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Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

PUBLISHED REVIEWS

BRYAN REGISTER, NAVIGATOR 3, NO. 3 (MARCH 2000):  18-23


"Should Ayn Rand Have Been a Feminist?"

In considering the central question, Bryan Register reviews Cathy Young's Ceasefire!:  Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Daniel Horowitz's Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique:  The American Left, The Cold War, and Modern Feminism, Nathaniel Branden's A Woman's Self-Esteem:  Struggles and Triumphs in the Search for Identity, and Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Register points to "paradoxes" in Rand's work, which "make us wonder just what Rand thought about sex, and why.  They make us wonder what Rand's relationship to feminism was and ought to have been, and, more important, what ought to be our relation to feminism.  These questions are taken up by the writers of a volume in Pennsylvania State University Press's 'Re-Reading the Canon' series of feminist interpretations of important philosophers.  That volume, entitled Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, and edited by Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, marks the first academic engagement with Ayn Rand not written almost exclusively by her own supporters.  As such, it represents a tremendous advance in bringing Rand's work to the attention of the academy.  Rand is now considered, at least by one academic publisher, to be as worthy of attention as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Nietzsche.  It is time, then, to re-assess Rand, feminism, and sex in the light of recent work."

In the body of his review essay, Register discusses specifically the articles by Joan Kennedy Taylor, Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Judith Wilt, Karen Michalson, Sharon Presley, Nathaniel Branden, Valérie Loiret-Prunet, Barry Vacker, Susan Love Brown, Thomas Gramstad, and Diana Mertz Brickell.  He concludes:   "Should Ayn Rand have been a feminist?  Perhaps so.  While her own account of sexuality is in many ways quite traditional (and thus anti-feminist), her individualist ethics suggests an anti-traditional resolution to the questions of sex:   As against the tradition, which defines the roles of all women and all men, individualism would suggest that particular men and women solve the questions of relations between the sexes in the way most appropriate for themselves.  And, if feminism is to be defined around opposition to the tradition and its arbitrary impositions on the lives of individuals, then Rand's individualism is a powerful weapon in the hands of feminists."


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