Column: Me? A feminist?

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from the MU Women’s Center inviting me to speak on the “You’re a Feminist?” panel that took place Nov. 4.

Feminism, as I understood it, fits well into my political philosophy. After all, I do believe that women, like all people, should be treated equally under the law and should be able to enter any professional field they so desire, regardless of gender or race, and based solely on merit.

I expected to discuss specific issues facing women today: domestic violence, wage disparity and other concerns that commonly come to mind when considering women’s equality from a broad perspective.

Through listening to the other panelists, I learned that modern-day feminism is about much more than women’s equality. As an ideology today, feminism seeks to confront and combat all of the “-isms”: racism, sexism, heterosexism and others in an effort to enact true social justice. This ambition is a noble one and something to which all liberty-loving people should aspire.

Where I differ from my fellow feminist panelists would be in my theory of "social justice." I do not believe that social justice is defined by material equality. I agree with economist F.A. Hayek in asserting that the term “social justice” is a meaningless one: nothing more than some abstract ideal that varies from person to person and group to group.

My primary problem with the term “social justice,” is the way it is used to justify increasing government involvement in virtually all aspects of life. In fact, the term “social justice” has been used to refer to such varied issues as abortion, welfare, healthcare reform, immigration reform, marriage equality and environmental protection.

What does social justice even mean? It is nothing more than a political buzz phrase used to increase governmental authority.

If social justice means I get to live with the same material advantages as everyone else, whether I work for it or not, then I must be opposed to it. It is unjust to take the product of one person’s labor to redistribute it as some bureaucrat sees fit. Rich white men are people too, and have the same property rights as everyone else. I have no problem with wealth or wealthy people, and I do not believe that those who achieve wealth do so at the expense of everyone else in society. Prosperity and freedom are good things.

So where does a woman like me, who believes in free markets and free minds, fit on the feminism spectrum? Yes, I detest the way that the advertising industry so often objectifies women. I know women have the brains and ability to be anything they so desire: a U.S. senator, a scientist, a bank CEO, a tennis player or even a wife and a mother.

Women should be treated equally under the law with all equal property and individual rights and should be allowed to make their own choices on how to lead their lives. I favor liberty for all people, whether they are male, female, black, white, straight, gay, rich or poor.

I believe in feminism — the radical notion that women are people. I also believe in libertarianism: the radical notion that you don’t own other people. They are compatible, and I take them both together.

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