Letter to the Editor – 11/06/09

To The Editor:
Who would distribute dozens of T-shirts quoting a rapist at an anti-rape event? If your answer was "nobody," you would be mistaken.

On Oct. 27, the Women’s Center held their annual "Take Back the Night." These events are held worldwide to raise awareness of rape and sexual violence and aim to promote healing. At this particular "Take Back the Night," T-shirts were distributed to participants. When I read the back of the shirt, I was dumbfounded. On the back of every shirt is written, "The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me. –Ayn Rand." This is a fantastic quote, but given its context, is terribly strange.

Ayn Rand is a well-known Russian novelist and philosopher who idealized individualism, championed industry and progress, and defended capitalism on moral grounds. Without contention, she was a strong and accomplished woman whose work has always attracted a large following. In her novels "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead," she crafts heroines who controlled entire companies and were powerful captains of industry.

Despite this, feminists have traditionally despised Rand and considered her a traitor to her gender. Not only is she often used by conservatives to defend their arguments, but she also has been considered inconsistent with feminism activism. Rand’s heroines never quite live up to the male heroes they worship, and much of "Atlas Shrugged" consists of the male protagonist waiting for the female to adjust her values to match his exactly before he can show affection. The women in Rand’s novels are unsatisfied with their careers and do not find happiness until they leave their jobs to be with the men they love. There have recently been re-evaluations of Rand as a feminist, yet one poignant point still remains: Rand’s graphically portrayed sex scenes are interpreted by audiences as instances of a fictionalized rape.

The quotation on the back of the T-shirts is spoken by Howard Roark of "The Fountainhead," who rapes Miss Francon. That’s right: The Women’s Center T-shirts for an anti-rape event used the words of a rapist, written by a woman who is usually hated by feminists for the treatment of women in her novels.

Given this information, the shirts are unbelievably ironic. Is this an incredible oversight or is the Women’s Center purposefully claiming Ayn Rand as one of their own? Either way, it’s bizarre.

Best Regards,
Alanis