SCUM Manifesto


I picked this up for just six dollars at Red Emma’s in Baltimore. If you haven’t been and you live in the DMV… well, why the heck haven’t you been? Seriously? If you’re a fan of poetry, zines, punk rock, gender studies, African-American studies, anarchism, or just cool places, you should be checking this place out.

20140311-113328.jpgBut on to SCUM Manifesto.

I should add that I would not have known about this book were it not for the awesome movie, I Shot Andy Warhol, starring the awesome indie queen, Lily Taylor, who played Valerie Solanas, the author of SCUM (and also the woman who shot Andy Warhol).

First of all, it’s a manifesto, not a proposal, not an analysis. It’s not Das Kapital, it’s the Communist Manifesto. One is a detailed analysis of a socio-economic system and the other a cri de couer. A manifesto does not necessarily prove, debate, or analyze; it’s function is to assert, to demand, and to polemicize.

I say this because it’s easy to criticize without realizing that you’ve missed the point. Her statement that the man, with his Y chromosome is incomplete X chromosome because it’s literally missing one of the lines that make up the letter X is not meant to be taken literally (did you see that? two ‘litterally’s in one sentence, but ending with the assertion, don’t take it literally; pretty cool, huh?).

SCUM is also surprisingly utopian. Or maybe not surprisingly. I was born in 1974, so I missed the sixties, but I wonder whether that utopian strain is not just something endemic to the decade in which it was written?

One thing that tripped me up is her dismissal of sex and sexuality. Solanas, by all accounts, was not interested in sex (though she was nominally lesbian). Her assertion that it would be easy for slightly over half the human race to give up sex kept tripping me up, mentally, and taking me out of the moment.

Finally, the introduction by Avital Ronell. She talks too much. Now, don’t get me wrong. She’s a very important philosopher, but the introduction is nearly half the length of entire book. Maybe the publisher wanted filler, I don’t know, but it felt like she was taking up psychic space that would have been better left to star of this show.

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