One Thing Bonnie Kristian, Julie Borowski, and Cathy Reisenwitz All Agree Upon
On Tuesday, July 23, LewRockwell.com published a piece headlined on the site’s primary article list for the day as “Sexual Integration Is a Bad idea.” Penned by one Fred Reed, the article was remarkable for only two reasons:
Its wildly misogynist and collectivist perspective, which plays out in arguments that should make any self-described libertarian cringe; and
2) Its amazing ability to demonstrate in fewer than 1,200 words exactly what should never be published on major libertarian websites if we want the liberty movement to succeed.
A response seemed appropriate, and so here we are. It should be noted that the authors of this joint reply — Julie, Cathy, and Bonnie — are perhaps best known as a group for where we disagree on the subject of women and libertarianism. Our perspectives on differences between the sexes, sexual mores, and how to attract more women to the liberty movement run the gamut. When it comes to Reed’s commentary, however, we have no disagreement.
The diatribe begins with what are evidently intended to be amusing anecdotes — one of which informs the reader that the inclusion of women absolutely ruined the National Press Club, an establishment in which women should apparently be rendered silent and nude in oil paint and hung above the bar.
When a living, breathing, thinking women who was very much not displayed above the bar invited Reed to an event planned by some of the new female members of the club, he responded by tendering his resignation, because evidently the event in question “just wasn’t what men did.” The revealing implication: Men should never do what women do, as this would be shameful. Women should be quiet (and possibly naked) and should stay out of the way when the men are having grown-up conversations.
Next, Reed moves on to a discussion of the well-known question of why girls seem to be more successful in the American school system. Now, there are many, many critiques to be made of the way school is organized in the United States, and — perhaps more seriously — the way our government puts that organization into practice. Research shows that our schools are “average” by world standards when it comes to language and science, and below average in math. And, yes, girls have pulled ahead academically.
There are many possible causes for this. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it’s instructional fads which do more harm than good. Maybe it’s biased grading. Maybe it’s a combination of any number of reasons — most phenomena in real life are — but you know what is unquestionably the #1 factor? The government runs our schools. And it runs them on a one-size-fits-all, test-focused, nationally-administrated model which will never and can never serve diverse students and learning styles well. Period.
And whatever the problem(s) for boys may be, we already know how to fix it: Take your boys out of the government’s schools.
One would suppose that an article printed on a site which bills itself “anti-state” and “pro-market” would recognize this fact, but Reed makes not a single mention of the state’s deleterious involvement in education. Instead, he blames everything on women: Women don’t like to study matters of substance. Women focus too much on polite behavior. Women “don’t want boys in the schools anyway.” (Yes, that really is a direct quote.) Women can’t teach boys. Women put all our boys on psych drugs.
Rather than going after the root causes of trouble in our education system, Reed hacks away at his least favorite branch. His arguments are not only grossly unreasonable, but they’re strongly anti-individualist. We don’t need remove women from our schools; we need to remove the government — or, failing that, our children.
Next, our author claims that resegregation is desirable at the level of the university as well as in primary education. But for whom? At what point has separate but equal ever actually worked in practice? And how can separation from the other sex for the majority of men’s lives possibly make them better prepared for success in and after school?
Reed places blame for men’s dropping out, barely getting through, or failing to go to college in the first place on the fact that women are there. How weird it is that the presence of women hasn’t kept college-age men out of bars and clubs! — quite the opposite, in fact. But Reed refuses to countenance the possibility that men aren’t going to college because they’re unprepared. Or that they’re unprepared because our monopolistic, sclerotic public education system has utterly failed them. Or that it failed them because it is monopolistic and sclerotic. No, Reed, concludes, men definitely aren’t going to college (or failing to thrive if they do attend) because there are — gasp! — ladies there. This is preposterous, and diverts attention from the real problems in our schools.
Our author likewise wants us to believe men who go to college find themselves in a sea of “hostile feminism.” Meanwhile, everyone from theNew York Times to the Washington Post has written about how feminism has brought to college the “hookup culture,” a.k.a. easy sex. We can debate the merits of easy drunken hookups, but I think we can agree that they really cannot be counted as hostility to men.
Furthermore, Reed dismisses “silly Take Back the Night nonsense by hysterical adolescent females.” When one in four American females is sexually assaulted before she graduates college, it’s pretty disgusting for anyone to speak of attempts to deal with rape (and an environment which doesn’t always take it seriously) so flippantly. Sexual assault may not be a concern for Reed, but that does not justify his arguments against a voluntary, peaceful movement against violence — a libertarian cause if there ever was one.
Reed also demonstrates a collectivist mindset when discussing women in the military. He argues that “the physical weakness of women is only the beginning” of the problems with integrating women into front line units, a statement which seems to be intentionally provocative because it is absurd to generalize all women as physically weak. No one would dare call tennis star Serena Williams or MMA fighter Ronda Rousey “weak” to their faces.
Certainly, the front lines of combat aren’t for everyone. Not all women are qualified to be combat soldiers. And frankly, not all men are either. The front lines require a high level of physical and mental capability that not many people have.
Reed, however, is more focused on the gender of soldiers rather than their physical skills (let alone the bigger issue of the foreign policy our soldiers of any gender are used to effect). Gender shouldn’t be a qualifying factor for military service. A strong man or woman is needed to move injured soldiers, carry heavy equipment for long distances, and do other physically demanding tasks that the job entails.
Reed’s main concern is separating combat units for men and women. If sexual assault is such a problem, perhaps the military needs stronger background checks if some soldiers cannot be in the presence of a woman without sexually assaulting her. This is a morality problem, not a gender problem.
A better goal would be ensuring that the military’s rigorous physical standards are equally applied to men and women. Everyone must pass the same arduous physical fitness tests at boot camp to prove their strength and ability. For national security reasons, the military shouldn’t allow physically weak people to serve in combat roles. Their gender is irrelevant.
Calling women weak is no way to spread the message of liberty. And, more broadly, reinforcing negative stereotypes and making sweeping statements about groups as big as gender is the antithesis of individualism. Yet, this is the sum of Reed’s arguments throughout his essay.
If ever there was an article which distracted from the true problems in our primary and secondary educational systems and military — problems of government involvement and aggressive foreign policy — this is it.
So is LewRockwell.com “anti-state, anti-war, and pro-market,” or does it support the misdirecting collectivism of Fred Reed? Because it can’t be both.
Photo by Gage Skidmore