Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand


ANDREW COHEN, HYPATIA 18, NO. 3 (FALL 2003):  226-29

Cohen writes:  "Educators often observe with either chagrin or delight the continuing appeal of Ayn Rand to the young.  It is nevertheless difficult to dismiss interest in Rand's thought as a youthful pastime.  ... Rand is not just an intellectual forebear of the modern libertarian political movement; sympathizers point to Rand's increasingly visible impact on pop culture, public sensibilities, public policy, and even on the academy.  As part of a growing body of critical literature on the eponymous novelist/philosopher, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand highlights how feminists cannot help but have a conflicted relationship with Rand's ideas."

Cohen then discusses how "Rand's fiction often defies gender stereotypes."  He compliments the "editor's introduction," which "provides a brisk overview of Rand's philosophy."  For Cohen, however, "[t]he scope of this anthology's title is ambiguous.  Will readers get feminist analyses of Rand's ideas or of Rand's life?  Essays sometimes blend the two approaches with undue ease.  The selections are weakest when psychologizing Rand's choices in her writing or in her personal life; but they are strongest when discussing Rand's place in contemporary feminism."  Cohen discusses many of the essays in greater depth, especially those that "explore the feminist significance of Rand's ethical egoism."

"Rand's stated emphasis on the moral equality of the sexes nicely situates her in a tradition of classical liberal feminism that proceeds from Mary Wollstonecraft through John Stuart Mill and beyond.  Indeed, Randian heroines exhibit all human virtues (often more so than male characters), so of course women should pursue whatever goals they might have.  There may then be room for an ethics that transcends sex and gender."

Cohen concludes:  "This anthology is no posthumous Festschrift for Rand.  So long as the essays steer clear of intellectually uninteresting muckraking literary analysis, we see engaging (and sometimes ruthlessly) critical essays showing that the views of Ayn Rand bear much fruitful feminist scrutiny."

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