Mention of Valerie Solanas’s groundbreaking 1968 SCUM Manifesto has become code for man-hating in line with Lorena Bobbitt. Who else would join her “Society for Cutting Up Men,” formed by the woman who shot Andy Warhol? Avital Ronell’s intro to this hardcover edition attempts to imbue Solanas with a visionary’s stature but does little to disarm her over-the-top imagery. Ronell explores Solanas’s struggle for artistic recognition and situates her along a path of ’60s radicalism. She suggests that perhaps the manifesto wasn’t meant literally, yet the sheer force Solanas uses in urging for “the replacement of males by machines” leaves the reader with little choice but to disagree. There’s no room for fun (“Sex is the refuge of the mindless”) or compromise.
Solanas is like Andrea Dworkin squared, showcasing the best and worst of radical feminism. She brilliantly lists her grievances against the male-dominated culture (note how much hasn’t changed). Her anger is a raw, seductive call to arms for any woman scorned. Yet take away the vitriol and you’re left with something very ugly, a Courtney Love–like monstrosity of “dominant, secure, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, independent, proud, thrill-seeking, free-wheeling, arrogant females.” Despite Solanas’s lack of viable solutions, her extreme fervor remains compelling and unnerving, not simply as a historical document, but as a blunt portrait of one woman’s fury.