John Hawkins: Why did you create ifeminists.com and what is the purpose of the page?
Wendy McElroy: Ifeminists.com fills a void for information on individualist feminism. It offers a database of over two thousand URLs that lead to news items, commentary, organizations, etc. It provides a nexus where a community can grow on the Bulletin Board and the email lists, as well as a place for people to "drop by" every morning for the daily news on the front page. Moreover, the "information" section gives the fundamentals of ifeminism. It fills a need.
John Hawkins: Why do you think Libertarians have never been able to break into the “mainstream” and compete with the Republican and the Democrats?
Wendy McElroy: I am not into electoral politics as a way to change society so I don't think in terms of competing with Republicans or Democrats. I believe that lasting change comes from transforming the hearts and minds of people -- freedom comes one person at a time -- and the pulling of a lever every four years doesn't have much to do with that process. I believe in grassroots activism to improve the daily realities of people, not in electing politicians to positions of power. A politician has never improved my life, has never made me freer.
John Hawkins: This is a quote from an article you wrote called “Why I would not vote against Hitler.”
“No one has the right to place one human being in a position of political power over another.”
Why do you believe that to be the case given that it seems to be a recipe for anarchy?
Wendy McElroy: It *is* a recipe for anarchy. Anarchy in the same sense that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau espoused. That is, peaceful individuals interacting without an authority regulating what they can say or do with each other. The only justification for a third party to intervene in such peaceful interactions is if and when the relationship becomes aggressive. Anarchy means nothing more than "without government, without authority." Peaceful human beings have no need of government.
John Hawkins: What are your ideas for tackling the problem of homelessness?
Wendy McElroy: First, get rid of the child labor laws that restrict kids on the street from taking care of themselves. I was 16+ when I lived on the street and, so, was able to work legally. If I had not been able to hold down a grunt-level job in order to pay for a room at a boarding house, I would have had to turn to extra-legal means of making a living. For example -- prostitution, petty theft, begging... Child labor laws were drafted to protect children from working in the mines and from factory exploitation, not from working in a safe, air-conditioned McDonalds. When you tell a 15-year-old that she has no legal way to feed herself, what do you expect? Those who don't want to face the problem will say "hand her over to the authorities to feed." The authorities can't do; they aren't doing it; the kids don't trust them enough to go anyway.
John Hawkins: How do you answer the standard arguments against prostitution? That it promotes the spread of sexual diseases, promotes poor morals, and is demeaning to women?
Wendy McElroy: Prostitution is a choice -- whether or not it is demeaning depends on how the individual woman/man views sex and the money exchange. (I am defining "prostitution" as sex for money between consenting adults so the issue of force does not apply.) If you want to make that choice less attractive to women, then get rid of minimum wage laws that make them uncompetitive in the marketplace. Get rid of laws that keep them from opening businesses in their homes. Educate and allow choices...don't legislate. Poor morals are, as often as not, a response to poor choices. Let better choices exist.
John Hawkins: You’ve been a strong supporter of pornography. Why so?
Wendy McElroy: Pornography is nothing more than freedom of speech applied to the sexual realm and why shouldn't ideas flow freely? Why do people fear choice so much? If someone doesn't want to explore e.g. bondage or threesomes -- great. He or she shouldn't seek it out by picking up a magazine or video. But why does his or her preference have to restrict the behavior of those who want to seek it out? I don't consume pornography much myself because it is not that interesting. When porn becomes more mainstream then it may become more creative and worth exploring.
John Hawkins: I noticed that you wrote a biography of Queen Silver. You called her one of the "century's most important Freethinkers, Feminists, and Socialists." For people who are unfamiliar with Queen Silver, tell us why you think it's essential that we should know more about her?
Wendy McElroy: Queen was a remarkable woman, a remarkable child. At the age of seven, she was drawing audiences in the hundreds to her lectures about evolution and socialism. She put out a much-acclaimed periodical at the age of twelve. Then she stopped. Or, more accurately, she was stopped. Queen represents a slice of American history that has been lost due to the repression of radicalism that came during WWI and afterward -- that is, the Palmer raids. I don't view that repression as being against socialism, to which I do not adhere; it was against freedom of speech, which I treasure. Her history is that of silenced Americans.
John Hawkins: Do you think a lot of self-proclaimed feminists have abandoned the idea of equality between men and women and are now seeking special privileges for women based on their gender?
Wendy McElroy: Clearly, the demand for gender privilege under the law and within society's institutions has been a dominant goal of radical feminism, whose ideology has come to dominate the mainstream movement. So-called liberal feminism of the '60s sought to reform society so as to allow equal opportunity for access. Its goals were relatively modest and they were not inherently anti-male. For example, Alan Alda became almost a "poster-boy" of the ideal -- that is, the sensitive, politically-aware -- man. Radical feminism's emphasis on the patriarchy's oppression of women and gender warfare changed all that. Men and women were viewed as politically antagonistic classes, with "white male culture" (or patriarchy) oppressing women always and everywhere. To remedy the embedded oppression, radical feminism found it necessary to embed protections for women into the law and the application of law. The protections, of course, are legal privileges. Thus, sexual harassment laws, de facto hiring quotas, a double standard in the treatment of domestic violence, gender bias in the family court system, etc.
John Hawkins: In your opinion, have “environmental” sexual harassment laws have gone too far in an attempt to protect women from being offended?
Wendy McElroy: There should be no environmental sexual harassment laws whatsoever. The only thing women or men can properly demand of the law is that it protect persons and property from aggression. Not that it regulate attitudes, words, or offensive behavior that is non-aggressive. Private workplaces are just that...private property. The environment should be controlled through policies instituted by the owner and agreed to by the employees, as evidenced by their continuing presence as employees. At this juncture in society, most companies would almost certainly institute some environmental safeguards...if only to ensure that they do not lose competent female employees or incur bad publicity that would alienate customers. But if a company's owners tolerate sexist remarks, etc. in the workplace, then the law has no more right to enter those premises to control attitudes than it has a right to enter your parlor for the same purpose.
John Hawkins: Do you that as a general rule, men are treated fairly in family court after a divorce?
Wendy McElroy: No. As a general rule, men are not treated fairly, especially when it comes to child custody and child support. There is overwhelming bias in favor of women.
John Hawkins: Many people and groups including NOW have defended Andrea Yates as a victim of a postpartum depression who needs treatment, not jail time? What’s your opinion on the issue?
Wendy McElroy: I have written on this topic for FOX News so I hope you don't mind if I merely include a link to that column as a way of answering.
John Hawkins: I’ve always been of the opinion that even if you believe abortion should be legal; the father should have just as much say as the mother. After all, the father has just as much to do with the pregnancy as the woman and will be rightfully held as financially responsible if the baby is born. Should men be able to veto an abortion? Why or why not?
Wendy McElroy: I think fathers should get a much fairer deal in all aspects of reproduction but the ultimate decision to abort or not must rest with the mother because it is ultimately "her" body, not his. What do I mean by "a fairer deal" to the man? For example, a prospective father who asks the woman to abort (being willing to pay his portion of the process -- 100% if it is entirely his decision) should not be held responsible for child support payments if she refuses. For example, the rights of birth fathers in adoption have been sadly neglected. Of course, in the ideal situation where a contract exists spelling out rights and responsibilities, my answer on abortion might change a bit. But I have found that pregnancies (or marriages) rarely occur with contractual safeguards in place...especially ones that protect the man's rights.
John Hawkins: Do you believe public education in America would be significantly better if we had a voucher system?
Wendy McElroy: I find this a difficult question to answer as I do not believe in government, tax-funded education. I know that many libertarians back a voucher program because it "gives money back" to tax-paying parents and allows them a wider range of choice. But it still supports the system because the private schools that would be supported through the diversion of funds are still heavily regulated, etc. by the State.
I believe the public school system is inherently negative and (especially with political correctness) a vehicle for social agendas, not basic education. So if I'm pressed to the wall, then "yeah, okay, vouchers are probably better..." But the best alternative is to take your children out of the public school system altogether and lobby for the elimination of that institution and the repeal of all policies restricting private education.
John Hawkins: Could you recommend some of your favorite political sites for the rest of us?
Wendy McElroy: My goal in surfing is usually to keep up on world news so it is no co-incidence that my favorite sites are heavy on this sort of info. I check into Free-Market.Net every day -- and not because it is the umbrella organization for ifeminists.com. It is the best news feed for freedom-oriented people. I also check into WorldNetDaily each morning for stories and angles that the major media misses: WND is a bit conservative for my tastes on civil liberties, etc., however. Men's News Daily is an up-and-coming news site for anyone interested in the male side of gender politics. Alan Koontz's The Memory Hole is difficult to navigate (for me, at least) but it is a fine source of anarchist reprints and personalities. In this regard, I'd recommend my own home page. For the sheer fun of it, I recommend Satire Wire.
John Hawkins: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or promote?
Wendy McElroy: Yes. I have a column on Fox News that runs every Tuesday, which is called "the ifeminist." I hope everyone drops by to read it every week.