Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand



"In some ways," Beth Elliott writes, "it is astonishing that it has taken feminist scholarship nearly three decades to produce a serious study of the work of a woman philosopher and political theorist more influential than, say, Mary Daly and Gloria Steinem combined.  After all, from one point of view, it is incomprehensible that Ayn Rand was not lionized by feminists from the very beginning of the Second Wave; she made an extremely well reasoned case for the morality of living for one's self and rejecting societal pressures to accept self-sacrifice as the only proper course for a woman--a defining theme of women's liberation. . . . Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand is no mere attempt at political rehabilitation.   Taking seriously Rand's work and its implications for feminist thought, editors Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra ask the too-long unspoken question of whether there can be a move toward a Randian feminism.  At the same time, their presentation of Objectivist writers who clearly and deliberately depart from Rand's theories of female sexuality and woman's metaphysical relationship to man . . . acknowledges that Objectivism must be non-monolithic . . . that it must be a living, evolving dialectic to survive and influence the world. . . . How refreshing, then, to find in the editors' introduction a superbly accessible and elegant overview of Objectivist philosophy.  It is as though, for the first time, Rand's work has a fair chance to stand on its own merits in a feminist arena instead of entering under a cloud of suspicion for its lack of deference to the 'sharing and nurturing' image of collectivist feminism."

Elliott observes, however, that "the editors allow movement luminaries to take their best shots at Rand and Objectivism," in the first section of the book.  She cites especially essays by Wendy McElroy, whose analysis of the "rape" scenes in Rand's fiction brings "the personal is political" into the domain of "individualist, not collectivist, political analysis--and, as such, [it is] one of the many breathtaking, intellectually exciting pieces of writing in this collection."  In fact, "[t]his is a very comprehensive and wide-ranging collection.  It contains both feminist expansions of Objectivist thought and Objectivist expansions of feminist thought, including work on themes rarely explored outside feminist discourse.  She notes also essays by Loiret-Prunet, Vacker, Michalson [whose "tour de force" interpretation of "Dagny Taggart as an epic heroine" is "most daring (and exhilirating)"], and Gramstad [who presents a definitive synthesis of Rand and feminism, in Elliott's view].

Elliott concludes:  "It's . . . past time that individualism and rationalism had a seat at the table of academic feminist discourse . . . which may never be the same again.  Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand may very well be our first taste of a feminism for the 21st century."

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