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Individualist feminism

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Individualist feminism, also known as ifeminism, is a libertarian feminist movement that emphasizes individualism, personal autonomy, freedom from state-sanctioned discrimination against women, and gender equality.


Individualist feminists attempt to change legal systems to eliminate sex and gender privileges, and to ensure that individuals have equal rights. Individualist feminism encourages women to take full responsibility for their own lives and opposes any government interference into choices adults make with their own bodies.[1][2][3][page needed]

Individualist or libertarian feminism is sometimes grouped as one of many branches of liberal feminism, but it tends to diverge significantly from 21st-century mainstream liberal feminism of the 21st century.[4][5][further explanation needed] Individualist feminists Wendy McElroy and Christina Hoff Sommers define individualist feminism in opposition to what they call "political" or "gender feminism".[6]: 14 [7][8]


Libertarian feminists reject gender roles that limit women's autonomy and choice, and assert that strict gender roles limit both women and men, especially if they are legally enforced.[9] Libertarian feminists are critical of using institutional power to achieve positive aims, believing that allowing the government to make decisions on behalf of women may limit women's individual choices. For instance, banning sex work to "protect" women treats women as a monolithic group, rather than individuals, and takes away economic opportunities for women who want to work in the sex industry by choice.[citation needed]

The Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank, argues that capitalism has given women a higher standard of living, greater access to resources, greater individual freedoms and more job opportunities outside of physical labor.[10][11]

Individualist feminism conforms to the theory of natural law, supporting laws that protect the rights of men and women equally.[12][page needed] Individual feminists argue that government should not prioritize the needs of women over men, nor should it strive to intervene to create equality in personal relationships, private economic arrangements, entertainment and media representation, or the general sociocultural realm.[citation needed]

History in the United States[edit]

According to individualist feminist Joan Kennedy Taylor, early organized feminism in the United States was fundamentally "a classical liberal women's movement".[13] First-wave feminists focused on universal suffrage and the abolition of slavery, along with property rights for women and other forms of equal rights.[citation needed]

During the Victorian era and the early 20th century, individualist feminism fell out of vogue in the US and UK as the progressive, labor, and socialist movements began to hold more sway over politics.[citation needed]

Individualist feminism was revived by anti-authoritarian and individualist second-wave feminists in the mid-20th century. According to Taylor, "the political issues that gained wide adherence were the reproductive rights to birth control and abortion, and the Equal Rights Amendment, which (at least in its initial support) was a classical liberal restraint on government."[2]

Labels like individualist feminism, libertarian feminism, and classical liberal feminism were explicitly embraced by late 20th century writers and activists such as Taylor, Sharon Presley, Tonie Nathan, and Wendy McElroy.[citation needed] Modern libertarian feminism is a continuation of ideas and work developed by these women and their contemporaries, including Nadine Strossen and Camille Paglia, as well as of the ideas of classical liberal and anarchist writers throughout history.[citation needed]

Libertarian feminist organizations[edit]

Association of Libertarian Feminists[edit]

The Association of Libertarian Feminists (ALF) was founded in 1973 by Tonie Nathan and Sharon Presley on Ayn Rand's birthday in Eugene, Oregon, at Nathan's home.[14][15] In September 1975 in New York City, ALF became a national organization.[15] As of 2015, Presley was the executive director of the organization.[16]

The ALF has stated that their purpose is to oppose sexist attitudes, oppose government, and "provide a libertarian alternative to those aspects of the women's movement that tend to discourage independence and individuality."[17] The ALF have opposed the government's involvement in childcare centers, including "zoning laws, unnecessary and pointless "health and safety" restrictions, [and] required licensing."[18] The ALF have also opposed public education, saying that public schools "not only foster the worst of traditionalist sexist values but inculcate docility and obedience to authority with sterile, stifling methods and compulsory programs and regulations."[18] In 1977, Nathan suggested eliminating parts of the United States Postal Service regulations that obstructed the mailing of birth control samples and information about family planning at the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas.[15]

Feminists for Liberty[edit]

Feminists for Liberty (F4L) is a nonprofit libertarian feminist group founded in 2016. It was founded by Kat Murti and Elizabeth Nolan Brown[19] to promote the values of libertarian feminism. F4L are "anti-sexism and anti-statism, pro-markets and pro-choice" and "classically liberal, anti-carceral, and sex positive".[20] They are opposed to collectivism and argue that "treating someone as simply a representative of their sex or gender" is collectivist.[20]

Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA)[edit]

The Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) was established in 2009 as a nonprofit organization. LOLA's goal is to engage women in libertarianism through social groups, leadership trainings, and visits from guest speakers.[21]

Mothers Institute[edit]

The Mothers Institute was a non-profit educational and networking organization supporting stay-at-home mothering, homeschooling, civics in the classroom, and an effective networking system for mothers and freedom of choice in health and happiness. It is now defunct.[citation needed]


Criticism of individualist feminism ranges from expressing disagreements with the values of individualism as a feminist to expressing the limitations within individualist feminism as an effective activism. Critics have argued that individualist feminism does not sufficiently address structural inequality.[22] In 1995, American radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon criticized the value of individual choice, saying there were still instances where "women are used, abused, bought, sold, and silenced", especially women of color.[23] In 1999, American feminist Susan Brownmiller suggested that the aversion to collective, "united" feminism was a sign of a "waning" and unhealthy feminist movement.[24]

Notable individualist feminists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liberty for women : freedom and feminism in the twenty-first century. Wendy McElroy. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2002. ISBN 1-56663-434-2. OCLC 48475190.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b Taylor, Joan Kennedy (1992). Reclaiming the mainstream : individualist feminism rediscovered. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-717-5. OCLC 25282967.
  3. ^ Taylor, Joan Kennedy (1999). What to do when you don't want to call the cops : a non-adversarial approach to sexual harassment. New York: London. ISBN 0-8147-8232-9. OCLC 41580348.
  4. ^ "Carceral Feminism and the Libertarian Alternative | Libertarianism.org". www.libertarianism.org. 2015-01-28. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  5. ^ "How is Libertarian Feminism Different from Other Feminisms? | Libertarianism.org". www.libertarianism.org. 2015-01-06. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  6. ^ McElroy, Wendy, ed. (2002). Liberty for women: freedom and feminism in the twenty-first century. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 978-1-56663-435-9.
  7. ^ Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995). Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684801568.
  8. ^ McElroy, Wendy (2003). "Gender Feminism and Ifeminism: Wherein They Differ" (PDF). Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics. 2.
  9. ^ www.libertarianism.org https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/how-is-libertarian-feminism-different-other-feminisms. Retrieved 2023-09-02. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ www.cato.org https://www.cato.org/commentary/why-feminists-should-embrace-capitalism. Retrieved 2023-09-02. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ www.cato.org https://www.cato.org/policy-report/november/december-2019/does-capitalism-help-women. Retrieved 2023-09-02. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ McElroy, Wendy (2001). Individualist feminism of the nineteenth century: Collected writings and Biographical profiles. McFarland.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ "Reclaiming Feminism for Liberty | Libertarianism.org". www.libertarianism.org. 2020-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  14. ^ Fisher, J. A. (2013-07-16). "Individualist Feminism: A Libertarian Feminism". Being Feminist. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  15. ^ a b c "About ALF - The Association of Libertarian Feminists". 2008-12-26. Archived from the original on 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  16. ^ "Association of Libertarian Feminists". The Insomniac Libertarian. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  17. ^ "Association of Libertarian Feminists". 2008-12-23. Archived from the original on 2008-12-23. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  18. ^ a b Presley, Sharon; Kinsky, Lynn (2008-12-26). "ALF Paper: Government Is Women's Enemy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  19. ^ "Who We Are – Feminists for Liberty". Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  20. ^ a b "Feminists for Liberty – consent in all things". Retrieved 2023-04-08.
  21. ^ Ladies of Liberty (2018). "Ladies of Liberty Alliance". LOLA: Ladies of Liberty Alliance. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  22. ^ Personal Narratives Group, ed. (1989). Interpreting women's lives: Feminist Theory and Personal Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 172–88. ISBN 9780253205018.
  23. ^ Freedman, M., & Hofstra University (1995). Group Defamation and Freedom of Speech: The Relationship Between Language and Violence. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313292972.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. New York: Dial Press. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-385-31486-2.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]