Libertarianism is a collection of political philosophies that view individual liberty as a core value. Subscribers of libertarianism--known as libertarians--adhere to virtues and principles centered around sovereignty, autonomy, and the recognition of inalienable rights and natural law.
Feminism is an umbrella term for a collection of socio-political movements endorsing women's rights. Subscribers of feminism--known as feminists--adhere to virtues and principles centered around the plight of women, nationally and globally.
The heart of libertarianism is, by default, feministic. Libertarians support the individual liberty of all people--and women are included. "Libertarian feminism" is arguably redundant. However, a growing number of people are embracing the label.
Liberal feminism (or mainstream feminism) and libertarian feminism share commonalities. They both believe in the fundamental rights and advancement of women. However, there are distinctions.
The libertarian feminist does not support state socialism or communism. In contrast, modern, liberal or radical feminists often espouse anti-capitalist sentiments, arguing that liberty and freedom are unobtainable in a free market society. Capitalism is often blamed for sexual inequality.
Libertarian feminists argue the opposite, stating that liberty and freedom can only be obtained when people can freely exchange goods and services in a free market economy without overreaching government regulations.
Both mainstream feminists and libertarian feminists believe the oppression of women was woven into governmental, corporate and educational policy--often referred to as institutional sexism.
The mainstream feminist generally calls for government intervention to resolve institutional sexism, demanding the implementation of laws that would override older, transgressive policies.
For example, in 1777, every state passed laws to remove a woman's naturally existing right to vote. With the Women's Suffrage Movement's thunderous applause, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, forbidding states to remove voting rights for women. At last, a woman's right to vote was recognized.
Libertarian feminists--similarly--believe the oppression of women was institutional. However, they generally believe that the system that enabled institutionalized sexism is incapable of self-rectification. They call for a free market solution to the problem, professing that more interference from the government can potentially cause more significant issues.
Systemic sexism refers to the collective social behavior, perception, and attitude toward women resulting from institutional sexism.
For example, because it was unlawful for American women to vote until 1920, the societal perception (from both sexes) of women was, for many years, that they were incapable of casting an educated, valuable vote.
The law (institutional sexism) manipulated society's perception (systemic sexism).
The mainstream liberal feminist believes systemic sexism can only be remedied through government education (or re-education) programs and by implementing laws that punish systemic sexism.
The libertarian feminist generally believes that once institutional sexism is thwarted, the perception of women will organically change and that no laws are necessary to punish non-violent, systemic sexism.
If the government was removed from the equation and no anti-discrimination laws existed, a shopkeeper could refuse service to women. The libertarian feminist believes that the shop owner would go out of business in a free market because the court of public opinion would favor supporting more inclusive companies.
Through a lawless, free-exchange, society learns the value of women and their patronage, and the outcome is a less sexist society.
The essential difference is that the libertarian feminist believes the result can come organically, whereas the mainstream feminist believes interference by the government is necessary to bring about desired results.
Libertarian feminism is a form of women's rights advocacy that embraces the tents of libertarianism. The philosophy focuses on how women's rights intersect with property rights, free speech, the right to bear arms, freedom of association, free markets, bodily autonomy, self-governance and more.
For more information, see our Ultimate Guide to Libertarianism.