Blog post

"SCUM is against the entire system, the very idea of law and government" — a feminist reading list

Verso Books 1 June 2016

Image for blog post entitled "SCUM is against the entire system, the very idea of law and government" — a feminist reading list
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex."  Valerie Solanas

SCUM Manifesto was considered one of the most outrageous and violent texts when it first appeared in 1968. Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol, self-published this work just before the attack that made her a household name and resulted in her confinement to a mental institution. SCUM Manifesto has indisputable prescience, not only as a radical feminist analysis light-years ahead of its time, but also as a stunning testament to the rage of women and a scathing attack on capitalism and patriarchy.

Today, the controversial book has a complex and difficult relationship within contemporary feminist, queer, and gender politics. We explore these problematic elements in this podcast with Juliet Jacques, Ray Filar, and Sophie Mayer. See also Ray Filar's round-up of the best and the worst of Valerie Solanas' controversial SCUM Manifesto, from the "prescient... funny and fearless" writing, through to the intersectional failures of the text.

Here we bring you an updated Verso feminist reading list, featuring a wide range of writers from Shulamith Firestone to Melissa Gira Grant, Juliet Jacques to Jacqueline Rose.

The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone
“No one can understand how feminism has evolved without reading this radical, inflammatory second-wave landmark.” – Naomi Wolf
An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. We are delighted to have republished this in the UK and Rest of World (excluding North America) after 45 years out of print.

Trans: A Memoir
by Juliet Jacques. Afterword by Sheila Heti

A moving memoir and insightful examination of transgender politics.

“Six weeks before sex reassignment surgery (SRS), I am obliged to stop taking my hormones. I suddenly feel very differently about my forthcoming operation.”

In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national newspaper column. Trans tells of her life to the present moment: a story of growing up, of defining yourself, and of the rapidly changing world of gender politics.

False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, edited by Liza Featherstone

To get a woman in the White House, it’s thought, would be an achievement for all women everywhere, a kind of trickle-down feminism. In False Choices, an all-star lineup of feminists contests this simplistic reading of the candidate. A detailed look at Hillary Clinton’s track record on welfare, Wall Street, criminal justice, education, and war reveals that she has advanced laws and policies that have done real harm to the lives of women and children across the country and the globe. 

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work by Melissa Gira Grant
An important contribution to debates around sex and work, in which sex workers' demands, too long relegated to the margins, take center stage: sex work is work, and sex workers' rights are human rights.

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg by Kate Evans
“Utterly brilliant” – Steve Bell, Guardian

In this beautifully drawn work of graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans has opened up her subject’s intellectual world to a new audience, grounding Luxemburg’s ideas in the realities of an inspirational and deeply affecting life.

Separate and Dominate: Feminism and Racism after the War on Terror by Christine Delphy “France’s most exciting feminist writer.” – Simone de Beauvoir

Feminist Christine Delphy co-founded the journal Nouvelles questions féministes with Simone de Beauvoir in the 1970s and became one of the most influential figures in French feminism. Separate and Dominate is Delphy’s manifesto, lambasting liberal hypocrisy and calling for a fluid understanding of political identity that does not place different political struggles in a false opposition.
Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
 by Michele Wallace
Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the sixties. She described how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating the ways in which a genuine female subjectivity was blocked by the traditional myths of black womanhood. With a foreword that examines the debate the book has sparked between intellectuals and political leaders, as well as what has—and, crucially, has not—changed over the last four decades, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman continues to be deeply relevant to current feminist debates and black theory today.

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and
by Vron Ware.
How have ideas about white women figured in the history of racism? Vron Ware argues that they have been central, and that feminism has, in many ways, developed as a political movement within racist societies. Dissecting the different meanings of femininity and womanhood, Beyond the Pale examines the political connections between black and white women, both within contemporary racism and feminism, as well as in historical examples like the anti-slavery movement and the British campaign against lynching in the United States.

Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World by Sheila Rowbotham
A groundbreaking examination of the birth, development and impact of Feminist consciousness. 

The Anti-Social Family by Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh
A sensitive but uncompromising socialist-feminist critique of the nuclear family

Straight Sex: Rethinking the Politics of Pleasure by Lynne Segal is a manifesto of sexual liberation, from the leading feminist thinker.

Out of Time: The Pleasures and the Perils of Ageing by Lynne Segal 
“Lynne Segal cuts through the current discourse on ageing with a sharp scalpel, an open mind and boundless compassion. If you have detected even one grey hair, read this book while you still have time” – Barbara Ehrenreich

Woman's Estate by Juliet Mitchell combines the energy of the early seventies feminist movement with the perceptive analyses of the trained theorist, making it one of the most influential socialist feminist statements of its time. 

Women’s Oppression Today: The Marxist/Feminist Encounter by Michèle Barrett
A classic text in the debate about Marxism and feminism, exploring how gender, sexuality and the “family-household system” operate in relation to contemporary capitalism.

Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis by Nancy Fraser traces the feminist movement’s evolution since the 1970s and anticipates a new—radical and egalitarian—phase of feminist thought and action.

Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century by Sheila Rowbotham
From the 1880s to the 1920s, a profound social awakening among women extended the possibilities of change far beyond the struggle for the vote. This book is an acclaimed exploration of these women who revolutionized American and British life.

Women's Work, Men's Property: The Origins of Gender and Class edited by Stephanie Coontz and Peta Henderson is an important book from Verso's history that explores the sociohistorical roots of gender inequality.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft remains one of history's most important and elegant broadsides against sexual oppression.

Sexuality in the Field of Vision by Jacqueline Rose is a brilliantly original exploration of the interface between feminism, psychoanalysis, semiotics and film theory.

The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg by Rosa Luxemburg are letters from the heroic German revolutionary to her comrades, friends and lovers. Her political concerns are revealed alongside her personal struggles within a socialist movement that was often hostile to independently minded women. The book is part of an ongoing series on Rosa Luxemburg.

Lust For Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker edited by Carla Harryman, Avital Ronell, and Amy Scholder in which scholars and artists reflect on the transgressive twentieth-century literary icon.

See also!
#Killallmen: 7 things you need to know about the SCUM Manifesto — Ray Filar, journalist, editor and performance artist, gives us the rundown of the best and the worst of Valerie Solanas' controversial SCUM Manifesto.

SCUM Manifesto Revisited: The Verso Podcast with Juliet Jacques, Ray Filar and Sophie Mayer — taking a historical view on its problematic elements, Juliet Jacques, Ray Filar and Sophie Mayer discuss the SCUM Manifesto'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.

Filed under: feminism, scumrevisited