According to Leonard Peikoff in his lecture Love, Sex, and Romance, which is supported by her comments that I've seen, Ayn Rand maintained that the essence of masculinity is strength or being a hero whereas the essence of femininity is the worship of strength or of a hero. When explaining her view, she apparently always said that these concepts do not imply any superiority or inferiority and that they are delimited to the sexual context. I would like to know how they are delimited to that context. Besides the sexual act itself, what else is appropriately included in this context? And how does one determine this? That is, what is proper masculine and feminine behavior, and why? (Please note that I'm asking with respect to Ayn Rand's view of these concepts, not alternative views such as the notion that they are arbitrary constructs.)
You could write a whole book on this, or several.
In brief, I'd say that masculine behavior includes anything that highlights strength, confidence, or leadership. Feminine behavior includes anything that highlights beauty, grace, or charm.
When Ayn Rand said that her characterization of "strength" vs. "hero worship" was delimited to the sexual context, I think what she meant was this: It's not inappropriate or unfeminine for a woman to be strong or heroic; nor is it unmasculine for a man to be a hero-worshipper. My take on it is: Being strong and heroic does not contribute to, is not part of, a woman's femininity. Similarly, being a hero-worshipper does not contribute to a man's masculinity. (Elsewhere, I think AR said that the essence of femininity was different from the essence of being a woman.)
To understand it deeper, I'd recommend an inductive approach: What do you consider to be masculine? Feminine? Give examples, and make them as concrete and specific as you can—preferably actual people, places, and situations. Then start to figure out what those things have in common, and what makes them different.
For those who may be interested in learning more about Ayn Rand's view of femininity and masculinity in her own words, there are a number of illuminating excerpts in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, under the topics of Femininity, Sex, Love, and Man-Worship. There is a brief entry on Marriage, as well, but the same excerpt is already included at the end of the entry on Sex. There are also extensive concrete characterizations of masculine and feminine traits throughout Ayn Rand's fiction works.
The original question asks about "proper masculine and feminine behavior." The expression, "proper behavior" (of any kind), suggests an ethical focus, i.e., a quest for ethical principles. But Objectivism, as a philosophy, does not prescribe any specific principles of what is proper or improper (right or wrong) in masculinity and femininity. The only principle of proper or improper human action that Objectivism offers in the whole field of human sexuality is that sex is good (in the context of a serious relationship). OPAR explains this in Chapter 9, "Happiness," in the section titled, "Sex as Metaphysical" (pp. 343-348). A key passage in that section states:
"The subject of sex is complex and belongs largely to the science of psychology. I asked Ayn Rand once what philosophy specifically has to say on this subject. She answered: 'It says that sex is good'" [OPAR, p. 346]
In fiction, Ayn Rand's view of femininity and masculinity certainly forms an essential aspect of her projections of the ideal man and ideal woman, implying by artistic selectivity that significantly contrasting alternatives are less than ideal (if not utterly non-ideal).
Where, then, does philosophy end and psychology (and other fields) begin? From OPAR, it is clear that Objectivism, as a philosophy, says only that sex is good -- very good, in fact. In an interview in Playboy (March 1964), Ayn Rand herself once described romantic love as a rational person's "greatest reward.... [L]ove is an expression of self-esteem, of the deepest values in a man's or a woman's character. One falls in love with the person who shares these values."
If it is disconcerting to some (and perhaps a relief to others) that Objectivism doesn't say more about how people should behave in regard to masculinity and femininity, remember that Objectivism's view of philosophy itself is that philosophy deals only with broad fundamentals of man and existence, leaving the details to the special sciences and ultimately to every individual to work out for himself within his own chosen hierarchy of values.
answered Oct 31 '10 at 01:48
Ideas for Life ♦