At first glance, the Ron Paul campaign — and his eponymous Revolution — looks like a serious boys club.
Exit polls indicate that Paul’s supporters are predominantly male, and unlike his 2012 rivals, the Texas Congressman doesn’t seem too concerned about changing that. Paul rarely, if ever, panders to the fairer sex, and his most visible advisors and acolytes are mostly men.
But behind the scenes, a growing number of women — and millennial women in particular — are taking arms in the Ron Paul Revolution, as grassroots organizers, party activists, anti-Establishment political operatives, and elected representatives.
“It’s not uncommon…to joke about how an upcoming event will be awesome because there will be at least one girl for every 30 guys,” said Bonnie Kristian, a Ron Paul supporter who serves as director of communications at Young Americans for Liberty. “In practice, however, the ratio is much better than that, and over the five years or so that I’ve been involved, I’ve seen a very steady increase in the proportion of women in the movement.”
Kristian is part of a cadre of young women who have quickly risen through the ranks of Paul-inspired organizations, a cottage political industry that is working to remake the Republican Party in Paul’s image.
These women are far more comfortable talking about Austrian economics and defense appropriations than about gender politics. And when Paul leaves Republican politics this year, they are ready to take over the mantle of his movement.
Ryan stole the show at Maine’s Republican Party convention this month, beating out a veteran incumbent for the Republican National Committeewoman seat. At just 21-years-old, she is the GOP’s youngest-known national committeewoman, according to the Paul campaign.
“Afterwards, a lot of Mitt Romney people, and people supporting the other candidates, came up and told me ‘We need fresh faces, we need someone knew,” Ryan told Business Insider.
Ryan, who moonlights as a math major at the University of Southern New Hampshire, started volunteering for Ron Paul this January, and caught the eye of her fellow Paul activists with her tenacity during Maine’s chaotic caucuses.
“I made people follow the bylaws whether they liked it or not,” she said, laughing.
Ryan, a 2012 RNC delegate, said that she plans to cast vote for Paul in Tampa this summer. As Maine’s new national committeewoman, she is also guaranteed a spot at the 2016 convention, and says she’ll vote for “whichever Liberty candidate is running then.”
Although she is only 24-years-old, O’Neill is a veteran of the Liberty Movement, and most recently served as press secretary for Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, a favorite among Ron Paul supporters.
Like most women of the Ron Paul Revolution, O’Neill dismisses gender politics and “war on women” rhetoric as a gimmick that both party Establishments use to distract female voters from more pressing issues, like government overreach and the federal debt. But she told Business Insider that she sees a new kind of feminism in Ron Paul’s message, one that empowers women through individual liberty and personal responsibility.
“Feminism is about demanding equal treatment for men and women,” she said. “Demanding government handouts is not the same as asking for equal treatment — if women are asking for special treatment than they are almost saying that they can’t do it on their own.”
Another key leader in the Anti-Establishment establishment, Bartlett is well-regarded in libertarian circles, through her work at the Cato Institute and as assistant campaign manager for Rand Paul’s 2010 Kentucky Senate bid. Bartlett is now the executive director of the Ladies for Liberty Alliance, a Washington-based organization founded in 2009 to address the deficit of female leadership in the Liberty Movement.
She is also the vice chair of the D.C. chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
Borowski is an up-and-coming grassroots activist, gaining popularity and minor celebrity status in the Ron Paul Universe as result of her YouTube Channel, TokenLibertarianGirl, where she vlogs about Paul’s policies and his presidential campaign.
Like many Paul supporters, Borowski is passionate about Austrian economics, and writes about the topic in freelance articles, as well as through her day job as a policy analyst for FreedomWorks, a conservative grassroots organization with ties to the Tea Party.
According to Borowski, women may have historically been turned off by libertarianism because of its focus on economics. But as more women are exposed to the subject, they are becoming increasingly interested in the Liberty Movement.
“There is a lot more exposure, so you are starting to see a lot more women out there,” she told Business Insider.
As director of communications at Young Americans for Ron Paul, Kristian is a key figure in a burgeoning political cottage industry that some libertarian Republicans like to call the ‘Anti-Establishment establishment.” Her organization, which began as an offshoot of the 2008 Students for Ron Paul coalition, is now the largest Liberty Movement group on college campuses, and recently launched a PAC to endorse and fund like-minded candidates.
Although Kristian says she doesn’t like to talk about the movement in terms of gender politics, she has made the case for marketing libertarianism to women, noting Paul’s lagging of support with the female demographic.
“To the extent that we can generalize about female voters, yes, I do think that the libertarian wing of the GOP is more appealing than the more establishment, neoconservative Republican mainstream,” Kristian told Business Insider. “At the most basic level, I’d say that the liberty movement offers a consistency on fiscal issues, a freedom on social issues, and a restraint on foreign policy which is sadly lacking in establishment alternatives…I think that this new perspective of liberty is increasingly attractive to people of all demographics, certainly including women.”