Friday, January 10, 2014

Why all liberals are feminists by default

Let's jump right in to it. No introduction, just premises.

Premise 1: The state exist in order to and is legitimized by securing the rights of its citizens.

There's nothing controversial about this. You can go back to any of the big names of liberal theory, and they will expound at length about how the rights of the individual are of the utmost importance.

Premise 2: Among these rights we find the right to not be exposed to acts of violence.

Again, nothing strange or controversial about this. It might be argued that criminals in the act of being criminal are exempt from this, which they are. In general, though, an honest, law-abiding citizen has the right to not be violenced upon when not doing anything out of the ordinary.

Premise 3: If and when the rights of citizens are violated, it is imperative that the state provide institutions that serve to address the situation.

Most notable among these institutions are the courts and the police. These two institutions are by far the most important in this case, but they are by no means the only ones of this kind.

Premise 4: If and when these institutions fail to prevent or address violations of an individual's rights, this delegitimizes the state as it stands.

This goes back to premise 1 - the state exists in order to guarantee the rights of its citizens. If it fails to do so, it fails to accomplish its main mission. This is a call for change - in minor cases a reform in how the affected institutions go about their business, in major cases revolution.

It is from these four premises that I draw the conclusion that also serve as the title of this post. If you are a liberal, you are also, by default, a feminist. By virtue of the following statement:

Women are citizens too.

This means that, should you be serious about being a liberal, the symbolic, physical and sexual violence against women are a concern that seriously concerns you. Every time a citizen's rights are violated is also, as it were, a failure of the actually existing liberal state to accomplish its mission, and this does not change by virtue of these citizens being women. All citizens are equal before the law, and are thus guaranteed the same right to not be violated.

This is a call for change. Feminist change.

I sense that there are those who would like to argue at this point. Especially liberals. I encourage you to do so. I also, as a friendly reminder, encourage you to argue in a way that does not portray women as something akin to second class citizens, or, worse, not citizens at all. It would rather defeat the point, after all. -


  1. What does feminism have to do with it? For the reasoning to be relevant you also need to define feminism. I would not recognise a description of feminism that only demanded that all citizens must be given the same protection by the state.

    1. You have to be careful in which direction you read this post. What it's saying is this: if you're liberal, you'll have to become a feminist of some sort in order to remain a liberal. By virtue of the core principles of liberalism. It does not, however, say that all feminists have to become liberals. The arrow only ever points in one direction, as it were.

      Now, the demand that all citizens receive equal protection from violence is a radical one. It is not enough to simply draft legislation that states that everyone is equal before the law - it is very possible to have nominally equal laws that produce unequal results. To ensure the rights of everyone, more than words have to be changed.

      It's very hard to conceive of this not moving in a feminist direction, in some way, shape or form. (One might, if one defines feminism as "KILL ALL MEN, THEN BURN THEIR CORPSES", but let's remain serious.) It has to move into feminist territory to do what it sets out to do, and once that snowball gets rolling, it's not likely to stop.

      It's a process.

  2. How about defining feminism as the process which recognizes that there exists a difference and that strives to eliminate it?

    1. I intentionally left the definition of feminism blank, as I see this more as a process than as an algorithm. If you stick with it long enough, you'll end up doing some form of feminism. Not a predetermined kind of feminism, but a feminism nevertheless.

      (I imagine you wrote this as a question to vikke064 above, so I'll shut up from this point on and let hir answer. Just thought I'd reiterate this point for clarity.)

    2. Yes, I did. Apparantly I'm bad att clicking buttons. Clearly this is not my natural environment and probably not my natural lifetime.

      Anyway, I really enjoyed you post. It's too bad that most liberals are bad at being liberal.