SCUM Manifesto

Book review by Deane Barker

This is a short manifesto from the late 60s in which the (female) author proposes killing or sterilizing every male human in the world, because men are the source of everything bad.

…that’s it. That’s the point.

Historically, the biggest debate about the book seems to be whether or not the author intended it as a joke, or was serious.

Honestly, I think it’s a mixture of both. The author was quite clearly mentally ill, as a biography at the end indicates.

Her biggest claim to fame was trying to murder Andy Warhol. She had given him a script for a play she wanted him to produce. He claims to have lost the script, but she seemed convinced he was trying to steal it. She shot at him three times, hitting him once, and injured someone else in his studio in 1968. After some debate about her sanity, she was convicted, and went to prison for two years.

After she was released, she continued harassing Warhol. It seems he demands got more and more demented later in life, as she struggled with addiction. She died in the late 80s.

This “book” is her most notable publication. In it, she rails against men – she hates them, claims they are utterly worthless, and that they all really want to be women. “SCUM” stands for “Society for Cutting Up Men,” and it’s fitting, because she outright promotes murdering all the men in the world, at one point.

It’s pretty unhinged. A sample:

The effect of fathers, in sum, has been to corrode the world with maleness. The male has a negative Midas Touch – everything he touches turns to shit.

That’s pretty representative. Solanas desires for all fetuses to be conceived in-vitro, and for women to be artificially inseminated. I supposed with a sufficient supply of frozen sperm, the human race could survive with just women?

The introduction is from Michelle Tea, and it’s quite visceral. She doesn’t promote murdering men, but she’s clearly had her fill of them too, and she sees a side of Solanas that’s not apparent from the main text.

After the manifesto itself – which runs maybe 50 short pages – there’s a few pages of biography of Solanas, which is quite sad. She had a very hard life, and was clearly suffering from some type of psychosis.

I can’t remember why I ordered this (the entire text is available for free online (PDF)), but I’m glad I read it. I agree with virtually nothing and cannot relate to the author even slightly, but it’s a different perspective, and those are never unhelpful.

Book Info

Valerie Solanas
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A softcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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