“An Answer to Readers (About a Woman President),” is one of Ayn Rand’s most argued-about pieces among her fans. Her basic thrust is while that she believes a woman could competently serve as President of the United States, a “rational” woman would not want to have the job because she would be surrendering her femininity. While I don’t agree with that specific point, her essay offers a very powerful vision of femininity:
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-judgments. 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.
This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her 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.
Source: The Ayn Rand Lexicon
Men looking to improve their standing with women should take note of this. Women want to look up to men to the men in their lives. The seeming trend of women falling for player-types is largely because there are so few men who stack up to the standards of heroism that women have. Men as a whole have lost their sense of adventure and their desire for achievement. While I found the nihilism of Fight Club horrifying, the basic message of men refusing to be masculine still has great power and seductive appeal.
The women of today may want their independent pursuits; they don’t expect you provide for them and they don’t want you to be an overbearing asshole, but they want you to be man who lives for his sake and doesn’t expect anyone to live for his. The most powerful woman especially wants to be seduced by even more powerful man just as Dagny Taggart was taken by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged and Dominique Francon was taken by Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Ignore the last sentence of Rand’s second paragraph, a woman does not have to be a man’s equal for the two of them to have a successful relationship. For as great a woman as Dangy was, she was not the equal of John Galt and she knew it. So long as both partners have sufficient appreciation for each others values, they can have a happy relationship.
It’s very important to understand the context of Ayn Rand’s words. She was never a particularly attractive woman and she struggled with her seeming lack of what most people would consider femininity. But she was feminine in the sense that she worshiped the masculine. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged can be seen as two giant love letters to the male gender. With that, the great irony and perhaps tragedy of her life is her marriage is her marriage to Frank O’Connor. O’Connor was a good-looking but soft spoken actor who Rand met on a movie set. Rand and O’Connor were married for fifty years, but their marriage was marred by a bizarre on-and-off affair she had with her top protégé, Nathaniel Branden.
Brandon had thoroughly absorbed Rand’s philosophy and could argue for it as well as anyone except her. Branden was intelligent and competent, but Rand projected her fantasy of what the ideal man should be on her vision of him to an irrational degree. In her mind, Branden had the heroic potential that her nice-guy husband never would. So with their respective spouses’ permission, they began to have a sexual relationship. Over time, Branden decided that Rand was too old for him but he never had the heart to tell her and began to carry on an affair with pretty young blonde. When Rand found out about it, she exploded and completely cut Branden out of her life.
On the surface, Ayn Rand seemed to have had an extremely successful life; but her final years she became increasingly bitter. Why was this? In this author opinion, it might have had a great deal to do with the fact that she could never get a man who had the heroism she so desperately craved. With her standards, could any man have made Ayn Rand feel like a woman?