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Question about a metaphor in Atlas Shrugged.

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I have been fielding some questions from my friends (and myself) about the passage in Atlas Shrugged that describes Dagny as wearing a diamond bracelet that gave her the ultimate feminine look of being "chained"

What did Ms. Rand mean by this?

What are your thoughts?

-Powers-

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It would be more conductive to the discussion if you would quote the entire passage being referenced, instead of a single word.

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There will always be a place, eternally, if reason is allowed to succeed, for male strength to be exhibited.

I don't know if there is a male strength psychologically.

But if you notice the diamond bracelet, please notice the Rearden bracelet. In the moment when Dagny accepted that bracelet, I felt that she was Rearden's wife; so that, Dagny was married twice in the novel (?). (-:

Americo.

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Chained because she couldn't live her own life. We are talking 50's and 60's here. Jewels where part of the attributes of an railroad tycoon's daughter. The tought of a woman wearing diamonds she bought with the money she herself owned didn't come up in that era.

Dagny with the diamond bracelet = Dagny the Taggart-heir, society figure.

Dagny with the bracelet of Rearden metal = Dagny the CEO who recognizes and appreciates innovation and progres = the real Dagny.

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I think Ms. Rand was demonstrating the duality of Dagny's character. On one hand, she is extremely masculine, especially when working. Even Jim, her senior, looked to her for leadership. Whenever something happened, she was never afraid to step up and take command of the situation.

On the other hand, she was extremely feminine at times. Observe how she acted in the valley. Completely submissive to the men, what came to my mind was the conclusion of Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy woke up and was incredulous in the presense of those she admired.

Her Bracelet in my opinion represented an acceptance of ideals and virtues of Hank. That is why Lillian rejected the chain. It was Dagny's admittance that she was only bound by the principles of reason.

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I'd like to resuscitate this conversation, if possible, because I certainly cannot think of a plausible, rational answer.

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The full quote:

When he stepped back into the crowd, he was smiling. But the smile vanished abruptly; he saw the entrance of a new guest: it was Dagny Taggart.

Lillian moved forward to meet her, studying her with curiosity. They had met before, on infrequent occasions, and she found it strange to see Dagny Taggart wearing an evening gown. It was a black dress with a bodice that fell as a cape over one arm and shoulder, leaving the other bare; the naked shoulder was the gown's only ornament. Seeing her in the suits she wore, one never thought of Dagny Taggart's body. The black dress seemed excessively revealing—because it was astonishing to discover that the lines of her shoulder were fragile and beautiful, and that the diamond band on the wrist of her naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained.

I will comment simply that by the context, Ayn Rand does not mean chained in the way she uses it in rest of the novel: ensnared by a parasite, slowly reeling in its victim. I think she means it in the sense of belonging, in the whole masculine/feminine hero/hero-worshipper thing. But the context, correct me if I'm wrong, is very poor to get much of a meaning from here.

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I'd like to resuscitate this conversation, if possible, because I certainly cannot think of a plausible, rational answer.

Think of Dominique from The fountainhead - who was romantically chained to Roark. I think it's a perfect illustration of why "the most feminine of all aspects [is]: the look of being chained."

I will comment simply that by the context, Ayn Rand does not mean chained in the way she uses it in rest of the novel: ensnared by a parasite, slowly reeling in its victim.

Eeeeeww

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Yes, but you have to remember that Ayn Rand was a WOMAN and everything she wrote was quite cheerfully from the perspective of a woman who adores men. The heroes in her novels were men that she would want and the women were ladies that she might want to *be*.

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It is Rand who is speaking here, using her author's voice. Also, it's consistent with her views on femininity and masculinity expressed elsewhere and debated heatedly on the forum. For instance, "why is Dominique chained to Roark; why not Roark chained to Dominique" is a variation of "why hero-worship; why not heroine-worship".

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I always assumed that this value-judgement was from Lillian's point of view, not Rand's.

I thought the same. My perception in the past has been that that statement was spoken facetiously (which is more or less synonymous with it being from Lillian's point of view).

However, it occurs to me to wonder whether Lillian herself would consider the act of being chained a feminine one. Her whole slimy goal throughout the novel is to break Rearden and see him cowering beneath her. He is the one she seeks to chain, not vice versa.

I don't believe anyone could give AS a close reading and state that Dagny was a woman meant to be chained, nor could they say that her refusal to be so was a mark of masculinity. In her romances, in her moments alone, in her action, Dagny is distinctly feminine. Even when she refuses to shrug, which is itself, in essence, an act that defies Galt's power over her, she is fully woman.

I'm inclined to think the issue here is a sexual one. Physically, man possesses woman, woman admits man. Spiritually, man loves woman, woman is worthy of man. It is not in spite of but rather because of these things that when Rand's characters have sex it is necessarily a violent, passionate meeting of the wills. One in which Dagny is physically bound to Galt, and free to revel in struggling against his strength, knowing he will win, knowing it is what they both want.

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I find a quote from a song by Belinda Carlisle highly appropriate here:

"You know you've got me where I want to be."

Think about it in realtion with what Dagny feels towards Rearden.

Edited by D'kian

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Yes, but you have to remember that Ayn Rand was a WOMAN and everything she wrote was quite cheerfully from the perspective of a woman who adores men. The heroes in her novels were men that she would want and the women were ladies that she might want to *be*.

This does not explain why Rand thought that being chained was particularly feminine--something applying most appropriately to females.

It is Rand who is speaking here, using her author's voice. Also, it's consistent with her views on femininity and masculinity expressed elsewhere and debated heatedly on the forum. For instance, "why is Dominique chained to Roark; why not Roark chained to Dominique" is a variation of "why hero-worship; why not heroine-worship".

True, which is something I've never seen sufficiently answered.

I thought the same. My perception in the past has been that that statement was spoken facetiously (which is more or less synonymous with it being from Lillian's point of view).

However, it occurs to me to wonder whether Lillian herself would consider the act of being chained a feminine one. Her whole slimy goal throughout the novel is to break Rearden and see him cowering beneath her. He is the one she seeks to chain, not vice versa.

I don't believe anyone could give AS a close reading and state that Dagny was a woman meant to be chained, nor could they say that her refusal to be so was a mark of masculinity. In her romances, in her moments alone, in her action, Dagny is distinctly feminine. Even when she refuses to shrug, which is itself, in essence, an act that defies Galt's power over her, she is fully woman.

I'm inclined to think the issue here is a sexual one. Physically, man possesses woman, woman admits man. Spiritually, man loves woman, woman is worthy of man. It is not in spite of but rather because of these things that when Rand's characters have sex it is necessarily a violent, passionate meeting of the wills. One in which Dagny is physically bound to Galt, and free to revel in struggling against his strength, knowing he will win, knowing it is what they both want.

That's a well considered evaluation. You're probably right that the chain represents a struggle which Rearden will win, and which they both want. Rand seemed to love the idea and incorporate it into every sexual relationship which she saw as moral.

Also, while I can sympathize with the conclusion Rand drew to violent, passionate meeting of the wills--I have to say that I don't think it's right. I don't see why one should value violence in romance, when tender yet passionate expresses something better.

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Was Roark[/Rearden] not just as romantically chained to Dominique[/Dagny]?

No. But I'm not talking about Rearden/Dagny - just about Roark/Dominique.

It was Roark who was controlling the relationship, and basically "bringing Dominique down" (like you would train an animal). It was she who went to him "against her will", it was he who made her wait, and held back the things she wanted from him (until she addmitted wanting them, or just for fun).

And while he needed her just as much as she did, the relationship was definitely about Roark controlling Dominique, and controlling the progression of their relationship.

I think this element of control is very obvious in the book.

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I thought it was Rearden getting turned-on by the thought of her being chained, which is what he wanted since he first met her, as we learn later.

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Hello,

I find this aspect of her thinking and writing intriguing.

I think the chain represents the link and bond between woman and man, mind and body. I think it is a calling card from Dagny asking for a release from her load.

I do think she’s on to something when she says the desire to look up to a man, hero-worship, is at the root of femininity. I get that.

I am what many have described as a “strong” woman, even a “masculine” woman in my behaviour and delivery. My father, a very large and intelligent man, was/is a very powerful influence on me and my mother was a very accomplished professional. I was raised being told that I could do anything a man could do, except perhaps a front-line combat soldier (that never came up.)

I, myself, am successful in a high-stress, male-dominated field. Yet, I always had a “man in my head” whom I admired, even as a little girl. If I didn’t know one, I made one up, and even when I did have a person in mind, I always built on the framework with my own mind. When Rand (a very strong woman with a huge brain) included that same concept or admission in her book, it really floored me because I had never put it into words and realised it. I know that if I weren’t married to a man to whom I looked up to and admired, I would not be happy.

I think this is something intrinsic to the sexes…. I wonder what the male equivalent is. To be needed? To be accepted? To sacrifice? Any men want to share thoughts on that?

So, while I agree with gender equality, respect and compassion between the sexes, I totally disagree with gender neutrality or androgyny, or “blank slate” theory.

This view of the sexes obviously informs her view of the act of sex. She upholds the yearning of women to be “taken” by a worthy man in that sense… yet, it’s still consenting.

I totally agree with what Francisco says to Rearden about the act of sex and one’s self-valuation attached to it.

On the sex scenes (Sorry for the thread drift)

When I first read them, they seemed odd, I didn't get them, but they didn't bother me the way other "forceful" scenes I had read in other books.

I had to finish the book and really think about it, and then read it again, and then I REALLY understood and I now think they are powerful, insightful and compelling.

I don't really dig the Dominique and Roark scenes, I guess because I don't like the book as much, but they are similar in spirit I suppose.

But, I DO get the Dagny/Francisco, Dagny/Reardon scenes in Atlas Shrugged.

When you are strong, when you are proud, when you work so hard and you stay so taught and you "hold up the world," psychologically, it feels so good to LET GO, and to let yourself go into the hands of a worthy and skilled person. To be "taken" by a man you admire and respect and exalt because he mirrors what you admire in yourself and what you value in the world, and you know you deserve him. Dagny always "wanted it" from the men of her choice, she just didn't want to "be asked" because that put the responsibility and onus and decision making and burden back on her again.... and in the bedroom, with the man of her choice, she wanted to freedom to be "owned" and to simply receive his passion and skill.

I know that at first glance that seems like a contradiction, but with the two specific people considered, (no guilt or inferiority complexes, or games or abuse) with two worthy, intense people who want each other I think it is really….. Something, I don’t know how to describe it that well, but I totally “get it” and I think it’s intense and understandable.

D.R.

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I'm on almost the exact opposite end of reactions to the "chained" comment from what D/R just posted. That one comment stood out awfully, jarringly, and grossly when I read AS and it still did rereading the book again years later. I know Rand wouldn't actually advocate for coercion of females by males in general as a good thing, but that one comment about what looks to speak favorably of females being oppressed, like it is good for them and they should want it even, reeks of doing just that. If what was actually meant was speaking of something like having a connection or a link or a bond, that wording would have worked MUCH better without carrying the creepy, repulsive connotation that came with "chained." Rand generally is very careful with her word choice though. :/

As for your comment about a calling card, D/R, Dagny was not consciously aware of having a romantic and sexual desire for Reardan at the time of the party. She only identified that when they were finally actually screwing each other pretty much. So, I don't think you can call the bracelet somehow a covert attempt at hitting on Reardan or anything like that if that is what you mean by a "calling card" in this case.

As for asking for a release from a load, how does the romantic and sexual relationship do so and how does it necessarily only do so for one party involved? And if it is such an enjoyable thing to have that release, why would it not be pleasurable for a male to have it too, why would it only be a pleasure for a female? Also, wouldn't any decent male want any romantic partners to be people he could admire, too? I think the aim in romance is to have relationships with your moral equals as part of what you're looking for and you can certainly admire equals, however I think the term "look up to" is a bad one to use because you simply CANNOT look up to somebody if they are on the same level as you, so saying somebody should look up to the other overall as a person in romance goes against being equals.

Whatever your supposing is intrinsic to female psychology, I am pretty darn sure you are wrong. I'm female, I haven't felt it. A desire to have who I would be romantically involved with be somebody I admire I've felt, but I also would want who was with me to admire me as their equal too. I don't desire to be what to me would be like a clingy hanger-on type who wasn't as good as who they were in a relationship with if I were supposed to be "looking up to" who I was in a relationship with. That would just kill my self-esteem knowing I hadn't earned the romance I was trying to pull off and that knowing I haven't earned it, feeling like I'm living out a kind of fraud, would pretty surely kill the relationship before too long. I might also get suspicious of the other party about why they want somebody who is not their equal and suspect some possible bad things about their motives and maybe lose some respect for them.

As for what men want, being "needed"? In what sense? Like "really wanted"? Don't the women want that too? Certainly (heterosexual) men aren't desiring to have "needy" chicks. To be accepted? You really don't have a relationship without acceptance of each other, so I think we can say that one is desirable for females too. And noway would Objectivism support a desire to sacrifice as psychologically healthy, regardless of a person's sex. :P If you just mean doing lots to advance that value of the well being of who you care for romantically, females have the same desire. Personally, I've never yet come up with anything demonstrably good for a male human psychologically that wouldn't also be beneficial for a female to have that psychological trait or pursuit or whatever it is or vice versa. The things that I've often heard described as distinctly female psychological traits haven't sounded beneficial to me and aren't desires I've felt generally except in cases of things which I don't believe really are just limited to females or even dominantly in females as opposed to males properly.

Really, from what I've heard of some ideas of what females should want, it doesn't resonate with me at all. I don't like the idea of having what seems to me a controlling, manipulative romantic partner. I spent decades growing up to get out of living with people controlling my life and I'm trying to see to it that the government is divested of its ability to try to manipulate me into doing however many things it believes is best for me, whether such things really are good for me or not, or which they may even want to try to manipulate me into doing just for kicks of showing they can because they're drunk on power. For example, I really liked Roark's character a lot generally, but if anybody did to me the kinds of things he did to Dominique early on, I'd have ordered his sorry ass out of my sight for good because I don't appreciate anybody who would want to toy with me just because they could and if he didn't choose to accept that and go away, I'd have called the cops and gotten a restraining order. (Dominique wasn't totally innocent of playing those stupid mind games though in the way the book actually happened, she just was mad she wasn't as good at it.) I don't think of it like I have a desire to be "taken" when it comes to the subject of sex, the way I think of it is I wish to find somebody I want to give myself (sexually) to who likewise wants to give themselves to me (again, sexually in this context is how I mean it, not like we become property of each other) and that we accept/receive each other in the same sense. It's a trade very much, an exchange of value going both ways, not just one taking the other.

"I totally disagree with gender neutrality or androgyny, or “blank slate” theory." That blank slate still makes the most sense to me of anything I've heard and fits best with my experience, with the small caveat perhaps of some minor common differences tending to result from typical brain structure differences and maybe some from hormonal differences. But those differences which I may agree to be existing built in in most cases have never been things which add up to any of the overall ideas I've heard suggested for how people should differ psychologically in relationship roles and such.

"Dagny always 'wanted it' from the men of her choice, she just didn't want to 'be asked' because that put the responsibility and onus and decision making and burden back on her again.... and in the bedroom, with the man of her choice, she wanted to freedom to be 'owned' and to simply receive his passion and skill. " Man, you make Dagny sound like such a lazy lay. Oo; She clearly wasn't so. She actively did things too, she didn't just kind of lay back and take what ever happened. And at least the first time in particular, there had better be SOME kind of asking involved, something giving the opportunity to make intentions clear and give a chance for somebody to reject having sex before they actually start doing so. Also, surely you wouldn't want to always have to wait on the other person to think of doing something to get what you want, would you? Wouldn't you want to be the one starting to make advances at least sometimes and making suggestions for things to do or guiding the direction the acts take? And if it can be enjoyable to have the other person going ahead and deciding what to do with you, why would this be something males wouldn't desire as much as females?

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I'm on almost the exact opposite end of reactions to the "chained" comment from what D/R just posted. That one comment stood out awfully, jarringly, and grossly when I read AS and it still did rereading the book again years later. I know Rand wouldn't actually advocate for coercion of females by males in general as a good thing, but that one comment about what looks to speak favorably of females being oppressed, like it is good for them and they should want it even, reeks of doing just that. If what was actually meant was speaking of something like having a connection or a link or a bond, that wording would have worked MUCH better without carrying the creepy, repulsive connotation that came with "chained."

Let's take this reasoning a bit further. Something even more to the point than a mere piece of jewelry which suggests sexual bondage would be any type of actual sex involving handcuffs, or any kind of bondage. Are you saying any such sex (and every other TV show and movie that references it) is immoral, because it should remind everyone of rape?

I think Ayn Rand just chose to look deeper into why bodage turns people on, and concluded that it has to do with femininity and masculinity, it isn't a psychological disorder causing women to wish to be coerced, or men to rape them. Only if you exclude ideas such as feminin sexuality vs. masculin sexuality from consideration, are you left with only one option: no woman could possibly want to voluntarily submit to a man (of her choosing) in sex, without giving up her individuality.

There's nothing in Objectivism to suggest "a chain-like bracelet that evokes femininity" would mean women are not independent, and equal to men. The comment is strictly about sex, not force or social/political status. There's no reason to associate it with the use of force, any such association is strictly a projection of your own symbolism (any mention of chain = force).

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Actually, first of all, I have no problem with the diamond bracelet itself. The bracelet is fine, I just know that the narrator's adding that it made her looked chained is not something that would have crossed my mind had I seen it for one thing and more importantly not only did it include for one particular person the sort of suggestion of a position of being coerced (chained up I'm connecting to the idea of being coerced because a person in such a position is not free to act as they'd choose to, you don't generally chain a person up except to control them) as proper to them, it generalized it as being right for a whole lot of people, specifically females overall. Generally I've never been very fond of the inclusion of things like handcuff in sexually related art, but in most cases it still isn't as discomforting to me as this one quote because most of the time that other art doesn't generalize that being coerced is proper for large groups of people based on things they don't really control and aren't responsible for. And also, for those that are turned on by bondage, I know that fetish is not in the slightest bit dependent on masculinity and femininity dynamics. There are men and women of all kinds of different sexualities who either like being the bound one or else like others being bound. So, gender and bondage fetishes have no evident link.

Please do remember though I already said I don't think Rand would really mean women should be raped or anything like that, just that I think it was a bad choice of wording for the kind of things it can imply.

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