Feminism in Anthem
Throughout history, women have been brushed aside as the inferiors of men. From the time of the Greeks to the modern day world, men have been the dominant beings. Mary Astell, an English feminist writer, says, “If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves? ” She questions the societal norm of women in predetermined constrictive roles. This theme of a submissive and obedient female pervades many literary works, specifically those by Ayn Rand. Rand’s portrayal of women in her novel Anthem further drives the female into a position of inferiority.
The descriptions and labels applied to Liberty are Rand’s way of demonstrating man’s dominance over women. A person’s name is their identity. When someone is given a name, it gives them an identity to become. Equality renames Liberty two different times. First, he names her “the Golden One” (41), and then when they are in their new home, “Gaea… the mother of a new kind of gods” (99). By renaming Liberty, Equality shows that men can obliterate and redetermine a woman’s entire identity and life purpose.
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When Equality spots Liberty for the first time, he describes her appearance: Their body was straight and thin as a blade of iron. Their eyes were dark and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness and no guilt. Their hair was golden as the sun; their hair flew in the wind, shining and wild, as if it defied men to restrain it. They threw seeds from their hand as if they deigned to fling a scornful gift, and the earth was as a beggar under their feet. (38-39) Ironically, Equality says that her hair “defied men to restrain it,” but by changing her name, he actually restrains her.
This passage also describes Liberty only by her physical characteristics. Throughout the novel Equality never writes anything about her personality or her intellectual capabilities, which shows that all he values is her beauty. Rand demonstrates her view on the role of women and how they should act through Liberty’s actions. After fleeing to the Uncharted Forest, Liberty tells Equality: “We have followed you… and we shall follow you wherever you go. If danger threatens you we shall face it also. If it be death, we shall die with you…
Do as you please with us, but do not send us away from you” (82-83). Liberty helplessly “follows” Equality into the forest and pledges her obedience through life and death to him. She begs to never be sent away, as if she cannot survive without him. In this passage, Rand emphasizes that the highest priority of a woman’s life is to support and follow a man. Rand’s view on women’s responsibilities to society are evident in her construction of the society within Anthem. In the government, women are a minority. “There were five members of the Council, three of the male gender and two of the female” (25-26).
Because there are fewer women, Rand sends the message that their opinions do not have as much value or importance as mens’. In a male dominant society, everything becomes just that: male dominant. The imbalance in government represents an imbalance in rights and opportunities for women, and ultimately takes away their voice. Women’s voices are suppressed because they have nothing important to say, they are not important enough to be heard, and they cannot be heard because they are not allowed to have a voice. The novel Anthem illustrates women in an inferior light, demeaning their importance and value to the world.
Ayn Rand creates woman as a creature to lick the dust from the soles of man’s feet, and to endure anything he inflicts upon her. In today’s world, women are still coerced into some of the roles laid out by Rand. In some extreme cases, such as the recent shooting of a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, man justifies himself in the (sometimes attempted) killing of women. A Taliban gunman targeted and shot Malala Yousofzai for “[speaking] out against the group and [praising] the US president”(Malala Yousafzai Deserved to Die, Say Taliban).
A group so powerful as the Taliban does not fear the mere words of a girl, but is angry that an aspiring woman was “advocating education for girls” (Malala Yousafzai Deserved to Die, Say Taliban). All occurrences of men doing something negative to a person simply because they are a female may not be as extreme as this, yet they have happened continually throughout history. Will the oppression of women be continued until the end of time? Will women be able to become equal to men, recognized for intellectuality and valued as human beings? Unfortunately, that is ultimately for men in power to decide.