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Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand

PUBLISHED REVIEWS

CATHY YOUNG, REASON 31, NO. 4 (AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1999):  69-72


"Hear Her Roar"

Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire!:  Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (The Free Press), writes:  "In Ayn Rand's lifetime, university professors regarded their students' interest in her writings with a mixture of scorn and dismay.  Seventeen years after her death, the iconoclastic novelist-philosopher is becoming a respectable subject of scholarship.  Most recently, a collection of essays on Rand has appeared in the 'Rereading the Canon' series featuring feminist analyses of philosophers from Aristotle to Foucault.  That work, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, edited by Mimi Reisel Gladstein and Chris Matthew Sciabarra (the authors, respectively, of The Ayn Rand Companion and Ayn Rand:  The Russian Radical, could not have pleased Rand, given her aversion to anything called 'feminist.'  To some extent, this attitude reflected the anti-individualist, anti-capitalist slant of the modern women's movement.  But it also had to do with Rand's peculiar views on sex and gender."

Young then turns to a discussion of the volume's contents, examining many of the individual essays in detail.  Her most detailed analyses are of contributions by Wendy McElroy (who "rightly criticizes feminists who employ very broad definitiions of sexual violence,") Karen Michalson ("provocative"; "persuasively" argued), Susan Love Brown ("compelling analysis"), Thomas Gramstad (who "offers a rousing 'Randian-feminist synthesis' in which the heroic individualist potential of Rand's philosophy is fully extended to women"), and Robert Sheaffer ("interesting," "candid").

Young concludes:  "Too often, Rand is either revered as a prophet or dismissed as a crank.  Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand approaches her as a writer and thinker of profound insights and equally profound contradictions, who offered an important and inspiring but flawed and limited vision of life.  These contradictions and limitations are perhaps nowhere more evident than in her views on women--for whom, perhaps, her message of healthy selfishness was especially valuable.   To Rand herself, such treatment might have seemed more insulting than outright dismissal, and many orthodox Randians will no doubt take the same attitude.  But only such a serious approach can ultimately end Rand's intellectual marginalization.  This volume takes a major step in that direction.  In the process, it addresses issues of sexual equality and difference that are more relevant than ever today."


Gramstad Responds to Cathy Young Click here to view Thomas Gramstad's response

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