Ray Filar, journalist, editor and performance artist, gives us the rundown of the best and the worst of Valerie Solanas' controversial SCUM Manifesto. Listen to Ray discuss the manifesto and its legacy with Juliet Jacques and Sophie Mayer on the Verso podcast.
1. It advocates the death of all humans
SCUM Manifesto is a deeply offensive, violent book. It's author, Valerie Solanas, hates men. Really hates them. In fact, the first sentence argues that “thrill-seeking females” should “destroy the male sex”.
But Solanas hates men in a way that at the same time minimizes their importance and de-centres them from her political vision.
Originally self-published in 1968, the SCUM Manifesto's central argument is that men have created a false reality in which everyone believes that women are men and men are women. So while people often believe that women are inferior, passive, and less intelligent, the reality is that these characteristics belong to men. Men are superior to women only in their PR skills: they've persuaded us to believe that gender is quite the opposite to what it actually is.
Her answer to this problem is that all men should die.
“Solanas suggests that civil disobedience is more or less the most useless thing you can do. It's the classic radical or ‘extremist’ argument that suggests that a reformist approach to a system is the worst to take because it upholds it. I think that's something that's disappeared from a lot of radical writing — that refusal to collaborate with a system that you find abhorrent.” — Juliet Jacques
“Women are not supposed to say violent things about men — it's supposed to be the other way round.” — Ray Filar
Originally self-published in 1968, Valerie Solanas' incendiary SCUM Manifesto called for a Society for Cutting Up Men and declared war on capitalism and patriarchy.
Today, the controversial tract has a complex relationship with contemporary landscapes of feminism and gender politics. Juliet Jacques and Ray Filar join Sophie Mayer to discuss the treatise from critical and contemporary perspectives. Taking a historical view on its problematic elements, they discuss the text's violence and gender and biological essentialism in light of feminist and queer discourses since it's first publication — as well as Solanas' visions of work and automation, and why the text still thrills today.
To mark the new paperback edition of this book, SCUM Manifesto, along with all our feminist reading, is 50% off on our site until June 6th. Full details here.