by Rebecca Christiansen
Since my political shift about a year ago, I’ve been moving in center/center-right circles more and generally loving what I’m seeing. I’m proud to stand behind anyone who believes in personal liberty and freedom of speech. There’s one curious issue, though, where male centrists and conservatives mysteriously lose their libertarian leanings and become authoritarian social engineers.
This is going to make me sound like a feminist, but that issue is womens’ bodily autonomy.
I’m not talking about abortion, which is the issue usually associated with the term “bodily autonomy.” I’m talking about control over one’s own body: the ability to exercise choice over whether or not to shave one’s own legs, or dye one’s own hair, or wear makeup. On these subjects, especially the first, some liberty-minded blokes become rather hypocritical.
Whether or not a woman shaves her legs is no one’s business but her own. End of story. It’s not even her partner’s business, unlike the consideration that can be given to the father in an abortion discussion. If her partner would prefer she shave, they can have a mature discussion about it and come to a resolution that works for the two of them. It’s most definitely not some stranger’s business, and not his place to comment or try to debate the woman on the subject. It blows my mind that the same people who proudly fly the Gadsden flag and proclaim that the government should stop telling people what to do will declare, without a moment’s thought, that women who don’t shave are inferior.
I don’t believe for a moment that most people are audacious and rude enough to take issue with someone’s hairy legs in public. The comments about strangers’ bodies mostly happen online, and are often sparked by partisan outrage machines. The same way Vice will post a video about Jordan Peterson that’s edited to make him seem crazy to stir up lefties, more right-leaning outlets and creators will post videos of a certain type of female specimen—fat, colorful hair, weird tattooes, etc—to get their male audience riled up. I’m well aware that this is not really a real-life problem.
But there’s something worrisome about people who profess liberty as their number one value, but can’t keep their mouth shut about women who choose paths that don’t match their sexual preferences. What happened to the veneration of the rights of the individual? The hatred of authoritarianism? The get-off-my-lawn mindset? You rail against someone telling you to get rid of your guns, but why doesn’t that principle extend to the right of a woman to give the finger to someone telling her shave her legs?
Hey, you might say, people can’t help what they’re attracted to. We do have a biologically-derived beauty standard. Men tend to be attracted to fit, young, clear-skinned women. Fair enough. When it comes to who you procreate with, yes, you should have absolute freedom and a right to your preferences. I’m not the sort of person to tell you you must be attracted to anyone. That’s not what we’re talking about. When men make comments about women’s bodies on the internet using words like “unfuckable” and “landwhale,” not only are they being rude, they’re shoving their opinion where it isn’t wanted. This woman, who is usually shouting about privilege or something, hasn’t sent you a message on OKCupid or Plenty of Fish or swiped left/right/whatever-the-kids-are-doing-these-days (give me a break, I’ve been off the market since before Tinder). She hasn’t propositioned you; dating, sex, and attraction are not the topics on the table. Your attraction or lack thereof is irrelevant. You are answering a question that hasn’t been asked.
Attacking a woman’s appearance is just an ad hominem. Rather than telling someone who isn’t asking to date you that she doesn’t meet your standards, why don’t you address her arguments on their merits? Why is a woman’s appearance taken as her first and primary contribution to conversation, even on the side of those who say they support freedom? There are genuine problems with movements like fat acceptance, and it’s fine to talk about those when that’s the topic at hand, but a woman who happens to be fat is up on a stage talking about politics or ideas, that is not the time to interject your opinions about fat people. When you place womens’ appearances at the forefront of their contributions, you’re making your side look bad. Similarly, when you think a woman is attractive, it’s also in bad taste to constantly harp on that in reaction to her expressing her thoughts.
Treating women as people and not just as bodies on display for your appreciation or derision seems like too basic a thing to have to say to people on the side of liberty, but here I am.