SCUM Manifesto

The wildest and most publicly controversial manifesto published so far, excellent. Solanas was the founder (and it should be said, sole member) of the ‘Society for Cutting Up Men’, from which the manifesto takes its title. The often-quoted opening lines still retain the clarity with which they were initially delivered:

‘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 eliminate the male sex.’

This is the softest moment in her writing by far, which goes some way to suggesting how extreme the text becomes as it progresses. Her vision is of course completely unliveable, but it is amazing in its extremity and dedication. Including it here treads a fine line in valorising (or making novelty of) the reality of her condition – she wrote the text shortly before she shot Andy Warhol from across a restaurant, with the intention of murdering him after he declined to produce the play she had written and insisted he consider. Having read the script Warhol found it so alarmingly depraved that he was convinced Solanas was working for the police on ‘some kind of entrapment mission’, which, considering the output of that era and scene, means it was likely somewhat extreme. Warhol was left very badly injured by the shooting, both mentally and physically – he spent two months in hospital to recover from damaged lungs, spleen, oesophagus, liver and stomach, and wore a medical corset for the rest of his life. He also developed a pathological fear of hospitals, and after surgery for an infected gallbladder two years later, died of a heart attack the following day. Solanas was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sentenced to 3 years in prison, though received no psychiatric assistance. In any case. For all its vitriol, it is impossible to dismiss as being wholly unhinged. In fact, the work has indisputable prescience, not only as a radical feminist analysis, light-years ahead of its time - predicting artificial insemination, ATMs, and a feminist uprising against under-representation in the arts, but also as a testament to the rage of an abused and destitute woman. The focus of this edition is not on the sensationalist or nostalgic appeal of the writing or the era, but on Avital Ronell's incisive introduction, "Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas". Here is a reconsideration of Solanas's infamous text in light of her social milieu, Derrida's The Ends of Man (written in the same year), Judith Butler's Excitable Speech, Nietzsche's Ubermensch and notorious feminist icons from Medusa, Medea and Antigone, to Lizzie Borden, Lorenna Bobbit and Aileen Wournos - illuminating the evocative exuberance of Solanas's dark tract.

Valerie Solanas

Lawson Park Electronic Library is a Guestroom project for Grizedale Arts, designed and built by Dorian Moore