SCUM Manifesto was considered one of the most outrageous, violent and certifiably crazy tracts when it first appeared in 1968. Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol, self-published this work just before her rampage against the king of Pop Art made her a household name and resulted in her confinement to a mental institution. But the Manifesto, for all its vitriol, is impossible to dismiss as just the rantings of a lesbian lunatic. In fact, the work has indisputable prescience, not only as a radical feminist analysis light-years ahead of its timepredicting artificial insemination, ATMs, a feminist uprising against under-representation in the artsbut also as a stunning testament to the rage of an abused and destitute woman.
The focus of this edition is not on the nostalgic appeal of the work, but on Avital Ronell’s incisive introduction, “Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas.” Here is a reconsideration of Solanas’s infamous text in light of her social milieu, Derrida’s “The Ends of Man” (written in the same year), Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech, Nietzsche’s Ubermensch and notorious feminist icons from Medusa, Medea and Antigone, to Lizzie Borden, Lorenna Bobbit and Aileen Wournos, illuminating the evocative exuberance of Solanas’s dark tract.
“The SCUM Manifesto is a document of profound vulnerability, written in a voice of profound empowerment. It’s a brutal call to arms, written by a woman in a world of hurt. This tension between powerlessness and power makes it an enduring piece of writing. Never have the personal and the political been so mercilessly zipped together, like little steel teeth.” —Claire Dederer, Nation
“Solanas is as relevant today as she was in the 1960s, because nothing much has changed for women.” —Julie Bindel, Spectator
“You either happen to think this is a work of unadulterated genius, or you dismiss it as the ravings of a loony psycho-bitch, not understanding that this is exactly what makes it so compelling and so charged with insight.” —Suzanne Moore, New Statesman
“Valerie Solanas wrote a very angry and very precise portrait of what she considered the male to be: something between a human and an ape; an unresponsive blob only concerned with physical sensation and without the capacity for empathy or self-knowledge or intimacy, and at the same time full of hatred and jealously and shame and guilt. Her description is beautiful and on some level, I think, entirely accurate.” —Nick Cave
“Its nihilism is a form of utopia for Solanas, a pre-punk aesthete who fearlessly tossed out ideas that people are just now beginning to raise … As a mixture of social philosophy and fine shtick, her work has the rare virtue of seeming at the same time totally insane and totally right.” —Los Angeles Times
“As Solanas reminds us, revolutionary ideas don’t emerge quietly from the elite stratum of a society; they often bloom from its scum.” —Dissent
“Gleefully incoherent, crackling with energy.” —Bookslut