Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

By Greaves, Bettina Bien | Ideas on Liberty, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century


Greaves, Bettina Bien, Ideas on Liberty


Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

edited by Wendy McElroy

Ivan R. Dee [middot] 2002 [middot] 353 pages [middot] $30.00 hardcover; $18.95 paperback

Admittedly, men and women are different. Women are from Venus, men from Mars. The French say, "vive la difference." But today's radical feminists exaggerate the difference and consider men and women two "separate and politically antagonistic classes." Libertarians and individualists, on the other hand, look on all men and women as members of the same human race. Radical feminists advocate special treatment for women in the workplace, aeademia, and society; libertarians and individualists see the issue as government force versus freedom and seek equality for women under law, Wendy MeElroy is a libertarian, an individualist feminist ("ifeminist"), and has written widely on the struggle of women for equal rights and opportunity, The contributors to Liberty for Women-university professors, lawyers, political scientists, economists, physicians, prostitutes, midwives, and even a president of the American Civil Liberties Union-cover many issues. According to McElroy, "all human beings have a right to the protection of their persons and property," and this book applies that principle consistently.

The authors want to get government off women's backs, recognize their "economic self-sufficiency [and] psychological independence," and maintain "realistic attitudes toward female competence, achievement, and potential," Law professor Richard Epstein, for one, advocates removing legal restrictions and allowing everyone, men and women alike, the freedom to enter into contracts to better themselves through voluntary transactions. He writes that this will "enhance the vitality of the social system as a whole" and that it "dovetails neatly into any and all theories that recognize the limits as well as the uses of markets," As an example of the harm done when the government refuses to respect freedom of contract, consider the Supreme Court's decision, which relied on the Civil Rights Act's anti-discrimination Title VII (1964) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) to overturn a voluntarily agreed-on contract devised by a manufacturer of batteries to protect its women employees and their potential offspring from exposure to dangerous chemicals, What the government calls "discrimination" Epstein regards as mutually beneficial agreement.

Only a few of the essays in the collection can be mentioned in this short review.

Political scientist Ellen Frankel Paul explains that affirmative-aetion, comparable-worth, and sexual-harassment legislation increases the cost of hiring women, ensures that government's "equal-opportunity regulators" will "remain forever enmeshed in the workplace," and "exaggerates all the problems the women's movement has been trying to change,"

"Equity feminist" Camille Paglia considers anti-pornography laws "inherently infantilizing. …

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