Queering Data. On Current Criticism of Ayn Rand and Objectivism

Vojin Saša Vukadinovic, Free University Berlin

The life and work of Ayn Rand confronts feminist and queer scholarship with plenty of challenges. The fiction of one of the 20th century’s most controversial authors features strong heroines and sexual libertinage, emphasizes the grandeur of love and the importance of friendship, offers compelling plots and philosophical insights, makes psychological contributions and celebrates the individual – all of which had been mirrored in the author’s biography. More precisely even, the “Objectivist Newsletter”, Ayn Rand’s first periodical in the 1960s, praised Betty Friedan’s 1963 classic “The Feminine Mystique” as a book that “should be read by every woman – and by every man – in America”, and sharply condemned racism with an unprecedented public courage and clarity during the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Much later, Ayn Rand spoke out against conservative president Ronald Reagan because of his anti-abortion stance. However, because the novelist-philosopher (and the Objectivist movement) had come to these conclusions by means of an unconditional affirmation of capitalism – which aforesaid feminist and queer scholarship are usually critical of –, these strands of her oeuvre usually remain unacknowledged. Despite Mimi Reisel Goldstein’s and Chris Sciabarra’s remarkable effort to place “Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand” (1999) on the scholarly firmament, the question what this often scandalized writer might offer for an analysis of the role of the sexes in current society remains marginal: Skeptical accounts continue to linger over aspects in Ayn Rand’s life and novels that they cannot explain, literally queering data in the wake. The presentation will elucidate the aforementioned challenges by an examination of queer theorist’s Lisa Duggan’s 2019 monograph “Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed”.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 258. What was Objectivity? Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and the historical use of data