While the author and philosopher Ayn Rand may have happily been in favor of the glass ceiling, describing herself as a chauvinist, this doesn’t exactly set her apart amongst other writing colleagues.
There isn’t a philosopher alive or dead that doesn’t have a commentator accusing them of being contradictory, or who’s private lives were weird and not really in line with what we expect. Why is Rand held to some higher standard?
We can compare her as a woman to Simone de Beauvoir, but we have to be careful. De Beauvoir both had a path to fame through her lover, Sartre, as well as was French. More importantly, she seemed to espouse views that were “okay for a woman to have”. Even today you see women more or less lead towards Women’s studies or Feminism in philosophy – as if they didn’t have comments on metaphysics that had nothing to do with estrogen. While we’ve made headway, there still is a sneaking suspicion in many departments that if you’re studying a woman philosopher, it’s going to be about Feminism.
Rand wrote on economics and ethics. She also wrote liberally unpopular views, though not too far afield of Neitzche. Speaking of which, she gets flak for not crediting Neitzche for much of her ‘objectivism’, however, since when do Philosophers ever properly credit each other? Why is it interesting and fun to find Luther’s hidden influences on Heidegger yet Rand is expected to dutifully cite her sources like some school girl we’ve allowed into the boys club?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not particularly interested in Randian philosophy. But in terms of having an impact, being widely read, the difference between her and Marx is one of degree rather than kind. Still, she’s derided as “not a real philosopher” and a terrible writer – even though history has spoken and she apparently writes in a way entertaining enough for many folks.
I don’t have an answer to this question, but it is worth asking – would she have had as much flak if she were a man? I mean, the chauvinism probably would have dismissed as just being “how people thought back then”. And we’d probably have let “him” off the hook on having some self-contradictions, just as we have most other philosophers. Certainly, there’d be plenty of academic skepticism – “he” would still be writing against the popular worldviews at the time.
Ayn Rand, the woman, though probably gets a double dose of “get the fuck out” in that she wasn’t talking about the things we “allowed” women to talk about back then, and moreover, she didn’t agree with what the men who were allowed to talk about those things thought. So she was a hack, a fad (that still keeps going and going), a false prophet whom we can criticize as truly hysterical.
Indeed, upon reflection perhaps Rand is a great example of how Philosophy, too, is Politics – no more or less than Science. Either she didn’t back the right party, or she wasn’t in the right ‘group’, more likely both.