Dauntless Crusader

Femininity, as defined by reason

Posted in Ayn Rand, Objectivism by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 12, 2010

I came across on the Ayn Rand Lexicon a curious description of femininity taken from an essay that Ayn Rand wrote titled “A Woman President,” and I remembered the time when one of my very good female friends told me that despite the great influence that Ayn Rand has had in her life since deep in high school, she will never be able to accept Rand’s idea of women worshipping men. At the time, I expressed some slight surprise, as I had always thought of Rand as a great sexual equalizer, with her intelligent, competent female characters in her novels as well as her plays (especially Kay Gonda in Ideal), and subsequently replaced the thought with my economics homework.

Here I have reproduced the passages taken from The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

Ayn Rand’s description of the female sex in the first paragraph came as no surprise to me; a rational relationship is one in which each party respects the other and considers the other his intellectual and moral equal. This means that one can’t be in a relationship with a looter or a second-hander without compromising one’s own values. What was particularly interesting was Rand’s idea that rational women must partake in “hero-worshipping”–my deduction was thus: “the essence of woman is hero-worship,” a woman who does not hero-worship does not fulfill her “essence” and is thereby irrational and/or committing  evasion of some sort, and thus in order for a woman to be rational, she must hero-worship. She neglects to address the role of female heroes in the female psychology, though I presume that Rand found them to be irrelevant. Because masculinity is key; imagine a woman with a male equal–according to Rand, the woman is the one who will worship the man simply because of the fact that he is male.

Let’s continue:

This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors.

This is true. We have already established that the male and female counterparts of a relationship must be equals.

Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men.

So, a woman’s worship of man stems from the dominant role of a man in sex. Her knowledge of this biological male role affects her judgment of other men, who regardless of being relates to her love (whether real or ideal, like Dagny Taggart’s unnamed ideal of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged) simply by the fact that they are all male.

This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader.

Simply put, this conclusion is absurd. The conclusion that I drew from the given premises is that women should not treat men who are their equals as if she is their leader, or in other words, women should not attempt to dominate those who have an upper-hand by being the dominant part in a sexual relationship, for men, we have nature on our sides; all else being equal, we will end up a little heavier on the “power balance” because that’s how our gender has evolutionarily developed. But what about the men who are inferior? Why shouldn’t “a properly feminine woman” take control, when she knows that she is superior to all the men around her?

Rand continues to state that as President, a woman would have no one superior to her to worship, thereby contradicting her essence and leaving her in a state of stress and meaninglessness. She never says that a woman cannot do the work; in fact, she states that women can do just as well or even better than a man in a position of leadership. Yet the vacuum in which the female President lives without a hero to worship, she claims, would be so taxing on her that as President, she would be sacrificing her self-interest, her mental health.

This is an incorrect conclusion for several reasons, including, namely: 1. The hypothetical of the possible nonexistence of equal or superior men;  2. Peikoff once said in a podcast that one’s hero should be fictional rather than real, because a hero is not subject to human mistakes and there will never be the need to reconcile possible, essential alterations in the man when the man is set in stone, in fiction, and I agreed with the statement. Why is this case any different?; 3. Randian counterexamples from her literature.

I will elaborate on these reasons in later posts. I think I’ve done enough typing here for today.

P.S. Rand’s “About a Women President” is not a subjective piece of work, and I don’t claim that it is. I do hold that while her premises were mostly true, her conclusion is invalid.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Ayn Rand. Her works have irrevocably changed my life ever since I was introduced to Atlas Shrugged as a teenager. However, I have to side with my aforementioned friend on this. It is what my reason concludes.