I got my masters in Diplomacy and International Conflict Resolution and moved to DC ten years ago... only to find out that it's hard to get paid to promote peace! I took some internships, did some temping and campaigning (including Ron Paul 2008), and landed at the Cato Institute for 2 years. Then they asked me to move to Kentucky to help run Rand Paul's first Senate campaign. I moved back and worked for him in the Senate for 2 years, all the while staying involved with the Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) and hoping someone would take the reigns... but no one did! In 2013 it was time to take the leap. I have been running LOLA full-time ever since. A little less now that I am mom to a little baby girl named Dagny. ASK ME ANYTHING!
Hi, Nena. thank you for doing this Ask Me Anything session. The international order is very troubling (North Korea, China's actions in Asia and sometimes, its very aggressive commercial practices, Russia in Europe) What would you suggest to our leaders and to us, the citizens? Thanks again.
Hi David and thank you for this question!
Indeed it can be troubling.
I don't think it's in any country's best interest to maintain control of a part of land that doesn't want to be under their control. I get that power is hard to let go of (not that I've ever had some great amount of power), but I think it looks weak and diminishes credibility with everyone! If only they would be the ones asking for my advice! ;)
I'd say each situation has it's own issues but as long as diplomatic means of "flexing" power are used, everything can be resolved without violence.
Hi Nena! As a young woman in the liberty-sphere, I've met a lot of young men whose behavior towards women has troubled me. Were I less dedicated to these ideals, I think I would have run for the hills! How can men, especially young men, be more welcoming to women in the movement?
Hi Tricia! I hear you. Well I would have hoped that this question would actually come from a male, but anyway maybe some are out there reading this :)
I have heard from a lot of women that they feel like they are regularly being put on the defensive by men wanting to debate them, more than just having a conversation. That's not just libertarian men, btw. But within liberty groups women tell me that they are talked over and interrupted a lot by their male counterparts. Even when they are leaders in their group!
I don't know if it's a male trait to do this, or if women are bigger pushovers or what, but this seems like a common sense respect thing.
Actually many men and women have suggested as you said that they found liberty and nothing stopped them, so what is wrong with those people who don’t get it? Maybe they are just dumb? Maybe it’s their nature to love socialism? Or maybe there is something within our movement that we could change for all of us to be more welcoming to new blood (especially women)!
What inspired you to create LOLA? What is your proudest LOLA moment to date? What are you most excited for LOLA to do in the next year?
I was actually one of many women who met up at FreedomFest in 2009 and thought, this is awesome, we should keep something like this going. So we did! We had a number of meetups but our first training event in the fall of 2012, and we launched our LOLA Social program in 2014 after enough people came to us looking to organize local chapters of liberty-minded women. I feel that this program has been the most beneficial for women in the movement, and when I hear stories about how women built their confidence and became more active as a result of being a member of a “ladies of liberty” chapter -- those are my proudest moments.
However, what is most important for me and for LOLA to fulfill our mission and create the most value for our ideas, is to develop and train leaders. Yes, we need to attract more women to our movement, and the chapters are great for that. But the way we can do that organically on a greater level is by having more female leaders for liberty.
This year I am excited for LOLA to double the number of women who attend our invite-only Leadership Retreat in the fall. You can apply at ladiesofliberty.org
Hi. I have a great idea! We should dismantle the Statue of Liberty to symbolize how powerfully statism (benevolent statism, of course) has infused public opinion. I have heard about Mormons who proudly proclaim to be rugged individualists who oppose the paternalistic state, but they still expect to get their social security and Medicare. I have met other coservatives who reject the Democratic Party, but they still favor a minimum wage or a wall to keep out illegal immigrants or public schools. There are so few Americans who believe in limited government now. We ought to replace the Statue of Liberty with a new statue--one dedicated to government benevolence. The statue should show how even the staunchest conservatives/individualists still find something to love in Big Government. This would serve as an overt reminder that public opinion has changed.
Do you agree that this is a fantastic idea?
Haha yes! And will the new statue say: “Give me your tired (of conservatives-in-name-only), your weak, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?
I actually took a little boat ride to visit the Statue of Liberty and the tour guide said she stood for “security” in addition to liberty -- and this really made me mad. Of course these concepts can be intertwined and today many people think one depends on the other... and as you say, there is cognitive dissonance there because they use the word liberty without understanding that some of the things they support under the auspices of “security” are actually taking away our liberties. (i.e. Patriot Act, not that I need to remind this audience)
I’m not sure there is any evidence that the number of Americans who believe in limited government is lower now than ever before. In fact, Americans are more skeptical of government as the solution to all of our problems than they have been before. They wonder whether government handouts/subsidies are the best way to alleviate poverty or encourage business. I could go on.
But when I’m feeling down I remind myself of the ways that public opinion is ahead of government. For example, most people want to legalize marijuana now and the government is only taking tiny steps in that direction. Most of us probably know about the Portugal example of legalizing drugs -- their drug problem was spiraling out of control and their research showed that decriminalization was the best way forward so they tried it... and it WORKED. Hopefully the (legalization of medical) marijuana is a gateway drug... to LIBERTY!
You're killing it in your career while raising a baby and keeping your private life at home going – showing the rest of us that you don't have to choose between your job and your family! Any tips for how to do that ourselves?
Wow that is a huge compliment! Thank you Eileen! I do feel like I “have it all” but also like I’m constantly choosing. I guess that’s what we want right? More choice?
Well I went to a conference this past weekend for 4 days and brought my baby for one of the days because I thought it was too much time to be apart. But it was super hard to get anything done that day! Baby Dagny attends a lot of conferences and people are very understanding and helpful when I ask, but it is a lot of work, emotional and physical. It makes my busy life before baby seem like a restful vacation.
I used to bring my baby to the office a lot but it became harder and harder to get stuff done. And imagine how professional it is to be changing a stinky diaper on the table! Anyway now her nanny comes every day and she only just stopped crying when I leave for work this week so it's not easy. But having some time to myself helps me to be a nicer mom though to be able to have some time to focus on work.
So more about advice... If you're rich it wouldn't be hard to do it alone but more likely if you, too, want to have it all, you'll have a support network and a supportive partner. Make sure your partner wants you to have it all! Haha. You have to push yourself to do more in the family because everyone thinks they do more than their fair share and it doesn't matter who is right. Ask for help when you need it! I love care.com for sitters when I need them and I look at reviews and find it easy to trust people that way... I love to wear my baby (using a baby carrier) and she loves it too, giving me extra mobility. I'll try to think of other things!
Like many of us, I'm sure you've been thinking about these ideas for a large chunk of your life. What initially drew you to these ideas and what keeps you coming back to them?
Hi Matt! There was a presidential election the year I was 18, so I thought you know, AS AN AMERICAN, I should vote. Policy wise, I just wanted peace on earth and to free the weed. Not exactly a Miss Michigan slogan. But anyway, obviously neither Democrats nor Republicans wanted these things so I looked into other political parties... I didn't know at the time there was a difference in "big L" and "little L" -- I just voted "straight ticket" Libertarian.
When I was getting my masters I thought I would work at the United Nations. Then I found out what the UN considered a successful peacekeeping operation (for example) which would be funny (if it weren't true, as Rand Paul always says). Their idea of success is similar to a government's idea of success. For the record, even knowing they were ineffective, I still would have worked for them. Most people just getting out of college and looking for a job have to keep an open mind.
But I didn't. I volunteered for the Ron Paul campaign in 2007-8 and got hired by them. I was surrounded by dudes preaching econ at me and learned more about conspiracy theories and economics than any college class could have ever taught me. I guess that's probably how I just realized that these ideas translate to every single thing in life.... And I really believe that our ideas can liberate people and allow for human flourishing. Lift people out of poverty and unmet needs. Lift people up mentally and physically. Really improve lives... so that's what keeps me coming back!
Nena, what resources do you think women (and feminist allies) lack to create affirming communities that flourish apart of the government?
It's not that there are high barriers to entry, but there is a widely cited statistic I like to use about women running for office: Women need to be asked 6x more than a man in order to actually consider it. Are women less confident? Are men overly confident? Well maybe a bit of both :) but that's not the point. My takeaway from this is that women need to be asked more to get involved. We feel pulled in many directions and maybe it's all about who pulls the hardest.
Of course we at LOLA aim to make liberty more accessible to women by hosting women-only events like potlucks where we might have a special guest but not usually a speaker. We encourage everyone to get involved but don't force them, offer wine and cheese and chocolate (cuz girls like that stuff), and just try to make it really easy to join in.
What are 3 books that should be on every libertarian's bookshelf?
There are lots and lots of great books out there but some simple stories like the ones found in Econ in One Lesson are wonderful for explaining and understanding economics (to women? can I say that? I thought it was helpful!!)
The Law -- another awesome one
And what else? I didn't make it through Atlas Shrugged although I always meant to... especially since I named my daughter Dagny... but people say the Fountainhead is better for a fiction novel to understand the ideas behind rational self-interest. What are your faves?
Hi Nena,It's not a secret that libertarian organizations tend to be not women-friendly, what is in your opinion the best way to change that aside from making our own organizations?Also, what do you think is the best approach to take when trying to convince said organizations to be more women-friendly?
Hi Sivan, I know what you mean. I don't think we need to make our organizations. In a book about animals rights I once read that it is more effective for animal rights to eat meat and be an activist for animal rights -- as in, writing to the companies that abuse animals and ask for sources, certifications, etc., than it would be as a non-meat eater. Sure, you save the suffering/lives of the animals you would have eaten, but if you really want to affect the business, you have to affect their bottom line... And how do you do that? Make their customers care. Be a customer that is "going elsewhere" if they don't improve their practices. So I would say be a part of these organizations and encourage people there to be more friendly toward women if you feel they aren't. You don't have to be confrontational, but think about the women who will come after you at these organizations and be brave. Even if you make light of something serious, do or say something. You can say "so this is why we have a problem with women!" or "gee it's such a wonder why there are so few women involved with people like you!"
There's no magic way to go to the top and convince the leaders to care. You have to convince them that their customers care. Which might mean making their customers care! Donors and constituents. There's a lot of work to do! What do you think would help?
Did you enjoy your time at YALCON? If so what was your favorite part?
I loved YALCon! The organizers were really nice. I go to lots of conferences and the QUALITY of the attendees there was superb. It's rare that a conference is full of activists for the thing I care the most about so I just felt really at home even though I am almost double the age of some people there! We have more in common with each other than I do with most people in this world 🌎
How can we "smash the patriarchy" in libertarian way?
SMASH IT! shrug I don't know I'm a pacifist! Really you just have to keep doing what you're doing. Don't let the turds get you down. It's like if 100 people tell you that you look nice one day and one douchebag tells you that you look tired... that is the one you remember for days! It's so sad that our brains work that way. But remind yourself that you are supported and LOVED and we really appreciate your work in Israel and around the world! Upwards and onwards!
Hey Nena how are you?
Why did you start LOLA and what was missing for you in other non women only libertarian organizations?
hey girl I am good! LOLA's time had come. There were enough women involved who, like me, really wanted something just for us. Somewhere that we could be appreciated, heard, not interrupted, not sexualized, etc etc. It feels almost silly to write this for a co-ed audience but that's just the truth for how most of us felt. Maybe we just wanted more female friends. I am glad to have met you through LOLA!
As one of FEE's campus ambassadors, I care a lot about these ideas. It seems antithetical to libertarianism, a philosophy enshrining the individual, to start an organization defined by "Women Only". Organizations like SFL on the libertarian side and TPUSA on the conservative side have both done very well in terms of bringing in women to their respective orgs, despite the "troubling behavior" exhibited by "young men". Is there any fear that you might be saying "men are bad, so we need our own club" with LOLA? Of course, anyone can do whatever they want, but it's tough to support an organization that seems to treat men as a "bad" monolith, therefore warranting creation of a "women only liberty" group. I would have just as many qualms if people started making "LGBT Only for Liberty", or "Men Only for Liberty".
Secondary question, when do you plan on giving Dagny getting a copy of "Atlas Shrugged"?
Very interested in your thoughts,
Noah, I get you. We get this a lot. When you put "troubling behavior" in quotes it made me lol. It does seem ridiculous. There are two ways that someone could feel about it. You can brush it off or laugh when someone makes a sexist joke. You can also get offended. It's the same with any kind of joke about any marginalized part of society (or minority within a movement). I am just a happy warrior and of course I can get offended or annoyed on the inside but I try my hardest to brush it off or laugh at a joke. There are plenty of times people say rude and sexist things that are NOT jokes, however. Many men have suggested to me that women should not be able to vote (because most women vote for bigger government -- HELLO HAVE YOU MET ANY MEN!? lol) And they are 100% serious.
I do agree that some organizations do a better job than others about bringing women in, but its nowhere near equal and plenty of women at SFL, for example, have shared with me this "troubling behavior" -- which is in the eye of the beholder -- but I hope that my little Dagny doesn't get interrupted, talked over, sexually harassed, ignored, and ridiculed for her gender when she grows up to be a badass liberty activist. I think by then people will be more aware in the same way they are with most other minorities in our movement.
Men are not bad. I love men :) LOLA's biggest donors are men who want to make a difference and get more female leaders. Do we treat men as a bad monolith? That seems like it would be a bad idea for us... Or are you saying that we wouldn't have started LOLA if men weren't bad?
We do, every now and then, get people who think this. It's the same people who wonder why we don't have BET for white people (White Entertainment Television). You could totally have a Men for Liberty group but that would mostly resemble every other liberty group haha
In my experience, most people understand why we exist and support us. From when I have asked, everyone says they'd be ok with a "gays for liberty" or "African Americans for Liberty" group.
I am a little scared Dagny will rebel against liberty and do wonder what other libertarian parents have done in order to gently encourage their kids to think for themselves and discover our ideas on their own?
Thank you Noah!
Are there any (less obvious) key lessons from your studies of diplomacy and international conflict resolution we can apply here in the US to ease tensions in today's poloraized ideological climate?
Ooh good question Jason. I love what our side is doing on free speech. We are all learning so much about communication and sociology and everything from the internet and the free exchange of ideas online these days that I think we are still just trying to come to grips with managing it all in our head. A big thing is the negativity. I think that turns a lot of people off... I guess this doesn't answer your question that well but I'm curious about your thoughts
Hi Nena. I've noticed that many of the organizations that promote liberty are boys clubs, all the leadership roles are taken by men. Why do you think this is? Do you think this is something that needs to change? If so, what if anything is LOLA doing to affect change?
Hi Sarah! You aren't the only one who has noticed this :) But when you're feeling down about it, do check out our speakers bureau -- full of female leaders doing awesome thing! I just thought of the motto "you are what you eat" but then I thought no, people will sexualize that comment. SO let me think of something else... Basically we have said the same things as a movement, in the same ways to the same people and we are getting more of the same. IHS has a lot of women involved, Darcy Olsen at the Goldwater Institute is doing awesome things. There are lots more women involved in liberty-minded organizations and yes it needs to change. Not because I say so or because that's what I want, but because research shows that having more women involved at the top makes companies/organizations more effective. We are not really trying to place women in liberty orgs so much as support women kind of at the grassroots level and train them to become leaders in their own right -- to promote liberty in their church, school board, or political party. To be able to effectively advocate for their particular issue even when they are not working full-time for a liberty group. Does that make sense? Would love to hear your thoughts