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A Guide to Destroying the Patriarchy: Using Male Technology Against Men

Valerie Solanas strikes me as the sort of feminist who I would never want to associate myself with. She is violent and extreme and I don’t think that to rid society of a patriarchy it is absolutely necessary to exterminate the male sex. However, I am also not willing to brush her work under the carpet in hopes of hiding an embarrassing mess as most historians have done with her. Valerie was actually a very influential woman during the second wave of feminism, and because she shot pop artist Andy Warhol the media declared her insane and the public quickly followed. Who would shoot such a famous and charming man? (A crazy, angry, lesbian, radical feminist of course) This paper will focus on how Valerie used technologies such as eugenics, terrorist tactics, and the notion of society being a patriarchal machine of oppression to satirically develop her argument in her (in)famous SCUM Manifesto, that she indeed is not crazy but a philosopher.

Found within the first paragraph of the SCUM Manifesto are the words that detail Solanas’ intentions and the intentions of her fellow “scum” which are “to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.” So how does she start her argument to convince people that this is something that must be done? She does this by claiming that “the male is a biological accident.” Solanas uses science to claim that women are superior to men. “The male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage” and that his lack of humanity is the very reason that he attempts to dominate women. But why does this sound familiar to me? Solanas was mimicking Western science which has for a long time declared women as naturally inferior. Amanda Third writes that “women’s exclusion [from an equal place in society] has been justified by recourse to a long cultural and scientific tradition that constitutes women fundamentally irrational and morally inferior” (111) and it is this sort of science which still has repercussions on the treatment of women today.

This mocking language Solanas uses in her manifesto is actually ideal for her ultimate goals. The problem I have, whether she is serious or not because I will not presume to know the truth, lies in that final part of the first paragraph of the manifesto, “destroy the male sex.” Her parody of “modern theory that has established women’s fundamental irrationality as scientific fact” (Third 112) moved to a different sort of science, eugenics. Eugenics is the scientific idea, developed by Sir Francis Galton who is the cousin of Charles Darwin, that in order to keep racial purity, those who are impure must be eliminated for the improvement of the human race. Adolf Hitler adopted this theory to justify his genocidal goals. Amanda Third develops this idea enough to state “that woman embark on a process of what we might call ‘gender cleansing,’ SCUM’s call to exterminate men” could be called “sexocide” (Third 120). Solanas makes it clear that the only way to end the gender imbalance is simply to get rid of the inferior sex.

Radical feminism commonly voiced similar opinions and theories as Solanas. Her methods to gain attention were not at the time considered strange or extreme, in the 1960s many political groups used similar tactics and radical feminists adored Solanas. “The harnessing of anger as a revolutionary tool then, the radical feminist vision resonated as apocalyptic” and Solanas is a product of this sort of thinking (Third 116). Roxanne Dunbar, a fellow radical feminist, quotes herself from a letter to a boyfriend in the winter of 1968 in her memoir:

I think you are wrong to focus on Valerie Solanas’ ‘insanity.’ Perhaps you fear the consciousness in her statements. Sure she was ‘crazy’ to shoot Andy Warhol. The kind of oppression we experience as women does make us kind of crazy one way or another. I think compulsive shopping and plastic surgery are acts of madness . . . Valerie’s is a voice in the wilderness shouting, rebelling, saying she will accept no arguments to the contrary, allow no loopholes or fancy devices that could be used to counter her argument. She is EVERYWOMAN in some basic sense (123).

It is obvious then that the portrayal that the media had of Solanas focused away from feminist ideals and focused on how crazy she truly must have been. She did have the support of her fellow feminists even when it came down to her radical use of terrorism as a weapon (aka technology).

The terrorism she asked of the scum across the globe is the same that she asked of herself. As she herself writes in her manifesto, “if SCUM ever strikes, it will be in the dark with a six-inch blade.” Why is terrorism even an option? Why does she focus on (in her own words) having “a small handful of SCUM [taking] over the country within a year by systematically fucking up the system, selectively destroying property, and murder?” It is because society is the machine that was built by men to constantly bring women down. Solanas breaks down society and all of its problems such as war, work, the money system, isolation, religion, etc. and explains how they all benefit men and put women in a position of near slavery. Most radical feminism of the time depended on terrorism because it is a tool, typically used by men, that can “overturn control of, or destroy the institutions of governance” which in this case is patriarchy (Third 110). Solanas argues that “there’s no reason why a society consisting or rational being capable of empathizing with each other [women, not men], complete and having no natural reason to compete, should have a government, laws or leaders.” In other words, there is no reason for a dominating force which establishes oppression.

There are many truly thoughtful things Valerie Solanas has to say in her SCUM Manifesto pertaining to the society we live in and how it treats women. Like I said, maybe we could find an alternative to the mass sexocide of men. Though it is clear to me that these are not the ravings of a mad woman, but the careful expression of an anger that is felt when people think of the ways in which they are oppressed. For all of Solanas’ research and effort in defining the machine that is the cause of the problems women have and it is sad to say that the media got the better of her. She is now a mere footnote in history. That person who shot Andy Warhol right? Yeah, that’s her. But she is so much more than that crazy, angry, lesbian, radical feminist who shot Andy Warhol. Warhol was probably the victim of her attempt to make people read her manifesto. Solanas was not random and pissed off; she was organized and pissed off. She was a revolutionary, before her time, and she only wanted people to think about the world they live in.

Works Cited

Baer, Freddy. “About Valerie Solanas.” 6 March 2009 .

Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960 – 1975. San Francisco: City Lights, 2001.

“Eugenics.” Wikipedia. 6 March 2009.

Solanas, Valerie. “SCUM Manifesto.” 1967. 6 March 2009.

Third, Amanda. “‘Shooting from the Hip’: Valerie Solanas, SCUM and the Apocalyptic Politics of Radical Feminism.” Hecate 32.2 (2006): 104 – 132.

2 Responses
  1. March 13, 2009

    I’m curious about more of the details concerning the relationship between Solanas’ ideas and radical feminists’ ideas. It seems that part of your argument is just that Solanas was a more radical version of the prevailing feminism. Although you say that Solanas is just a footnote in history, has she had any affect on current feminist or gender practice? Or put another way, is there anything that we could learn from her?

  2. ELi permalink
    April 13, 2009

    SOLANAS, was not crazy,just beaten down by society,patriarchy,men.I understand.

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