e., they discriminate in their
favor); yet the proportion of women doctors is still not noticeably
the female militants fall back on another argument: that centuries
of being "brainwashed" by a male-dominated culture
have made most women passive, accepting their allegedly inferior
role, and even liking and enjoying their major role as homemakers
and child-raisers. And the real problem for the raucous females,
of course, is that the overwhelming majority of women do embrace
the "feminine mystique," do feel that their sole careers
are those of housewife and mother. Simply to write off these
evident and strong desires by most women as "brainwashing"
proves far too much; for we can always dismiss any person's
values, no matter how deeply held, as the result of "brainwashing."
The "brainwashing" contention becomes what the philosophers
call "operationally meaningless," for it means that
the female militants refuse to accept any evidence, logical
or empirical, of whatever kind, that might prove their contentions
to be wrong. Show them a woman who loves domesticity and they
dismiss this as "brainwashing"; show them a militant
and they claim that this proves that women are yearning for
"liberation." In short, these militants regard their
flimsy contentions as unworthy of any sort of proof; but this
is the groundless method of mystics rather than an argument
reflecting scientific truth.
so the high rate of conversion claimed by women's liberationists
proves nothing either; may not this be the result of "brainwashing"
by the female militants? After all, if you are a redhead, and a
Redheaded Liberation League suddenly emerges and shouts at you that
you are eternally oppressed by vile nonredheads, some of you might
well join in the fray. Which proves nothing at all about whether
or not redheads are objectively oppressed.
do not go so far as the extreme male "sexists" who
contend that women should confine themselves to home and children,
and that any search for alternative careers is unnatural. On
the other hand, I do not see much more support for the opposite
contention that domestic-type women are violating their natures.
There is in this as in all matters a division of labor, and
in a free market society every individual will enter those fields
and areas of work which he or she finds most attractive. The
proportion of working women is far higher than even twenty years
ago, and that is fine; but it is still a minority of females,
and that's fine too. Who are you or I to tell anyone, male or
female, what occupation he or she should enter?
the women libs have fallen into a logical trap in their charge
of centuries of male brainwashing. For if this charge be true,
then how come that men have been running the culture over eons
of time? Surely, this cannot be an accident. Isn't this evidence
of male superiority?
Friedanites, who call stridently for equality of income and
position, have, however, been outpaced in recent months by the
more militant women's liberationists, or "new feminists,"
women who work with the older movement but consider them conservative
"Aunt Toms." These new militants, who have been getting
most of the publicity, persistently liken their alleged oppression
to that of blacks, and like the black movement reject equality
and integration for a radical change in society. They call for
the revolutionary abolition of alleged male rule and its supposed
corollary, the family. Displaying a deep-seated and scarcely
concealed hatred of men per se, these females call for all-women's
communes, state-run children, test-tube babies, or just simply
the "cutting up of men", as the real founder of militant
women's lib, Valerie Solanis, put it in her SCUM (Society for
Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. Solanis became the culture-heroine
of the New Feminism in 1968 when she shot and almost killed
the painter and filmmaker Andy Warhol. Instead of being dismissed
(as she would be by any rational person) as a lone nut, the
liberated females wrote articles praising Solanis as the "sweet
assassin" who tried to dispose of the "plastic male"
Warhol. We should have known at that point of the travails that
lay in store.
believe that modern American marriages are, by and large, conducted
on a basis of equality, but I also believe that the opposite contention
is far closer to the truth than that of the New Feminists: namely,
that it is men, not women, who are more likely to be the oppressed
class, or gender, in our society, and that it is far more the men
who are the "blacks," the slaves, and women their masters.
In the first place, the female militants claim that marriage is
a diabolical institution by which husbands enslave their wives and
force them to rear children and do housework. But let us consider:
in the great majority of the cases, who is it that insists on marriage,
the man or the woman? Everyone knows the answer. And if this great
desire for marriage is the result of male brainwashing, as the Women's
Libs contend, then how is it that so many men resist marriage, resist
this prospect of their lifelong seat upon the throne of domestic
as capitalism has immensely lightened the burden of housework
through improved technology, many wives have increasingly constituted
a kept leisure class. In the middle class neighborhood in which
I live, I see them, these "oppressed" and hard-faced
viragos, strutting down the street in their mink stoles to the
next bridge or mah-jongg game, while their husbands are working
themselves into an early coronary down in the garment district
to support their helpmeets.
these cases, then, who are the "niggers": the wives?
Or the husbands? The women's libs claim that men are the masters
because they are doing most of the world's work. But if we look
back at the society of the slave South, who indeed did the work?
It is always the slaves who do the work, while the masters live
in relative idleness off the fruits of their labor. To the extent
that husbands work and support the family, while wives enjoy
a kept status, who then are the masters?
is nothing new in this argument, but it is a point that has
been forgotten amidst the current furor. It has been noted for
years-and especially by Europeans and Asians – that too
many American men live in a matriarchy, dominated first by Momism,
then by female teachers, and then by their wives. Blondie and
Dagwood have long symbolized for sociologists an all-too prevalent
American matriarchy, a matriarchy that contrasts to the European
scene where the women, though more idle than in the U.S., do
not run the home. The henpecked American male has long been
the butt of perceptive humor. And, finally, when the male dies,
as he usually does, earlier than his spouse, she inherits the
entire family assets, with the result that far more than 50%
of the wealth of America is owned by women. Income – the
index of hard and productive work – is less significant
here than ownership of ultimate wealth. Here is another inconvenient
fact which the female militants brusquely dismiss as of no consequence.
And, finally, if the husband should seek a divorce, he is socked
with the laws of alimony, which he is forced to pay and pay
to support a female whom he no longer sees, and, if he fails
to pay, faces the barbaric penalty of imprisonment – the
only instance remaining in our legal structure of imprisonment
for nonpayment of "debt." Except, of course, that
this is a "debt" which the man had never voluntarily
incurred. Who, then, are the slaves?
as for men forcing women to bear and rear children, who, again,
in the vast majority of cases, is the party in the marriage most
eager to have children? Again, everyone knows the answer.
as they do at times, the female militants acknowledge matriarchal
dominance by the American female, their defense, as usual, is
to fall back on the operationally meaningless: that the seeming
dominance of the wife is only the reflection of her quintessential
passivity and subordination, so that women have to seek various
roads to bitchiness and manipulation as their route to . . .
power. Beneath their seeming power, then, these wives are psychologically
unhappy. Perhaps, but I suppose that one could argue that the
slavemaster in the Old South was also psychologically uneasy
because of his unnaturally dominant role. But the politico-economic
fact of his dominance remained, and this is the major point.
ultimate test of whether women are enslaved or not in the modem
marriage is the one of "natural law": to consider
what would happen if indeed the women's libs had their way and
there were no marriage. In that situation, and in a consequently
promiscuous world, what would happen to the children? The answer
is that the only visible and demonstrable parent would be the
mother. Only the mother would have the child, and therefore
only the mother would be stuck with the child. In short, the
women militants who complain that they are stuck with the task
of raising the children should heed the fact that, in a world
without marriage, they would also be stuck with the task of
earning all of the income for their children's support. I suggest
that they contemplate this prospect long and hard before they
continue to clamor for the abolition of marriage and the family.
more thoughtful of the female militants have recognized that
their critical problem is finding a solution for the raising
of children. Who is going to do it? The moderates answer: governmental
provision of day-care centers, so that women can freed to enter
the labor force. But the problem here, aside from the general
problem of socialism or statism, is this: how come that the
free market hasn't provided day care centers fairly inexpensively,
as it does for any product or service in mass demand? No one
has to clamor for government provision of motels, for example.
There are plenty of them. The economist is compelled to answer:
either that the demand for mothers to go to work is not nearly
as great as the New Feminists would have us believe, and/or
some controls by government-perhaps requirements for registered
nurses or licensing laws-are artificially restricting the supply.
Whichever reason, then, more government is clearly not the answer.
more radical feminists are not content with such a piddling solution
as day-care centers (besides who but women, other women this time,
would be staffing these centers?). What they want, as Susan Brownmiller
indicates in her New York Sunday Times Magazine article (March
15), is total husband-wife equality in all things, which means equally
shared careers, equally shared housework, and equally shared child-rearing.
Brownmiller recognizes that this would have to mean either that
the husband works for six months and the wife for the next six months,
with each alternating six months of child rearing, or that each
work half of every day and so alternate the child-rearing each half-day.
Whichever path is chosen, it is all too clear that this total equality
could only be pursued if both parties are willing to live permanently
on a hippie, subsistence, part-time-job level. For what career of
any importance or quality can be pursued in such a fleeting and
haphazard manner? Above the hippie level, then, this alleged "solution"
is simply absurd.
our analysis is correct, and we are already living in a matriarchy,
then the true significance of the new feminism is not, as they
would so stridently have it, the "liberation" of women
from their oppression. May we not say that, not content with
kept idleness and subtle domination, these women are reaching
eagerly for total power? Not content with being supported and
secure, they are now attempting to force their passive and long-suffering
husbands to do most of the housework and childrearing as well.
I know personally several couples where the wife is a militant
liberationist and the husband has been brainwashed by his spouse
to be an Uncle Tom and a traitor to his gender. In all these
cases, after a long hard day at the office or at teaching to
support the family, the husband sits at home tending the kids
while the wife is out at Women's Lib meetings, there to plot
their accession to total power and to denounce their husbands
as sexist oppressors. Not content with the traditional mah-jongg
set, the New Woman is reaching for the final castrating blow-to
be accepted, I suppose, with meek gratitude by their male-liberal
is still the extremist women's lib solution: to abandon sex, or
rather heterosexuality, altogether. There is no question but that
this at least would solve the child-rearing problem. The charge
of Lesbianism used to be considered a venomous male-chauvinist smear
against the liberated woman. But in the burgeoning writings of the
New Feminists there has run an open and increasing call for female
homosexuality. Note, for example, Rita Mae Brown, writing in the
first "liberated" issue of Rat (February 6):
a woman to vocally assert her heterosexuality is to emphasize
her u2018goodness' by her sexual activity with men. That old sexist
brainwashing runs deep even into the consciousness of the
most ardent feminist who will quickly tell you she loves sleeping
with men. In fact, the worst thing you can call a woman in
our society is a lesbian. Women are so male identified that
they quake at the mention of this three-syllable word. The
lesbian is, of course, the woman who has no need of men. When
you think about it, what is so terrible about two women loving
each other? To the insecure male, this is the supreme offense,
the most outrageous blasphemy committed against the sacred
all, just what would happen if we all wound up loving each
other. Good things for us but it would mean each man would
lose his personal u2018nigger'. . a real and great loss if you
are a man….
love another woman is an acceptance of sex which is a severe
violation of the male culture (sex as exploitation) and therefore
carries severe penalties…. Women have been taught to abdicate
the power of our bodies, both physically in athletics and
self-defense, and sexually. To sleep with another woman is
to confront the beauty and power of your own body as well
as hers. You confront the experience of your sexual self-knowledge.
You also confront another human being without the protective
device of role. This may be too painful for most women as
many have been so brutalized by heterosexual role play that
they cannot begin to comprehend this real power. It is an
overwhelming experience. I vulgarize it when I call it a freedom
high. No wonder there is such resistance to lesbianism."
this, in the same issue, by "A Weatherwoman":
becomes entirely different without jealousy. Women who never
saw themselves making it with women began digging each other
sexually…. What weatherman is doing is creating new standards
for men and women to relate to. We are trying to make sex
nonexploitative…. We are making something new, with the
common denominator being the revolution."
finally, still in the same issue, by Robin Morgan:
it all hang out. Let it seem bitchy, catty, dykey, frustrated,
crazy, Solanisesque, nutty, frigid, ridiculous, bitter, embarrassing,
manhating, libelous…. Sexism is not the fault of women –
kill your fathers, not your mothers."
so, at the hard inner core of the Women's Liberation Movement lies
a bitter, extremely neurotic if not psychotic, man-hating lesbianism.
The quintessence of the New Feminism is revealed.
this spirit confined to a few extremists? Is it unfair to tar
the whole movement with the brush of the Lesbian Rampant? I'm
afraid not. For example, one motif now permeating the entire
movement is a strident opposition to men treating women as "sex
objects." This supposedly demeaning, debasing, and exploitative
treatment extends from pornography to beauty contests, to advertisements
of pretty models using a product, all the way to wolf whistles
and admiring glances at girls in miniskirts. But surely the
attack on women as "sex objects" is simply an attack
on sex, period, or rather, on hetero-sex. These new monsters
of the female gender are out to destroy the lovely and age-old
custom-delighted in by normal women the world over-of women
dressing to attract men and succeeding at this pleasant task.
What a dull and dreary world these termagants would impose upon
us! A world where all girls look like unkempt wrestlers, where
beauty and attractiveness have been replaced by ugliness and
"unisex," where delightful femininity has been abolished
on behalf of raucous, aggressive, and masculine feminism.
of pretty and attractive girls does, in fact, lie close to the
heart of this ugly movement. One point that should be noted,
for example, in the alleged economic discrimination against
women: the fantastic upward mobility, as well as high incomes,
available to the strikingly pretty girl. The Women's Libs may
claim that models are exploited, but if we consider the enormous
pay that the models enjoy-as well as their access to the glamorous
life-and compare it with their opportunity cost foregone in
other occupations such as waitress or typist-the charge of exploitation
is laughable indeed. Male models, whose income and opportunities
are far lower than that of females, might well envy the privileged
female position! Furthermore, the potential for upward mobility
for pretty, lowerclass girls is enormous, infinitely more so
than for lower-class men: We might cite Bobo Rockefeller and
Gregg Sherwood Dodge (a former pin-up model who married the
multimillionaire scion of the Dodge family) as merely conspicuous
examples. But these cases, far from counting as an argument
against them, arouse the female liberationists to still gieater
fury, since one of their real complaints is against those more
attractive girls who by virtue of their attractiveness, have
been more successful in the inevitable competition for men-a
competition that must exist whatever the form of government
or society (provided, of course, that it remains heterosexual).
as "sex objects"? Of course they are sex objects,
and praise the Lord they always will be. (Just as men, of course,
are sex objects to women.) As for wolf whistles, it is impossible
for any meaningful relationship to be established on the street
or by looking at ads, and so in these roles women properly remain
solely as sex objects. When deeper relationships are established
between men and women, they each become more than sex objects
to each other; they each hopefully become love objects as well.
It would seem banal even to bother mentioning this, but in today's
increasingly degenerate intellectual climate no simple truths
can any longer be taken for granted. Contrast to the strident
Women's Liberationists the charming letter in the New York
Sunday Times (March u201819) by Susan L. Peck, commenting on
the Brownmiller article. After asserting that she, for one,
welcomes male admiration, Mrs. Peck states that "To some
this might sound square, but I do not harbor a mad, vindictive
desire to see my already hard-working, responsible husband doing
the household ironing." After decrying the female maladjustment
exhibited in the "liberation movement," Mrs. Peck
for one, adore men and I'd rather see than be one!" Hooray,
and hopefully Mrs. Peck speaks for the Silent Majority of American
for the Women's Liberationists, perhaps we might begin to take their
constantly repeated analogies with the black movement more seriously.
The blacks have, indeed, moved from integration to black power,
but the logic of black power is starkly and simply: black nationalism-an
independent black nation. If our New Feminists wish to abandon male-female
"integrationism" for liberation, then this logically implies
Female Power, in short, Female Nationalism. Shall we then turn over
some Virgin land, maybe the Black Hills, maybe Arizona, to these
termagants? Yes, let them set up their karate-chopping Amazonian
Women's Democratic People's Republic, and ban access to them. The
infection of their sick attitudes and ideology would then be isolated
and removed from the greater social body, and the rest of us, dedicated
to good oldfashioned heterosexuality, could then go about our business
undisturbed. It is high time that we heed the ringing injunction
of William Butler Yeats:
the fanatic, down the clown;
Down, down, hammer them down,
that we echo the joyous cry of the elderly Frenchman in the
famous joke. As a female militant in France addressed a gathering
on women's liberation, asserting, "There is only a very
small difference between men and women," the elderly Frenchman
leaped to his feet, shouting, "Vive la petite difference!"2
Ludwig von Mises has written: "As the idea of contract enters
the Law of Marriage, it breaks the rule of the male, and makes
the wife a partner with equal rights. From a one-sided relationship
resting on force, marriage thus becomes a mutual agreement….
Nowadays the position of the woman differs from the position of
the man only in so far as their peculiar ways of earning a living
differ…. Woman's position in marriage was improved as the principle
of violence was thrust back, and as the idea of contract advanced
in other fields of the Law of Property it necessarily transformed
the property relations between the married couple. The wife was
freed from the power of her husband for the first time when she
gained legal rights over the wealth which she brought into marriage
and which she acquired during marriage…. That marriage unites
one man and one woman, that it can be entered into only with the
free will of both parties,… that the rights of husband and wife
are essentially the same-these principles develop from the contractual
attitude to the problem of' married life." Ludwig von Mises,
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951), pp. 95-96.
Professor Leonard P. Liggio has brought to my attention two
vitally important points in explaining why the Women's Lib agitation
has emerged at this time from within the New Left. The first
is that the New Left women were wont to sleep promiscuously
with the males in the movement, and found to their shock and
dismay that they were not being treated as more than mere "sex
objects." In short, after lacking the self-respect to treat
themselves as more than sex objects, these New Left women found
to their dismay that the men were treating them precisely as
they regarded themselves! Instead of realizing that their own
promiscuous behavior was at the root of the problem, these women
bitterly blamed the men, and Women's Liberation was born.
second point is that almost all the agitation comes not from
working class, but rather from middleclass wives, who find themselves
tied to the home, and kept from satisfying outside jobs, by
the demands of children and housework. He notes that this condition
could be readily cured by abolishing restrictions on immigration,
so that cheap and high-quality maids and governesses would once
more be available at rates that middle-class wives could afford.
And this, of course, would be a libertarian solution as well.
N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School,
founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer
of the Mises Institute. He
was also editor — with Lew Rockwell — of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his literary
2003 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.