Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
d180586

About a Woman President

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

For any of you that read the article "About a Woman President" by AR-

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with her?

I find this interesting because I don't agree with her what so ever and have the stunning arguments to justify my point. I think this matter and her opinion on it has been affected by a phsycologiacl issue of her, in the realm of romantic relationships with men. I am willing to explain myself and hear what you think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have The Voice of Reason, it's on page 267. Here are some quotes from that essay:

"I do not think that a rational woman can want to be president.  Observe that I did not say she would be unable to do the job; I said that she could not want it.  It is not a matter of her ability, but of her values."

"...when it comes to the post of president, ...do not ask: "Could she do the job and would it be good for the country?"  Conceivably, she could and it would - but what would it do to her?

   The issue is primarily psychological.  It involves a woman's fundamental view of life, of herself and of her basic values.  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 judgements.  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."

"...the higher [a woman's]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.

   Now consider the meaning of the presidency: in all his professional relationships, within the entire sphere of his work, the president is the highest authority; he is the "chief executive," the "commander-in-chief."  ...In the performance of his duties, a president does not deal with equals, but only with inferiors (not inferiors as persons, but in respect to the hierarchy of their positions, their work, and their responsibilities).

   This, for a rational woman, would be an unbearable situation. ...  To act as the superior, the leader, virtually the ruler of all the men she deals with, would be an excruciating psychological torture.  It would require a total depersonalization, an utter selflessness, and an incommunicable loneliness; she would have to suppress (or repress) every personal aspect of her own character and attitude; she could not be herself, i.e., a woman; she would have to function only as a mind, not as a person, i.e., as a thinker devoid of personal values - a dengerously artificial dichotomy which no one could sustain for long.  By the nature of her duties and daily activities, she would beome the most unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate, and rationally revolting figure of all: a matriarch."

"For a woman to seek or desire the presidency is, in fact, so terrible a prospect of spiritual self-immolation that the woman who would seek it is psychologically unworthy of the job."

(All bold added by myself)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I find this interesting because I don't agree with her what so ever and have the stunning arguments to justify my point. I think this matter and her opinion on it has been affected by a phsycologiacl issue of her, in the realm of romantic relationships with men. I am willing to explain myself and hear what you think.

I haven't read the essay, but hopefully will soon. As such, I'd be interested to hear your reasons behind this. I hope you'll post them soon and not leave the board hanging with nothing concrete to respond to :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
the most unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate, and rationally revolting figure of all
Yup, that's Hillary all right!

I haven't read the complete essay, but the parts you have quoted seem to be quite convincing. The key point is this:

the higher [a woman's] 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

I am interested in your stunning counter-argument, though! :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand was not opposed absolutely to a woman leading a country; she recognized that a country might be in such a bad state that it needed a Joan of Arc. This is a good description of Britain in the late 70s - and a magnificent Joan of Arc they got in Margaret Thatcher. But as AR observed: What does this kind of state say about the *men* of that country? In Britain's case the answer is: nothing good. They were all miserable wimps, who took their revenge on Mrs. Thatcher for saving them - when they stabbed her in the back in 1990.

Mrs. Thatcher's husband, Dennis, was a very witty and charming character - but basically an object of ridicule, even in his own eyes. Mrs. Thatcher never implied that she saw him that way, which is to her eternal credit - but she was probably the only one.

I wouldn't be too quick to conclude that she didn't pay a psychological price for what she did. Still, she was terrific.

Less terrific is Gro Harlem Brundtland - Norway's prime minister throughout most of the 1980s. She turned into a grotesque matriarchal figure, and her husband to this day does nothing but make dreadful self-deprecating jokes about carrying her handbag.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a chance to watch Margret Thatcher answer questions on the floor of the House of Commons in 1985. She was amazing! Every question thrown at her was answered brilliantly and ruthlessly. And most stunning, she gave principled answers, which rendered the opposition helpless.

I can only imagine the price she paid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am interested in your stunning counter-argument, though! :blink:

you mean d180586's right? I am also eagerly awaiting this stunning argument. :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is my personal question--and feel free to disregard (as I know you will feel free) any question specifically because I haven't read this essay of hers. So I'm in an uninformed position on that respect. But, in light of ZiggyKD's quote here:

  Now consider the meaning of the presidency: in all his professional relationships, within the entire sphere of his work, the president is the highest authority; he is the "chief executive," the "commander-in-chief."  ...In the performance of his duties, a president does not deal with equals, but only with inferiors (not inferiors as persons, but in respect to the hierarchy of their positions, their work, and their responsibilities). <snip>

   This, for a rational woman, would be an unbearable situation. ...  To act as the superior, the leader, virtually the ruler of all the men she deals with, would be an excruciating psychological torture.

Regarding that, couldn't it be unselfish and an excruciating psychological torture for anyone who wants the job? I frame it in the light of this: If the president does not deal with equals--if he only deals with inferiors, he'd still have noone to look up to. Why is it not a loss for a man to have noone to look up to, but for a woman it is a loss? It seems to me that noone should want that job because the person to fulfill it would simply have noone to look up to.

I'm afraid I'm not understanding the difference there. This could be partially because I haven't read everything that Ayn Rand wrote yet, so if you'd point me to a text that illustrates the answer to this question really clearly, I'd be much obliged. I've read many things on her views on feminimity and still haven't quite understood this particular issue. While I want men to look up to, when I say that's it "men" in the sense of human beings--rational ones.

Admittedly, I've found some men that I look up to and not many women except Rand herself. The Hillary Clintons of the world aren't exactly an option--she's repugnant. But is that a socialization issue? What if I found a woman who was better than any man I'd ever known? I doubt I'd respond to her sexually, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the presidency. (A lot of women reportedly thought Clinton was sexually desireable--if that lead them in any way to vote for him then that situation has problems of it's own :blink:.)

All of this just seems to me to point to the idea that noone who actually wants the job of president actually should take the job. If a John Galt took the presidency, he'd do it out of self-interest--to get people out of his way I'd think. Why wouldn't a woman untertake it for those same reasons?

I'm rather lost on this! :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've always thought that a man looks up to a woman in essentially the same way as a woman looks up to a man. I don't think that means one can't lead.

But two persons looking up to each other in essentially the same way isn't really possible, outside of a drawing by Escher. To "look up" in the context of sex does not mean merely "admire," but to admire from the vantage point of inferiority.

Think of it this way: Would you think it sexy if a girl were demure? The odds are that you would. But the odds are overwhelming that she would not find a demure man sexy. Clearly, there is a difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To "look up" in the context of sex does not mean merely "admire," but to admire from the vantage point of inferiority.
Not by Rand's definition.

I've always thought that a man looks up to a woman in essentially the same way as a woman looks up to a man.

It was Rand's contention that a woman should look up to a man, knowing that he is good enough to have her, and that a man should look up to a woman, knowing that she is good enough for him to want. This seems to fit in with the body types involved--and would certianly be the kind of relationship I would want--but I view the idea that it is the only proper one with some skepticism.

I don't think that means one can't lead.

Like Rand said, women are perfectly capeable of leading the country... she just said, that they shouldn't want to--or that any woman who would want to would be the wrong kind for the job--based on the above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Like Rand said, women are perfectly capeable of leading the country... she just said, that they shouldn't want to--or that any woman who would want to would be the wrong kind for the job--based on the above.
But why should a man want to lead the country under the above-listed ideas? What's the fundamental difference between women and men that makes it such a gap? And don't just say feminimity--because this is the aspect of Rand's concept of feminimity that I'm just not grasping well.

And to add on to daniel_shrugged's comment:

And no, I don't find demure women sexy.

And I wouldn't want a man to find my sexiest attribute to be the idea that I'm "demure" in some way either. I'd expect him to equal me and appreciate my strength as I appreciate his--otherwise, I wouldn't be with him.

Sorry--this is one of the few things I just don't "get" about Rand's philosophy or world view. I need a better explanation!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would this view of masculinity/femininity be Objectivist or Randist - ie, is it part of the philosophical system Rand espoused, or does she adopt it without including it in her philosophy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not by Rand's definition.

She didn't give a "definition" of this. She did, however, often express her passionate belief in masculine sexual and romantic superiority (not intellectual or moral superiority).

Further: it's in general a good idea to actually study Ayn Rand before one pontificates about her views and presents as her "contention" some pabulum that bears no resemblance to anything she ever said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry--this is one of the few things I just don't "get" about Rand's philosophy or world view. I need a better explanation!

There is a detailed explanation in the old issues of "The Objectivist" magazine, if you can get your hands on that. But I would suggest that rather than ask for more explanation of AR's view, a good thing is to observe the difference beween men and women in romantic contexts, and even introspect about the same. Look at Comrade Sonia versus Kira in We the Living. See how Sonia is brash and feisty about sexual matters and Kira much more demure. Or take Dominique versus Catherine Halsey as she is in her last scene with Peter Keating. Then ask yourself whether Kira and Dominique do not strike you as more "feminine," in a general sense, than Comrade Sonia and the final incarnation of Catherine. Similarly, observe real people involved in romance and see if you can't see the same patterns.

If you are or have been in a romance, try to identify the little touches of difference in behavior that is natural to you as a woman, but not to the man. Is it really *just* a question of you admiring his strength and he yours, in just the same, interchangeable way?

It's not an issue of your sexiest attribute being "demureness," but of the fact that there is a difference between men and women in romance - a difference that can be generalized beyond the individual characterics of any two lovers. Even some of the most rabidly feminist actresses in Hollywood understand this perfectly well when they play women in love.

See if you can identify this difference for yourself, from scracth, independent of AR's views. This will shed more light than any further "explanations."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't read the work this quote was excerpted from, but I think the best fictional example of a woman in this position is Dagny in Atlas Shrugged.

Obviously she is capable of running Taggart Transcontinental, but the point Rand is making is that in many ways her self-immolation is in the form of taking on the attributes of man. This is obvious when Cheryl comes up to her at a party, and tells her that now that she and James Taggart are married she is the woman in the family. Dagny says something like "That's alright, I'll be the man" (not a direct quote, as my book isn't here).

Anyways, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir... I just thought that was a good illustration of Rand's look at feminity in roles of authority and I just made the connection as I was reading this thread so there you go... :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would this view of masculinity/femininity be Objectivist or Randist - ie, is it part of the philosophical system Rand espoused, or does she adopt it without including it in her philosophy?

A quick look through the Lexicon shows that she explicitly defined her view on the nature of femininity, so I believe she took it to be a part of her philosophy. I didn't find anything on masculinity.

From my own reading of her other works (and please correct me if I am mistaken), the only thing I can recall is her mentioning something in a comparison of the two: where the male, as the penetrator is sexual relations, holds the leading role -- the female, in contrast, is the one being penetrated, the one submitting to the other, and therefore holds an inferior role by nature.

Does anyone else remember this?

Edit 1: in review, this has more to do with sexual relations than defining the concept of masculinity (and thus little to do with the discussion at hand).

Edit 2: actually, the Lexicon (on femininity) quotes the same excerpt I posted earlier (For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship...) :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a psychological, not a philosophical issue. It is not part of Objectivism; but Ayn Rand did have very precise views on this issue which she held to be true.

observe the difference beween men and women in romantic contexts

This is good advice. However, I must object to the applicability of observations within a ROMANTIC context to issues outside of that context. A woman president would not be in a romantic relationship with her country.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
She didn't give a "definition" of this. She did, however, often express her passionate belief in masculine sexual and romantic superiority (not intellectual or moral superiority).
Sure she did... here it is:

For a woman qua woman, the essence of feminity is hero-worship--the desire to look up to a man.  "To look up" does not mean dependence , obedience or anything implying inferiority.
bold mine

This was precisely my contention.

Further: it's in general a good idea to actually study Ayn Rand before one pontificates about her views and presents as her "contention" some pabulum that bears no resemblance to anything she ever said.
Read We the Living, The Fountainhead, The Goal of My Writing and About a Woman President. Each demonstrates that its writer held something at least very close to what I presented as her view.

In fact, I would contend that, when you brought up Kira and Dominique, you were arguing for the same thing that I was. Except that you were merely noting that there were differences, and I noted what the differences were.

On a side note, such personal attacks are really unnecessary and unproductive, as I place no meaning in them.

Moving on...

I didn't find anything on masculinity.

I don't recall any particular reference to masculinity, but she did say that her novels were written in order to present the "ideal man." So I would argue that her novels are sufficient to present her opinions on masculinity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However, I must object to the applicability of observations within a ROMANTIC context to issues outside of that context. A woman president would not be in a romantic relationship with her country.

One starts with observations in a romantic context, then draws generalizations on that basis, then shows *how* the facts thus identified apply to the wider issue of relations between women and men in general, leading to wider generalizations based in part on further observations from a wider field. This is then applied to the specific issue of a woman president's relation to *all* the men around her - that of commander in chief.

This is at least partly the pattern of AR's analysis in her article. There is nothing epistemologically suspect about it. This is especially so since the specifically romantic or sexual facts/observations are in themselves based on metaphysical facts about men and women that would apply much more broadly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My apologies to Richard Halley, insofar as my reply to him was far too rude. I can see now what made him originally reply to me as he did.

However, if one reads the quote he gives from "About a Woman President" in context, AR makes it clear that by "inferiority" she means intellectual and moral inferiority. Elsewhere, she talks explicitly of masculine romantic or sexual superiority - based ultimately such things as superior physical strength, which implies that women have inferior strength (which they do). Another relevant issue is superior/inferior control during intercourse. I'm hesitant to get involved in a purely sexological discussion. But the point is that such matters are the foundation of AR's views on sex, masculinity, femininity, etc. In this sense, it is indeed a matter of superiority-inferiority, and of the related issue of dominance and submission.

One may agree with her analysis or disagree, but I do sense, in some attempts to explain her view, a tendency to speak in vague, poetic generalities which miss the specificity of AR's views. (That said, I agree that words like "pabulum" are not conducive to polite discussion, and I retract it for that reason.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn. I wrote a comment elsewhere on this very issue the other day, but the site is down and I can't get to it. So I'll just summarize as best I can, and maybe try to quote it later.

Rand's view of gender roles is definitely not part of her philosophy. That's not to say it's not at all philosophical, but it's primarily psychological. (Incidentally, Rand says that explicitly in the article on a woman president.) Since there are elements of philosophy and psychology which underlie her view, one can accept the philosophy while rejecting the psychology.

It might be easier to understand this if you think of the opposite case: accepting the psychology while rejecting the philosophy. Somebody might say: "Yes, I agree that a woman who became president would be doing great psychological harm to herself, because it would put her in an improper relation to men. But I think it's right to be self-sacrificial, so I support women presidents." My position is the opposite: I agree that self-sacrifice is immoral, I just don't think this is a case of it -- and that's because I don't agree with some of Rand's psychological views.

I'll try to access my other post at some point, because I think it'd be worth quoting it: I also discuss why recognition of this distinction is necessary, lest you come to believe that Objectivism consists of literally every word Rand ever wrote.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×