I became aware of this text many years ago, when I was young. I listened to the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and then I started reading a lot of stuff about the Andy Warhol period – biographies, essays etc.
Amongst many stories and anecdotes: that of Valerie Solanas, who one fine day in May 1968, shot Warhol at point blank range. She was a loser from the Factory who went berserk. She had written the script for a film, which Warhol refused to produce (too obscene according to him, that’s how much); before or after I don’t know: a silly money dispute with the publisher Maurice Girodias (for the record: Girodias was the boss of Olympia Press, and the first publisher of Nabokov’s Lolita).
A radical feminist manifesto, the script of a film and a play to the literary and creative credit of this fury: nothing to make you want to read it, the news is enough.
In 2005, Fayard published an edition with an afterword by Michel Houellebecq. Ah, Houellebecq. Well, okay, why not. I bought the book, put it in the box reserved for my second-hand reading, and never opened it.
Yesterday afternoon, while tidying up, I stumbled upon it and read it, in one go, easy, a little ninety pages – among which, however, some quasi-philosophical considerations that I had to hang on to.
It’s an interesting book, I never thought I’d find a feminist text interesting. Even presented in an advantageous form (post-faced by a writer I admire, for example). But SCUM Manisfesto is far beyond the pure feminist manifesto, if I may say so – the woman’s con being a central character in the book – it’s a far cry from the stupid nonsense we hear today, and especially the way it’s said.
If there are thousands of possible feminisms (there are indeed thousands, it seems), each one as crazy as the next, there is, out of reach, the Valerie Solanas style. This is the only one. In form and in content.
The raw outline of the pamphlet: for a better world, it is necessary to radically eliminate men. The males (she never uses the term « man » except in the sense of « male », not in the sense of « humanity »: you’ll tell me that’s the point). And the bitch develops and argues.
As in any pamphlet, there are things without tail (yes) or head (yes again), repetitions. It’s sometimes heavy and boring. But rarely.
She expresses – writes – says – ideas on the values of the INDIVIDUAL, capital letters, quite brilliant, and damn topical. Were it not for the delirious context of her (apparently) hateful desire to eradicate the male from the planet, her vision of true and sincere individuality as a source of fulfilment is terribly accurate, disturbing and fine.
She writes that the magical individualism that would make happiness possible is precisely not possible because of human egocentrism. Individualism must not be confused with egocentrism; the claim to live and think for oneself is a huge hypocrisy, since it comes only from the fact that the male is a shapeless coward, incapable of empathy. To be a complete individual, worthy of living, empathy is essential. Yet all the male’s actions are aimed at fucking and waging war, to prove to himself that he exists. Man is simply afraid to be an individual.
An example of this: the hippies. These few paragraphs on hippies kicked my ass, hippies and I are two of a kind. It is clear that hippies synthesize egocentrism and hypocrisy. The hippie, all he wants is to have a maximum of women, of jerks, at his disposal, under the disgusting pretext of a life on the run, far from the modern world, from capitalism and so on.
In fact, a woman’s function is to explore, discover, invent, solve problems, say happy things, make music – all with love. In other words, to create a magical world.
Man’s function is to produce sperm.
Marking, in this quotation, the ‘saying of joys’. In the very first paragraph of her book, Valerie Solanas talks about fun:
To all those who have a bit of civic-mindedness, a sense of responsibility and a sense of fun, all that remains is to overthrow the government, do away with money, introduce automation at all levels and abolish the male sex.
A little further on:
« The man « has no humour in the way he gets laid ».
Humour, laughter, merriment and a party atmosphere:
This will mark the beginning of a fantastic new era, and it will be built in a festive atmosphere.
The revolution, Valerie Solanas version
« SCUM wants to have fun right away. The plan to achieve this Utopia (the word is quoted) is detailed in the last third of the book. She outlines SCUM’s programme, the steps, the conditions. It’s just crazy, and that brings me to Houellebecq’s afterword: what he writes is great, as usual of course. He discerns and respects the visionary aspect of Solanas, notably about the progress of technology and genetics (a sine qua non condition for being able to live without a male).
He reminds the reader of Solanas’ lines on illness and death:
‘The problems of old age and death could be solved within a few years if science put its mind to it.
Except that. Houellebecq evokes, and makes a dubious comparison with Nazism and gives the impression that this « programme », pure « script » delirium of a dirty second-rate science fiction film, is serious and convincing. They murder, they plant ice picks, they sabotage the system by denying money its role and its power, by all means… more Anarchist than Nazi, after all.
But that’s the end of the « Manifesto ». It is easy to imagine Valerie Solanas (whom Michel calls Valerie), going into a trance – in hallucinated flights of fancy, not that she believes in what she is saying, but TO END THE TEXT.
SCUM MANISFESTO is all about love. One would almost forget that it is a manifesto for the extermination of the fucking macaques that we men are, on the pretext that we live only by and to satisfy the appetites of our lisp; one would almost forget that it is the fruit of the production of an absolutely deranged woman.
I often read Sade in this Solanas. There is of course the verve, the energy and the violence of the Word. The pamphleteering fury. Above all, there is this strange feeling of despair and love, as real as it is hallucinatory. I don’t know which Sadian wrote:
« All that Sade signs is Love ».
Moreover, Houellebecq ends his post-face with these words:
Reconstruct a new nature on bases that conform to the moral law, that is to say, to establish the universal reign of love, full stop.
Valerie Solanis is just as angry at men, all of whom are despicable, useless and stupid, as she is at « Daddy’s girls »: formatted by the patriarchy, fucked by the patriarchy, amorphous, « nice, clean women », « proper ladies who lick men’s asses ».
SCUM’s plan reserves a place for them.