on 7 April 2001
I have read many of Brandens books over the years and although this book is primarily aimed at women, any man who is interested in this subject could benefit from reading this. What made this book interesting for me is that I have always found Branden very difficult to read because of the intensity of is approach to his subjects(normally self-esteem). After 30-40 minutes of reading his undiluted work I need a couple of aspirin, this is also the case with Rand, Peikoff and the other Objectivist who assume everyones cognitive process is at the same level as theirs. This book however deals with the subject in a lighter tone yet is packed full of easily understood concepts and observations. I would reccommend this book to any women who is struggling to find expression and assertiveness, especially if they feel locked into a relationship they would like to get out of.
There are lots of availble books on this subject but this one is a good start. If you have a dictionary or a PhD then move onto The Physchology of Self Esteem.
on 4 February 1999
Though smaller and less ambitious than most of Branden's other works (such as the brilliant Art of Living Consciously), two women I know have reacted very favorably to this book, which suggests to me that it could be a useful primer on Branden's approach.
The book's modest size (and attractive cover art, I should add) may be an advantage in this regard. While intellectual purists might still prefer a tome, many people prefer a small book with essentialized information. A Woman's Self-Esteem is a good example in this regard.
Most of the book's chapters are expanded versions of articles Branden published in New Woman magazine in the early 90s. While many of the book's themes will of course apply to men as well as women, Branden's primary focus is on the challenges facing women: How to embrace their own strengths when doing so may not be fashionable, how to be assertive in a job or in a relationship, how to keep appropriate boundaries.
As with his other books on self-esteem, Branden devotes the first several chapters to summarizing his overall theory, and I found these to be among his most elegant summaries ever. Although I personally enjoyed the book as a whole, one mild disappointment for me was the chapter on "Embracing Our Strengths." Here Branden addresses the difficulty some women experience in finding the will and inspiration to assert their own intelligence and individuality. He addresses a number of helpful issues in this regard, but fails to mention the powerful function of good art. Since he is well aware of the role of art in inspiring heroic behavior, I found this omission puzzling.
Ayn Rand admirers will find interesting the last chapter of the book, which is a reprint of Branden's essay "Was Ayn Rand a Feminist?" from the anthology Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (co-edited by Chris Sciabarra and Mimi Gladstein). Branden concludes the essay: "Where did Ayn Rand stand with respect to feminism (a term she never liked)? A feminism that sees woman at her best as a heroic figure will find support and validation in Rand's writings. A feminism that defines woman as victim and man as her evil oppressor will see Rand as the enemy -- because Rand sees woman not as weak but as strong, and because Rand sees romantic love between man and woman as an expression and celebration of their esteem for each other as well as their esteem for themselves."
One major yardstick for judging a book such as this one is the extent to which is encourages people (and women in particular) who might never do so to think deeply and clearly about the role of self-esteem in their own life. It seems to me the book will be very useful in this regard.