Forever 21 Meets The Fountainhead


Somehow, the ideas of objectivist posterwoman and noted anti-feminist Ayn Rand have found new life in the world of girl power brand merchandising.

At a time when even devotees like Paul Ryan are distancing themselves from the schools of Randian objectivism and rational self-interest, Maureen O'Connor examines the rise of Rand's place in the world of feel good woman-centric consumerism. It all started with "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me," a quote attributed to her which became adopted by the corporate generic positive messages machine and ended up emblazoned across t-shirts at Forever 21 stores across the nation.

Gladstein's and Sciabarra's confusion was reasonable; Ayn Rand's most web-friendly quote is actually a misquote. Back when Forever 21 was selling the Unstoppable Muscle Tee, a blog called the Quote Investigator traced the phrase's origin to a mashed-together dialogue from The Fountainhead, showing protagonist Howard Roark defying the dean of his architecture school:

"Do you mean to tell me that you're thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?"


"My dear fellow, who will let you?"

"That's not the point. The point is, who will stop me?"

When and how the quote became mangled is unclear, but in the last decade it has appeared in biographies, magazines, quote anthologies, and peppy self-help books marketed to women. Once "unstoppable" appeared in Love It, Don't Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, the leap to belly tees was, perhaps, inevitable.

Ayn Rand, Girl-Power Icon [The Cut | Maureen O'Connor]