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Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

THE RANDIAN-FEMINISM MAILING LIST

SELECTED ARCHIVES FROM THE FOUR MONTH CONFERENCE

The Randian-Feminism Mailing List is a forum for Objectivist and Randian Feminists -- people who share a common interest in Feminist philosophy, issues and perspectives, and in Ayn Rand's ideas and philosophy.  Thomas Gramstad created the list on January 14, 1998. 

April 12, 1999  (Bryan Register)

Ayn Rand: A Traitor to Her Own Sex  -  Susan Brownmiller

Psyching Out Ayn Rand  -  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

    Chris Matthew Sciabarra introduced the discussion of the Brownmiller and Harrison selections (Tue, 13 Apr 1999 18:21:28):

I see that our schedule moves on this week to a discussion of Susan Brownmiller's "Ayn Rand: A Traitor to Her Own Sex" and Barbara Harrison's "Psyching Out Ayn Rand."

Mimi and I have been asked by Randian sympathists why these two essays were included in the volume since they are extremely critical, to say the least, of Rand._ Two reasons:

1. This volume aims to achieve balance in the discourse on Ayn Rand. It is the definitive TEXT at this point, on Rand and feminism. As a virtual textbook, it required the inclusion of these two articles, which depict two important feminist takes on Rand, by well-known feminists.

2. Because these essays were written and published over 20 years ago, our inclusion of them in this volume was one way of "Looking Back" -- as Part One suggests -- that is, looking back at how feminists of an earlier generation perceived Rand. I know for a fact that both Brownmiller and Harrison were pleased that these pieces were included in our volume; the former was actually pleased to hear that the piece was part of a larger work on Rand's work as interpreted from various feminist perspectives.

In any event, it is important that we remember these historically significant perspectives on Rand because they came to shape the debate over Rand for many years, especially amongst those feminists who would NEVER have included Rand in the canon of feminism, let alone in the Western canon of ideas._ The Brownmiller piece was especially influential -- many of the contributors in our volume refer to it in their discussions of the "rape" scenes in Rand's fiction. And Harrison's piece is especially timely; she was worried about Rand's man in the White House (Greenspan), who is, of course, our current Fed chair._ I look forward to the discussion.

    On these points, Melissa Jane Hardie, one of the volume's contributors, commented (Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 07:09:26):

Chris Sciabarra wrote:

> I see that our schedule moves on this week to a discussion of Susan Brownmiller's "Ayn Rand: A Traitor to Her Own Sex" and >Barbara Harrison's "Psyching Out Ayn Rand." Mimi and I have been asked by Randian sympathists why these two essays were >included in the volume since they are extremely critical, to say the least, of Rand.

I'm happy to report that my copies of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand turned up last Friday, and I'm looking forward to contributing to the discussion now that I can read the pieces from other contributors. I was extremely pleased that Chris and Mimi included both these pieces. As Chris says, the volume is representative of many feminist points of view, and it would be hard to think that many feminist readers of Rand were unfamiliar with Brownmiller's work on her, in particular. To speak personally for a moment, Susan Brownmiller's comments were probably the first I ever read about Rand, and it was salutory to return to them some years later when both my thinking about Rand and my thinking about feminism had changed so much since I first read them. I find Brownmiller's account of the experience she had in "recovering" her youthful reading of The Fountainhead extremely interesting as a complementary experience -- she, too, is returning to a text read early on from a "new" perspective. Juxtaposed with the work Mimi Gladstein was doing around the same time, I think we have a perfect "time-capsule" of the kinds of issues that were problematic in feminism then -- issues that have become much more explicit in feminist debates over the last decade. I am very glad that these pieces were included, and I think it's to the volume's great credit that it takes seriously a responsibility to offer an historically rich perspective on this debate. Given the exciting, and even fundamental, shifts in the field of Rand scholarship this volume signals, I think it's a well-judged and appropriate move.


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