March 8th was International Women’s Day. Festivities included rallies, museum dedications, and even a Google search doodle to mark the occasion. In the spirit of the day, many commentators have called to re-double efforts for gender equality around the globe.
In a less known spirit of the day, commentators also called on governments to step up efforts to force gender equality. (The roots of International Women’s Day grew out of women’s socialist movements, which called for a massive increase in government power.)
The women’s movement has come a long way. It wasn’t long ago by historical perspective that women were forbidden to vote, own property, or obtain a divorce. Early libertarians and those who believed in classical liberalism joined forces with the nascent women’s movement to campaign for equal status under the law. But now that women have achieved equal legal status in the developed world, activists are calling on governments to address unequal outcomes between the sexes like the so-called gender gap, which sees women paid less than men and occupy fewer positions of power.
Learn Liberty is offering an On Demand program called “Feminism: A New Perspective” that addresses these and other gender issues. It asks whether affirmative action policies that force equal outcomes between the sexes is really the best way to counteract discrimination. Using government to mandate quotas and equal outcomes, the course points out, may actually result in unintended consequences that further the gender gap.
In the video below, Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Lauren K. Hall explains that much of the gender gap is a result of different choices between the genders. And forcing genders to make specific personal and employment choices is exactly what International Women’s Day was opposed to in the first place.