‘SCUM Manifesto’ is your perfect summer vacay read

Bone up on your righteous man-hating this summer by rereading feminist classic, SCUM Manifesto.

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
Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel is a journalist, a feminist campaigner against male violence, and the author of The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth.

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  • Zoë Lafantaisie

    LOL – LOVE IT!!!

  • Gundog

    Ha, this is the type of stuff that got me interested enough to minor in women’s studies. Obviously don’t agree with so much of it, but really respect that viewpoint and find it fascinating. I do kinda wish people would start shooting boring Andy Warhol ripoffs…

  • One thing that feminists and pro-feminists certainly do have in common is that both are accused of “man-hating.” I’m sure the pretext for it is far milder and that it’s more readily and quickly delivered at women, but it’s ridden me down too in many little periods of my life. It’s like an inescapable suspicion that surrounds me… ‘why are you always favoring women?’ ‘you really got in in for men don’t you,’ ‘you’re anti-male line begins to bore me,’ ‘you’re a male hater at heart, admit it.’

    A practical note: You can buy the Solanas bio which Julie Binder praises for a much lower price at US book sites. I ordered it.

  • Morag999

    “Gross and hyperbolic overstatements with more than a kernel of truth.”

    Apt description of SCUM Manifesto. Yes, it contains much more than a mere kernel of truth. And it’s funny as hell! I always recall her line about men being willing to swim through “a river of snot …”

  • Luckynkl

    Solanas wasn’t a radical feminist and flat-out said she wasn’t a feminist. The SCUM Manifesto is still a classic tho loved by many feminists.

  • susannunes

    The “manifesto” is clearly satirical or engages in pitch black humor that is lost on the little snowflakes who call themselves men. Their overreaction to this decades-old work practically proves Solanas’s point.

  • susannunes

    Do you understand irony at all? Clearly you never read the “manifesto.”

    • Revanchiste

      Some commentators of this website say approximatively the same thing and are perfectly serious.

  • I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this notion that just because a text has a controversial or alternative view, that it is not important, or should not be read. It has throwbacks to book-burnings.

    I find it quite strange, and it does seem to be aimed moreso at female authors. Maybe it’s because I’ve been heavily inducted into Socratic thinking and absolutely LOVE it, and I am comfortable with opposite views, because I see it as an opportunity to question my own positions on things (it’s how I landed here – I found a new truth!)

    Nobody would argue that Mein Kampf wasn’t at least worth reading as an important historical text, or the multitude of other terrible ideas & thought experiments produced by male philosophers and writers over time.

    Female philosophers and academics cop it hardest. First up, intelligent women with opinions OMG!?!?, but even those who wouldn’t necessarily believe that, still, subconsciously expect us not to be controversial, all while giving men a pass to do so. I court controversy a bit, and the way I have been treated in contrast to my male counterparts has been… enlightening.

    This is at the forefront of my mind lately, observing with the way Germaine Greer is being treated at the moment. The book isn’t even OUT yet… and yet TERF! Rape Advocate! blah blah rhetoric allowing her to be no-platformed at Brisbane Writer’s Festival. Germaine effing Greer. One of the most important writers of her generation, and I just want to yell at these young women to “show some respect”. I got old suddenly :-/

    I am increasingly deeply, deeply concerned about people’s unwillingness to engage with writing, and especially important texts in history, that don’t 100% reinforce their world view. I read everything GG writes – mostly because I love the way she isn’t shy about exploring a thought, and pissing people off.

    I have always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt and not be one of the “people are stupid” types… but really… people are effing stupid, and they’re getting stupider.

    • Tobysgirl

      Our brains have been shrinking for the past 10,000 years, and they seem to be shrinking ever faster. I agree with you totally about not engaging with controversy — this is a hallmark of trans activism and a lot of millennial “political activity.” You must see things their way, no matter how whacko their ideas are, or you should die in a fire. I have seen criticism of Greer on Feminist Current, but I find her outrageousness to be thought-provoking — she certainly expects women to see themselves and to be seen as fully fledged adults and not as child-women.

  • Morag999

    Right. There’s plenty in the Manifesto that’s deadly serious …

    “War: The male’s normal compensation for not being female, namely, getting his Big Gun off, is grossly inadequate, as he can get it off only a very limited number of times; so he gets it off on a really massive scale, and proves to the entire world that he’s a `Man’. Since he has no compassion or ability to empathize or identify, proving his manhood is worth an endless amount of mutilation and suffering and an endless number of lives, including his own — his own life being worthless, he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than to plod grimly on for fifty more years.”

    • Hierophant2

      Makes sense to me. What are you complaining about exactly?

  • I had a giggle when American Horror Story stitched Valerie into last season too. I hadn’t really heard of her before that, and oh boy did I have a chuckle as I explored more. Anybody who doesn’t think this is dark satire, along the lines of Orwell, are the “crazy” ones.

  • Robert Lee Louviere

    So, you’re for gun rights?

    • Tobysgirl

      I’m for gun rights for women, and with the 3D controversy brewing, I realize male gun festishists aren’t interested in gun rights but rather MURDER rights.

  • Jules Sylver

    I remember the exact moment I found that same edition, and my eye fell on that exact paragraph. It was 1973, and I was also 21. It was the first moment that I knew there was someone else out there who was as angry as I was. But she was FUNNY.

  • Jules Sylver

    If you read it recently, it’s because it’s, well, 2018. It was totally outrageous and spot on when it was first published.

  • Jules Sylver

    soyouretheone: …”promoting violence with no clear irony”. Honey, seriously, it may not be your thing, OK. But if you can’t see the irony, and the same words that released a torrent of pent up loneliness in me, you find “horrific and indefensible” what emotions do you have left for young girls in Afghanistan who get acid thrown in their faces?