Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ayn Rand Is Remedial Reading for Women

I've never read anything by Ayn Rand, but not for lack of trying. People have accused me of writing stories that are thinly veiled philosophical tracts, but nobody can beat Ms. Rand for sheer transparency of agenda. I found the going rough. It took me a while to realize that she didn't write any of her books with male readers in mind. Her ouvre is one giant shout-out to the ladies.

I've known a number of people who have found Rand's writings transformative, and they're all women. I think there is a pretty simple reason for this, although I'll admit I'm venturing onto (even) shakier ground than I have with my more exclusively political posts thus far.

Her central philosophical tenet seems to be that self-interest, selfishness even, are virtues to be celebrated. Women have reported receiving this idea as if it were news. But as far as I can tell, males embrace the notion sometime around age zero. They don't need to be sat down and lectured about it at length and subjected to contrived dramatizations of it in order to start acting accordingly. It's either built in, or socialized into place right from the getgo.

In shaping the attitudes and personalities of young girls, this civilization does not place a premium on self-interest. (Self-absorption, maybe, but that's a distant second in terms of value.) Selflessness, service, duty to others -- these are consciously and unconsciously inculcated as feminine virtues, but not self-interest.

So, thank you, Ayn Rand, for helping correct this lopsided double-standard. You've performed a valuable service to humanity. (How unselfish.)

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