What to take on holiday to read? I don’t like anything too serious or weighty when I am lying on a sunbed, but a relaxing time off is a perfect time to reread favourites or catch up on classics. That is why I am taking SCUM Manifesto, by Valerie Solanas, on holiday this year.
Written in 1967, Solanas, a radical feminist, argues that men have ruined the world and that women have to fix it.
The book was made famous when, a year after publication, Solanas shot Andy Warhol, having become paranoid about him stealing her creative ideas. She was imprisoned for three years, and spent time in a psychiatric locked ward. Solanas died in 1988 of pneumonia.
But about the book. The first line, which somewhat grabbed my attention when I was given a copy of my 21st birthday, reads:
“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”.
What I love about this book is how it promotes straightforward man-hating. Blaming men for the ills of the world is underrated. Women have been under siege for centuries, and resistance feels exhilarating, whether in the form of waving placards, or reading radical statements about feminist fight-back.
In today’s climate of Trumpism and the #MeToo movement, man-hating should be seen as a proud, feminist response. When a president of the US was elected after his bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies” and forcing his mouth on hers was broadcast to the world, I am inclined to think it was because of, not in spite of showing himself up as the misogynistic jerk he is. When men like Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polinski are lauded and defended by Hollywood lovies despite it being widely known they are sexual predators, the Manifesto gives us the opportunity to laugh out loud at the bravery, resilience, and sheer madness that comes with finally giving up and allowing our anger to spew out into the world.
As one reader put it: “Regardless of whether or not Solanas believed everything she wrote, the Manifesto is an interesting reversal of exactly the kind of shit men have been saying about women for fucking ever.”
Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees. on Amazon writes:
“A book that hails gendercide constantly. Written by a psychotic, angry woman who has escaped a mental asylum several times is now hailed as a hero by equally psychotic lonely sexist parasites who claim to call themselves ‘women and feminists.’”
Admittedly, Solanas goes way too far with her anti-male ranting, but that is what makes it refreshing reading, for example:
“The male is completely egocentric, trapped inside himself, incapable of empathizing or identifying with others, or love, friendship, affection or tenderness. He is a completely isolated unit, incapable of rapport with anyone. His responses are entirely visceral, not cerebral; his intelligence is a mere tool in the services of his drives and needs; he is incapable of mental passion, mental interaction; he can’t relate to anything other than his own physical sensations.”
I find that holidays provide the best opportunity for “ah ha” moments. A lot of women feel very angry right now, with the #MeToo movement making way for Time’s Up. We need an antidote to the gross sexism that hits us in the face every day, whether it is yet another murder of a woman by her ex-partner, or the most-recent rant from a men’s rights activist about how women “cry rape.”
If you race through this book and need to find another to occupy your time whilst everyone else re-reads Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, try this brilliant biography about Solanas: Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote Scum (and Shot Andy Warhol). It provides fascinating insight into the woman who had the nerve to produce such an outrageous text. If enough women read this book, holding the cover proudly for all to see, the men out to harm us might think twice before trying to grab one of us by the pussy.
Julie Bindel is a journalist, a feminist campaigner against male violence, and the author of The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth.