Rehabilitating an Unusual Libertarian Heroine

Cartoonist Peter Bagge on the life of birth control rights pioneer Margaret Sanger

Woman RebelPeter BaggePeter Bagge, who has drawn comics in reason for over a decade, is best known for his comic books Hate and Neat Stuff. More recently, he has taken a turn toward "graphic biography" with Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (Drawn and Quarterly). Senior Editor Brian Doherty interviewed Bagge by phone in October.

reason: What possessed you to move into biography?

Peter Bagge: You are indirectly responsible for this path, Brian. With your book Radicals for Capitalism [2007], you talked about the three women who defined the modern libertarian movement, which is a curious irony since it almost seems like libertarianism is a boys club. I already knew too much about Ayn Rand. But the other two, Isabel Paterson and Rose Wilder Lane, I became curious and read their biographies and their novels.

Paterson was so fascinating, everything about her so out of step with the times. It impressed me she stuck to her ideological guns all through the New Deal era. I did a comic book bio of her for reason, which for reason was incredibly long at 12 pages. But I found it too short!

My next bio should be on Zora Neale Hurston [a black novelist of the Harlem renaissance with libertarian sympathies], and I intend to do Rose Wilder Lane. Hurston has a cult following around her. Lane, whenever I mention her name, it's "Who?" until I say she was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder [author of the Little House series]. Then it's, "Oh, is she the one they say secretly helped write her mom's books?"

I wondered how all these woman were able to live, even before the feminist movement, as freely as men did. I noticed they didn't get weighed down by pregnancy. For biological reasons women were so much more limited in what they could do. Which made me think about birth control, and when you look into that, Margaret Sanger's name kept coming up.

When you read about her, you get bombarded with so many conflicting perspectives. It's like the blind men describing the elephant. So I dug deeper and found she lived this incredibly productive, adventurous, wild life, very much the stuff of comic books! And her name and reputation are now being successfully destroyed by people on the right and left [largely over accusations of promoting birth control out of a desire for wiping out undesirable races].

Some of the accusations against her are outright lies, some distortions and taking things out of context, or just reacting to her use of the word "race." I read her book Woman and the New Race, and every time she used the word "race" she was always talking about the human race. I couldn't find instances where she made comparisons between different racial types, black vs. white or black vs. Asian or comparing different skin colors and concluding one is superior to the other. I couldn't find one instance of that, and I read a fuckload by her.

In the late 1910s, early 1920s, it was the norm to believe that white people were superior to everyone else. To academics their proof was, "Look around, we rule the world, how could anyone possibly argue whites aren't superior?" That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison. She was, like, the least racist person around at that time.

reason: What did you find interesting about Sanger in libertarian terms?

Bagge: She was always interested in legalizing birth control, allowing women to have access. You have to remember it was against the law to even tell someone how to keep from getting pregnant. She was a practicing nurse, and doctors and nurses did lose licenses and go to jail over this. It was a legitimate fear. She wanted to fight that, and to allow women access to birth control for health reasons-being baby-making machines can wreak havoc on the woman's body, especially if she's poor. She wanted people to be able to live their lives not as slaves to their own biology. And she fought this war and she succeeded! By 1966, when she died, we had the Griswold case and access to birth control was legal.

She was also instrumental in developing the birth control pill. She was not herself a scientist but she brought together the people who made it happen. In her work to bring about improved birth control techniques and availability, she completely changed western civilization for the better. Giving people that choice to be parents was the most libertarian thing to happen to human beings over the past 1,500 years.

The motivation for the deliberate trashing of her reputation is people are opposed to Planned Parenthood, which she founded. And they are against Planned Parenthood because they are against abortion, so they think it's their duty to trash Sanger. A gigantic irony is that throughout her entire life, she was 100 percent opposed to abortion. She thought it was immoral.

She did become quite a political animal. She always presented herself as this very serious woman, always photographed herself at typewriters or in front of bookshelves so she could be taken seriously as a lobbyist. But in how she conducted her personal life, she was quite the wild one. Her personal life she was exactly what her opponents feared-they didn't want women running around having sex out of wedlock.

I think that's a subtext in her constant headbutting with other women leaders in the feminist and birth control movement. I think that's why they had so much animosity to her, though they'd never say it specifically and publically.

reason: Does doing serious biographies in comics form mean that comics aren't just for kids anymore, Pete?

Bagge: In public presentations about the book I've done, no one from the Sanger/women's studies world has said a single thing about it being weird that this biography was a comic book. I think people have finally stopped saying that stupid thing about comics being "not just for kids anymore."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • JeremyR||

    For biological reasons women were so much more limited in what they could do.

    What, is this guy a Newt Gingrich fan?

  • SugarFree||

    EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS! EUGENICS!

    But really the problem is...

    ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION!

    and, also, although they won't admit it...

    CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION! CONTRACEPTION!

    Give women control over their bodies and they start strutting around like they are humans or something.

  • ||

    Inorite? Leave it to these nitpicking nattering nabobs of negativity to take a little thing like eugenics and turn it into an excuse to totally smear an otherwise fine, upstanding human being. You know who else got smeared by eugenics charges...

  • nancy3998||

    This is certainly the nicest-job I have ever done..I earn up to 500$ per week. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I've made such great money. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. I work through this link, www.Buzz95.com

  • Marshall Gill||

    Give women control over their bodies and they start strutting around like they are humans or something.

    Did you move to a Muslim country or something?

    Dude, you are spending way to much time over a Jezebel. Not only are abortion and contraception widely available, women can get other people to pay for them.

  • ||

    Dude, there was literally no such thing as the non-aggression principle until teh womynz could hit ctrl-z on their pregnancies IRL.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Abortion is not widely available. The GOP has shut down hundreds of clinics by requiring hospital stays, outlandish credits for continuing education, etc.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    Yes, the GOP passed ridiculous regulations, under the guise of public health and safety, that add costs, therefore interfering with the with the sales of goods and services to the public.

    Who did they learn that from? Hint: look in the mirror.

    And tell the dumb son of a bitch that just because there is less of something doesn't mean it isn't widely available.

    My God. I HATE the GOP, but if I were reincarnated as a DNC liberal I would just shoot myself in the brain with an unlicensed assault rifle. Idiot.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    So now you are crying that back alley rusty coat hanger abortions are not readily available with a license?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Yeah, I don't really get the line of reasoning. We've got to keep abortion legal or there will be back alley coathanger abortions. But, we can't forbid back alley coathanger abortions because it would restrict a woman's abortion rights.

  • ||

    Sure, nowadays. Back in Sanger's time that wasn't always the case.

  • seguin||

    Yep. I mean, if a libertarian believes that a fetus becomes an individual at some point within the womb, it's still all about the misogyny. Right.

  • AgrarianBarbarian||

    Feminist dogma equates "reproductive freedom" with ALL of women's rights. This is an ahistorical view. Abortions were so common in ancient Rome that at one point the Emperor Augustus had to import provincials from Spain to run the country, since the patrician class had nearly aborted itself to extinction. Yet this culture with almost complete right to abortion AND far LESS cultural stigma attached to abortion failed to produce a recognizable women's movement for a thousand years. The take-away is, reproductive rights are NOT the source of women's ability to "strut around like they are humans". Technology in general is. Mechanization erased the biological advantages males have in strength and endurance. That's why women's rights tracks almost exactly with the industrial revolution. If feminists could let go of this bit of dogma, society could actually have civil discussion about abortion.

    However, NONE of this has anything to do with the "strategic" wisdom of selecting Margaret Sanger as a "libertarian heroine". Sanger WAS a eugenicist. She was also clearly a racist by today's standards. Put those two together, and one can't be blamed for wondering if lionizing her opens a serious breach in the "right flank".

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    ^This^

    The reason that feminist dogma equates reproductive freedom with all of women's rights is because of hypergamy. This is the nature of the female. Don't fight it, understand it. With productivity levels thousands of times higher than when humans were first evolving, female mating strategies become easier to implement - at the necessary expense of the male's.

    therationalmale.com

  • ||

    Bagge

    Scolds Ron Paul for racist articles he did not write

    Praises Sanger for being a racist Eugenicist.

    Can we just agree that Bagge is a pile of shit?

  • BigT||

    Bag(ge) of shit.

  • ||

    Point out where he "[p]raises Sanger for being a racist Eugenicist"? I'm curious, since his point was that he couldn't find her supporting racism.

  • ||

    He either couldn't find it or it didn't matter because racism was popular then, and anyway she was less racister than everybody else. Either way, making excuses for eugenicists is Pat Buchanan's job.

  • ||

    ...and I intend to do Rose Wilder Lane.

    *snicker* huehuehue *snicker*

    (TIWTANFL)

  • General Butt Naked||

    *grabs popcorn*

  • Marshall Gill||

    Some of the accusations against her are outright lies, some distortions and taking things out of context, or just reacting to her use of the word "race." I read her book Woman and the New Race, and every time she used the word "race" she was always talking about the human race. I couldn't find instances where she made comparisons between different racial types, black vs. white or black vs. Asian or comparing different skin colors and concluding one is superior to the other. I couldn't find one instance of that, and I read a fuckload by her.

    So she wasn't a racial eugenicist? Did she believe in eugenics? Yes.Very Libertarian. Bagge's reasoning skills seem right up there with his cartoon skills.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I think what gets lost in Sanger's eugenicism is that there wasn't anything unusual about her thinking at the time in that regard. Hell, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson espoused similar ideas--it was part and parcel of the shift from the Victorian-inspired culture of the Gilded Age to the industrialized secularism of the Progressive era, when people began to believe that man could be perfected through purely scientific means.

    All Hitler did was take those early 20th century ideas to their logical conclusion, using the power of the state to enforce it on a national scale.

  • ||

    I think what gets lost in Sanger's eugenicism is that there wasn't anything unusual about her thinking at the time in that regard.

    The same could be said of slavers and Inquisitors. Doesn't make their ideas any better.

  • MOFO.||

    You could say the same thing about Thomas Jefferson, yet we still hold his ideas and values to be important.

  • ||

    I don't hold his views or values vis-a-vis slavery important, nor do I pretend he never owned slaves because it makes is easier for me to admire him that way.

  • ||

    But you don't invalidate his work just because of his slave-holding ways, either.

  • ||

    Not the work that he did that was unrelated to slavery, no. That's not quite what Bagge is doing when he undertakes to whitewash the disgusting legacy of eugenics from Sanger's record (which was, incidentally, racialist, although it wouldn't have been one iota better if it weren't).

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    The same could be said of slavers and Inquisitors. Doesn't make their ideas any better.

    Never said it did. See my comment about Hitler's actions.

  • lap83||

    "there wasn't anything unusual about her thinking at the time in that regard."

    Eugenics was a movement among intellectuals, not average people.

  • Mickey Rat||

    " Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson espoused similar ideas..."

    If you are compelled to defend someone's libertarian bona fides by saying they have similar ideas to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson...then you have done something wrong.

  • wareagle||

    history is controlled by those who write about it. In another generation, Sanger will be hailed in schools as the pioneer in women's rights and Rachel Carson will be the queen of the enviros.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Rachel Carson will be the queen of the enviros.

    Will be? She already is.

  • Atanarjuat||

    She already is.

    No kidding. I first heard the story of the prophet Carson receiving the holy scripture of Silent Spring in elementary school, and then every year or two thereafter.

  • Atanarjuat||

    That, and when the EPA smeared the Clean Water Act in pigs blood across the mantel, ending the Plague of the Flaming River.

  • MJGreen||

    the prophet Carson

    Carnac?

  • KDN||

    Seriously. They taught me to properly venerate her when I was in middle school, and that was about 20 years ago.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I think that was sarcasm, because it's already the case with both of them.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    The Beckerhead has singlehandedly motivated his rightwingnutjob army into launching a smear campaign against Sanger.

    The article can't say it - too many of them think they are libertarians including the Beckerhead himself.

  • ||

    When you've got shreeek on your side in an argument, you know you've hitched your wagon to the right star.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I always argue for the libertarian side (the Fed excepted).

    On Obamacare I argue that it won't be the giant midterm tidal wave for the GOP that the Peanut Gallery is hooting about. It won't even be an issue in 2016 at all.

  • ||

    I always argue for the libertarian side

    Shreeek having been born in the bizarro world, he sometimes conflates unwavering statism for libertarianism due to the difference in translation.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I am a pro-secular, capitalist, social liberal radical.

    I just escaped the GOP plantation long ago.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Sorry, fool, but being anti-GOP does not a Libertarian make.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You missed the first sentence. Still, I failed the LP Purity Test. Maybe I can't vote LP again by some lark.

  • Boisfeuras||

    Politically, you're a Jacobin. In seriousness though, are you French? Because in that language, libertaire actually means communist, which would explain your confusion about terminology.

  • FuriousFatMan||

    social liberal......

    do you mean that in you are liberal on social issues? ie: sex & prostitution?

    or are you a social liberal in the context of stealing the money of young men to give to women, imported brown people & the elderly?

    i have to make sure, because "social liberal" means a lot, depending on the idiot/genius you are talking to.

    -FFM

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I am pro prostitution, pro euthanasia, pro gay marriage, pro abortion, pro drugs, pro secularism, etc.

    (the conservatives nightmare)

  • Marshall Gill||

    Notice the missing word "Liberty".

    You are a statist fuck who does favor the government approval and support of all kinds of things. This has nothing to do with Liberty.

    The Liberty to believe in God? You hate it, and can not be a Libertarian. I am also an atheist, but only a shit stain would deny people their Liberty to choose to believe and or worship.

  • AgrarianBarbarian||

    "Libertarian" and "libertine" are different things. It's easy to envision a horror - state that allows - even encourages- these things while still crushing individual liberty. Aldous Huxley did it very, very well in "Brave New World".

  • AgrarianBarbarian||

    Sorry, I smell a bit of whitewash. It's hard to argue that Sanger wasn't a eugenicist, cause she very clearly was. With the left trying to establish the "libertarians are racist" meme and the right going for the "libertarians are pothead baby killers" meme, I have to wonder if Margaret Sanger is a hill we really want to die on.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Perhaps you need to learn how to read instead of emote.

    NOWHERE did anyone in the article claim Sanger to be a libertarian. Bagge was asked what HE, from a libertarian perspective, found interesting about her.

    It's pretty clear he wrote the book because he found her interesting, not because he found her to be a libertarian. I don't see anyone trying to re-paint Sanger as a model of libertarianism.

  • BigT||

    There's this:

    "Giving people that choice to be parents was the most libertarian thing to happen to human beings over the past 1,500 years"

    So Bagge is attributing a big (grossly exaggerated) libertarian event to Sanger.

    Bagge should stick to being pitifully unfunny.

  • entropy||

    "Giving people that choice to be parents was the most libertarian thing to happen to human beings over the past 1,500 years"

    That's also bullshit really. Either bullshit outright, or deterministic and de-humanizing. Most people have always had the ability to choose whether or not to be parents. Unless you take the opinion that humans are literally unable to rationally control themselves. That conclusion would destroy the moral and utilitarian argument for liberty, and also obliterate any concept of personal responsibility.

    It should really say: "Giving people that choice to have recreational sex without becoming parents was the most libertarian thing to happen to human beings over the past 1,500 years".

    I'm not totally incompatible with a libertarian movement that argues such a thing (I mean you're still competing with Republicans and Democrats so it could be worse), but they can't even pretend to tell me this whole thing isn't primarily a vehicle for my frat boy impulse to smoke pot while escorts blow me in the Home Depot parking lot and anybody who don't like it shouldn't stare.

    If using technology to reduce the downsides of sex (which is great) is really The Most Libertarian Thing Ever, my ability to operate heavy machinery while baked is clearly now The libertarian civil rights struggle of our time.

  • Thomas O.||

    Except the headline writer for reason.

    How else are we gonna read into the line "Rehabilitating an Unusual LIBERTARIAN HEROINE"?

    I thought this site was above bait-and-switch sensationalist tactics.

  • ||

    You know who else was a heroine to libertarians?

  • Anomalous||

    Lobster Girl?

  • ||

    Well there are two possible meanings for that. One, which you've described, is that she was a libertarian who was a hero. The other is that she was a hero to libertarians. So it's not necessary to think Reason's claiming she's a libertarian.

  • AgrarianBarbarian||

    Well, yes is did. In fact the TITLE of the article is "Rehabilitating an Unusual Libertarian Heroine". In order to be a "Libertarian Heroine", one must be both a "libertarian" and a "heroine" - put those words together, and the implication is not JUST a libertarian, but an exemplar of the species. I don't know about Bagge's work specifically, but it's clear the author of the article is "claiming" that Sanger is a libertarian, with or without "re-painting".

  • SIV||

    Margaret Sanger wasn't a racist. She just wanted to exterminate the Black race in America:

    We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    This seems like a potential prime example of an out of context quote that Bagge talks of. It does not even seem to be a complete sentence.

  • ||

    That's clearly removed from the context. You can read the entire letter here, though all that adds is the leading statement "The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach." Really the required context can't be provided unless you want to take the time to learn about it.

  • entropy||

    "The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach."

    That sounds totally libertarian. Even putting aside whether it was racist, eugenicist, or coercive, libertarians are all about creating nationwide organizations to conspire and coordinate the messaging, to be sure that all parts of society are reinforcing the moral narrative of the power structure and training all the cogs to work toward the same Social whole, as decided by those that program the training.

    That's almost as libertarian as the governor of New Jersey. It totally doesn't sound like a progressive state cult at all.

  • ||

    Because when you're trying to get someone to manage their staff you should actually insult them and say their employees are useless, right? The whole point of that sentence is to smooth any ruffles her criticism would raise.

  • SIV||

    Putting it back in context doesn't change anything.

  • ||

    You should probably put it together if you're going to post it. Basically, the entire paragraph, when read in order, makes clear that "exterminat[ing] the Negro population" ISN'T their intention and that the letter's recipient should make sure the minister is trained to be conscious of their real goals (helping educate black doctors to administer to black patients) rather than spreading a false idea of their goals:

    The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."

    It's also helpful to read the preceding paragraph, where she goes on at length about the potential of black physicians. The idea that they were trying to get rid of black people would indeed jeopardize their aims with black doctors.

  • John||

    So is Bagge really this stupid or just that dishonest. Yes she was talking about the "human race" and her goal was to create a new and better one. That is called Eugenics you fucking half wit. Bagge's defense of Sanger seems to be "well she didn't want to just improve blacks by aborting and sterilizing the unfit, she wanted to do that for all races"

    Go fuck yourself Bagge, you sick Orwellian fuck.

  • entropy||

    Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.

  • John||

    They never quit. It is like the Shadow in Tolkien. It always comes back under a new guise. There is something that is just so seductive about the idea of changing man and making the world into paradise. I don't get it.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Did Sanger advocate coercive measures? If not I do not see how she is disqualified from being a libertarian.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Did Sanger advocate coercive measures?

    I do not know for certain, but I am under the strong impression that she did. It only makes sense. The stupid people can't make decisions for themselves so someone else must do it for them.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I would reserve judgment until some evidence of it were presented.

  • Redmanfms||

    Sanger's thoughts in 1951. Her argument is as absurdly disingenuous and stupid as any you would make. She uses the example of a blind couple having multiple children and plan on having more and then goes about claiming she isn't in favor of "forced" sterilization. If that were truly the case she wouldn't have used an example of a family who is intentionally having multiple children and she wouldn't use the Swedish sterilization program, which did routinely force sterilizations on people it believed unfit (like unwed multiple mothers, or members of racial/ethnic minorities).

    Also notice in this 1951 paper she is still defending the concept of eugenics. At its very core eugenics requires force. Without force undesirables have little reason to submit to the judgement of their "betters" and voluntarily cease breeding.

    Forced sterilizations and mental purity laws are the natural extension of her beliefs and they resulted in sterilizations of people for no greater offense than poverty.

    This woman was not a libertarian and if you were you'd know why.

  • AgrarianBarbarian||

    Eugenics is a fundamentally collectivist notion. To whit, the "Enlightened" get to decide what phenotypes constitute "superior" and impose that judgement on the "inferior". It's creepy at best, fascism at worst.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    People can hold collectivist notions, (for example, social conservatives can hold them about the importance of 'the Church' as a body or 'the community'), but as long as they do not advocate the use of force to promote them they are not disqualified as libertarians.

  • ||

    She advocated for Eugenics during a time when Eugenics was actively being practiced in the form of forced sterilizations of minorities. And at no time did she ever protest that practice.

    Questioning weather or not she advocated force would be the same as questioning weather an advocate for slavery advocated for the use of force.

  • entropy||

    Can anyone provide me anything with Hitler's name on it authorizing the extermination of the jews?

    I mean yes, he was a leading proponent of antisemitism in a time when a genocide of jews was going on in germany. But did he actually want any of them killed? I don't think he ever said he supported the extermination camps. Maybe he was libertarian about the whole thing.

  • entropy||

    Yeah, thank god for libertarians like Sanger, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chris Christie.

  • ||

    Even the evilest among us do some worthy things. That does not make them less evil.

    Sanger fought for women to have access to BC. Great. Hitler designed the VW Bug, giving millions of poor access to reliable transportation. Does that make Hitler a libertarian hero?

    I think I will start Godwining every thread just to amuse myself.

  • John||

    The problem with "Godwin" is that sometimes people really are fascists. Sanger most certainly fit that description and telling that truth is not "Godwining" the thread.

  • OldMexican||

    I wondered how all these woman were able to live, even before the feminist movement, as freely as men did. I noticed they didn't get [sic] weighed down by pregnancy.


    It's a great thing that Bagge's mother didn't think she was being "weighed down" while being pregnant with Peter.

    The idea that women simply "get" pregnant (and thus weighed down) as if by happenstance or a miracle, is preposterous. Such a notion can only be conceived by a mind that has LITTLE regard for women and the choices they consciously make, like (for instance) having sex to BECOME pregnant and thus have a child THEY want. Peter may fancy himself a libertarian; maybe Doherty thinks he is one. Peter is certainly not a feminist; more like a victimist.

    A gigantic irony is that throughout her entire life, she [Sanger] was 100 percent opposed to abortion.


    Irrelevant. There are plenty reasons not to celebrate Sanger, one of which was her dimissive view of the poor and of large families.

  • John||

    They were free because they were careful and didn't fuck around. No one other than Mary (depending on your beliefs) ever just "got pregnant".

    Before the pill and antibiotics, the world was a completely different place. The consequences for the odd one night stand could be deadly or life changing in the form of pregnancy. That made people more careful. How we ever got to the point where society considers people taking rational precautions against the predictable risks of their behavior amounted to "oppression" is beyond me.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Are you arguing that it was better when people who may want to have a sexual encounter should have to live in fear that it would be 'deadly or life changing?'

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Bo Cara Esq.,

    unless she advocated coercive measures to achieve that then I do not see how she is disqualified as a libertarian


    Many a socialist probably never hurt a fly but that does not mean a socialist is suddenly a libertarian - that is, someone who believes in personal liberty. That's the point.

  • ||

    Which also doesn't mean that person didn't accomplish anything valuable to libertarians. We don't have to agree with everything someone thought to think they did something worthwhile.

  • SIV||

    Well there is that whole "destroy capitalism" thing that concludes Sanger's sex tips for teen girls book.

    (Yes, it really is the books conclusion)

  • ||

    Which also doesn't mean that person didn't accomplish anything valuable to libertarians.

    Nothing Sanger accomplished was uniquely valuable to libertarians, unless you're of the mind that only libertarians use birth control (or perhaps libertarians should be prevented from reproducing; a notion of which I'm sure you'd find Sanger fully supportive if she could be revived to offer comment).

  • ||

    It's a great thing that Bagge's mother didn't think she was being "weighed down" while being pregnant with Peter.

    Wow, some things really bring out the nonsense in people. Because his mother could've prevented being pregnant, he should actually be against contraceptives? Derp.

    The idea that women simply "get" pregnant (and thus weighed down) as if by happenstance or a miracle, is preposterous. Such a notion can only be conceived by a mind that has LITTLE regard for women and the choices they consciously make, like (for instance) having sex to BECOME pregnant and thus have a child THEY want. Peter may fancy himself a libertarian; maybe Doherty thinks he is one. Peter is certainly not a feminist; more like a victimist.

    Except Bagge never said women become pregnant for no reason. Good job reading things that aren't there.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I'm so confused. John and SIV are against her, which would seem to favor her. But the Plug is for her, which would argue against her.
    Which H&R commenting goofs is a guy supposed to disbelieve? If you guys don't sort this out, I suppose I'll have to check out Bagge's comic myself.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    And as for Old Mex? Seriously, dude? You seem to have become a parody of yourself. You should probably have another Dos Equis before lunch.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Citizen Nothing,

    And as for Old Mex?


    My critique of Sanger and her supposed "libertarian" credentials do not by themselves make a case against birth control nor should be taken as such.

    Bottom line: Sanger was NO libertarian. She was a socialist, an eugenicist and a racist.

  • ||

    Sanger was NO libertarian. She was a socialist, an eugenicist and a racist.

    Agreed.

    Now for a more controversial subject.

    Should it be "an eugenicist" or "a eugenicist"

  • MSimon||

    Cyst.

  • John||

    Feel free to be contrarian and embrace eugenics and the idea of women being helpless children who can never be expected to be responsible for their actions. I wouldn't advise it. But it is a free country.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    It is silly to say that working to make sure that sexual encounters do not bring a high risk of, as you say, death or life changing events, is equivalent to saying women are helpless children. By that logic advocating that women should concealed carry since they are more vulnerable to violence on average you are calling them 'helpless children.'

  • Ann N||

    bo you deny basic biology.

    you promote tech as tho its 'right'.

    technology and services can never be rights. rights are unalienable.

    goods and services cannot be rights. they REQUIRE cooperative action. you cannot be guaranteed positive cooperation from a moral standpoint.

    THIS is why the argument revolves around natural consequences of sexual activity.

    and its why your position, mandating collectivist financial support of birth-prevention, is a statist solution.

    if you take away statism, you are left with a paradigm of women buying their own birth control. that is what we had before the agitator Sandra Fluke.

    Sandra Fluke is a 'helpless victim' who needs financial rescue by white knights. own it.

  • SIV||

    Sanger was a Malthusian and opposed immigration.I'm not sure of her opinion on food trucks.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Citizen Nothing,

    I'm so confused.


    Why?

    John and SIV are against her, which would seem to favor her.


    Ah, I see why you're confused.

    Sanger was no libertarian, quite the contrary. She was your typical early-20th Century Progressive who believed in a super-race devoid of what she thought were inferior types, especially the poor and most blacks. Bagge wants to believe that her associations with gullible black ministers and black socialists should preclude anyone from thinking that she was a racist, but that notion only makes him a naive fool.

  • ||

    So where exactly were her racist comments, then? You essentially saying that she MUST be racist, without presenting any evidence for it, while declaring that any evidence to the contrary should be dismissed.

  • ||

    If you squint just right, I guess being a consistent fascist who believes that white inferiors deserve to be sterilized along with the larger number of their black inferior counterparts is something approaching non-racist.

    Of course, it's still fascist.

    When "But she didn't ONLY want to eliminate the unfit among the black population!" is your best defense of a person's ideology, you're not talking about a libertarian or a person who could reasonably be described as a hero to libertarians.

  • OldMexican||

    That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison.


    The conclusion is difficult to accept given the information provided by Sanger herself about her own goals.

    Certainly she seemed not to advocate for the extinction of the whole black race but like most eugenicists, was interested in reducing the stock of "inferior" people - the less intelligent, and the poor.

    “Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease…Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks [of people] that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant."

    – Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization, Chapter V, “Cruelty of Charity”
  • ||

    Except that Sanger explicitly notes that her mentions of "race" in these contexts refers to the HUMAN race, not to any "black" or "white" races.

    I also find it amusing that, according to this quote, she was the very picture of the stereotypical (and mostly fictional) social darwinist, believing that people should fail or succeed on their own without outside help.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I have noted this a few times, but even given that Sanger believed the human race should be 'improved' by the use of contraception or abortion to prevent the disabled or what have you from being born, unless she advocated coercive measures to achieve that then I do not see how she is disqualified as a libertarian, especially given that she tirelessly fought against coercive measures enacted by the 'pro-procreation' crowd.

  • BigT||

    Voluntary eugenics = oxymoron.

  • ||

    She was not so much into the voluntary anyway:

    "Give dysgenic groups [people with "bad genes"] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization."

    Bo Cara Esq is in denial of the facts.

  • SIV||

    What could be more libertarian than opposition to female masturbation?

    "In my personal experience as a trained nurse while attending persons afflicted with various and often revolting diseases, no matter what their ailments, I never found any one so repulsive as the chronic masturbator. It would not be difficult to fill page upon page of heart-rending confessions made by young girls, whose lives were blighted by this pernicious habit, always begun so innocently."

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Did she support coercive measures to combat it? Remember, libertarianism is a political, not social philosophy.

  • ||

    Yes.

    She was a Eugenicist dipshit.

    You can't get more coercive then forced sterilization of people who demonstrated behavior you don't like.

  • ||

    Could you provide an example then? I see people mentioning this, but I'm not very familiar with her words on forced sterilization. Articles and comment sections like this are the places I've read the most about her.

  • SIV||

  • ||

    Hitler liked puppies he also must be an underrated champion of libertarianism.

  • ||

    That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison. She was, like, the least racist person around at that time.

    Bullshit

    "[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring."

  • ||

    That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison. She was, like, the least racist person around at that time.

    Bullshit

    "Give dysgenic groups [people with "bad genes"] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization."

  • ||

    That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison. She was, like, the least racist person around at that time.

    Bullshit

    "Such parents swell the pathetic ranks of the unemployed. Feeble-mindedness perpetuates itself from the ranks of those who are blandly indifferent to their racial responsibilities. And it is largely this type of humanity we are now drawing upon to populate our world for the generations to come. In this orgy of multiplying and replenishing the earth, this type is pari passu multiplying and perpetuating those direst evils in which we must, if civilization is to survive, extirpate by the very roots."

  • ||

    That was the position of almost everyone, and Sanger was remarkably, uniquely not racist in comparison. She was, like, the least racist person around at that time.

    Bullshit

    "As an advocate of birth control I wish ... to point out that the
    unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit,' admittedly
    the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the
    inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this
    matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-
    minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be
    held up for emulation.
    "On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and
    discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective."

  • BigT||

    Corning - you have discovered the most intelligent squirrels ever!

    I welcome our new squirrel overlords!

  • Acosmist||

    Who isn't a libertarian heroine, if Sanger is? Exterminate races because INFERIORITY - yep, nothing unlibertarian about that.

  • Peter Bagge||

    For the record: I never described or thought of Sanger as a libertarian.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Have you, for the record, ever described or thought of yourself as a libertarian? That might explain things.

  • JeremyR||

    More importantly, why does Reason think either one is a libertarian?

    Yeah, yeah, we all know the answer - they want to appear to be as pro-abortion as possible so they are welcome at all the coolest cocktail parties

  • SIV||

    Margaret Sanger was on the side of the Angels in her free speech battles and early efforts to educate women about "family limitation". Other than that she was a despicable human being all around.

    As a progressive saint, there is more than the usual effort to whitewash her biography.Despite that attempt her writings are readily available:

    http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/

  • buy steroids Australia||

    This is great information! Certainly it makes sense to leave the mom in control of how much medicine she needs.

  • nicmart||

    I’m not interested in Bagge, but very disappointed that a winner of the Szasz award would write such dishonest crap.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement