Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In Defence of "SCUM Having Fun"...

(Note: No, I can't bloody believe I'm doing this either)

In Sweden, a group of female theatre students are putting on a production based on Valerie Solanas' SCUM Manifesto. In order to advertise this, they have released a short video on Youtube. The video shows a young woman giggling and shooting a dozing man. Her friends then run over and the group start dancing. A screen appears saying 'Do your part', then another with details of the production. Finally, the camera returns to the women who are laughing and licking blood from the man's head wounds. The whole thing is little more than a minute long.

So, the extremist hypocrite misogynist shitheels in the MRA movement have decided to offer $1000 bounties for the personal information about the women in this video, a la Redwatch. They want their names, addresses, phone numbers, places of work etc. Several have also made personal threats to the women, saying that they would like to hunt them down. David Furtrelle has covered this disgusting saga over at Manboobz.

If you have never encountered it, the SCUM Manifesto is a pamphlet written by Valerie Solanas in 1967, which argues that
"men have fouled up the world, are no longer necessary (even biologically), and should be completely destroyed, preferably by criminal means such as sabotage and murder .... [t]he quicker, the better" (Robert Marmorstein)
The SCUM Manifesto can be read in full here. It begins:
"Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex."
In short, it's not exactly cosy suppertime reading for your committed MRA gyno-supremacist conspiracy theorist, who seem to believe that every feminist ever takes it as gospel. However, in the Manboobz article, I also noticed Furtrelle and the commenters all trying to distance themselves from it - Furtrelle even refused to embed the video in the post. He says:
"Every feminist I know who has seen the video has been appalled by it. I’m appalled by it. It’s hateful, and it’s wrong."
Now, at the risk of exposing myself to the festering arse-pustule of the internet that is the ardent MRA trolls, I have to ask why this is being said?

These people are doing a theatre production based on the SCUM Manifesto.  Having them not include killing men would be a bit like asking Quentin Tarantino to only depict the Basterds having a nice cup of tea and a chat with the Nazis. (Did I just Godwin myself? I don't think so, but it is probably always safest to check...)

Yes, it's fairly distasteful, but it's done as part of a theatre production. I'm pretty sure they're not actually advocating it. Like I'm fairly sure Tom Six doesn't advocate kidnapping people and stitching them arse-to-mouth. Nor do I believe Gyorgy Palfi advocates practicing taxidermy on oneself, or shooting fire out of one's penis... well, you get the picture. Basically, what I'm saying is that MRAs are hypocritical fuckheads who only have a problem with violence in films where it's women being violent to men, and people should point this out instead of pandering to the faux-offended little lambs. Call them out on this. For all they whinge about women somehow 'running the world', and feminism being 'a hate movement', as far as I'm aware, no feminist ever tried to hunt down the actors from Deadgirl, and that film sucked.

As for the SCUM Manifesto itself... well, there's several theories about that.  The most common of these is what I like to term the Occam's razor approach - that it literally advocates the violent abolition of men. However, it can also be read as satire or parody of the Freudian approach - especially when Solanas talks about 'pussy envy'. Many of the arguments she espouses against men have either actually been used by men against women, or represent similar arguments. Further arguments state that for Solanas
"the plan for creating a women's world was largely nonviolent, being based on women's nonparticipation in the current economy and having nothing to do with any men, thereby overwhelming police and military forces, and, if solidarity among women was insufficient, under the plan some women could take jobs and "'unwork'", causing systemic collapse.
 Oh, and just to stop anyone trying to argue this - SCUM is not a bloody acronym.

Whatever your opinion on the pamphlet as either a literary device or as a violent call to arms, the fact remains that it's been forty-four years now, and men are still here. I guess the stupid fucks at 'A Voice for Men' can sleep easy, although I wish they wouldn't. I wish them only a bed full of crumbs and nightmares about vagina dentata. Not because they're men, but because they're hateful, hypocritical arseholes who wouldn't recognise a logical argument even if it were dressed in a sexy robocutie suit and holding up a sign saying 'no fallacies here!'


  1. Aw, Nat, I come to your blog to read vitriolic diatribes full of bile and vinegar, not the voice of reason saying, "Calm down, it's only a commercial." Apart from the slightly gory presentation, what's the problem?

    A marketer might point out that the call to action isn't specific enough, but I don't think the Chartered Institute of Marketing has a paramilitary wing with its own death squad just yet.

  2. Let me get this straight:
    1. You support an explicit feminist call for violence (sarcastic or not).
    2. You "hate" the MRA exposing them without any call for violence.

    "it's been forty-four years now"
    "men are still here"

    You could use similar arguments to defend Mein Kampf. Jews are still around also BTW. (and yes, I'm Jewish myself).

    "Now, at the risk of exposing myself to the festering arse-pustule of the internet that is the ardent MRA trolls,"

    I am not a troll, I just have a different opinion. It might annoy you, but it is still my opinion.

    " I wish them only a bed full of crumbs and nightmares about vagina dentata."

    You are one hate filled feminist.

  3. "1. You support an explicit feminist call for violence (sarcastic or not)."

    Where, exactly, in the original post is this implied? Feel free to have your opinions and all, but don't go misquoting.

    (Also, requesting and publishing personal details about someone for an action they have taken seems like a call for *some* sort of action to me)

  4. Daniel da -

    1. No. It's not an 'explicit feminist call for violence'. It's an advert for a play.

    If you don't understand the difference, that's not my problem, it's yours. Let's have a brief lesson though:

    This is an advert for a play based on a controversial work. Firstly, you don't even know what the content of the play is. It could be, for all you are aware, a tale about a group of women who take Solanas' work too seriously, kill a man, get caught by police and go to prison forever. It could equally be about the descent into a dystopian future (note the 'dys' prefix) which is inspired by Solanas' work. It could be a biopic of Solanas, taking into account all her flaws and problems (which would provide plenty of material).

    What you are looking at is a trailer, designed to drum up publicity. I guess that part worked, right? If it weren't for people who are seemingly unaware of what promotional material is, how many people do you think would have seen this trailer which, lest we forget, is an advert for a student play at a Swedish university ?

    You know the film Bambi? When you watch that, do you think the part where his mother is shot by the huntsman is an exhortation by the Pro-Venison Munching Alliance to get a shotgun, go to the woods, and go Rambo-style with the wildlife, or do you think it's supposed to make us feel sad that people do this?

    The fact is, not every instance of violence on film is a call to arms. Most people are capable of watching things and making judgements on the characters. Have you seen American Psycho? Do you think that is a) a public information programme about killing strange women/people who get in your way or b) a film with a main character who is supposed to disgust you?

    To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of racism - should we stop children reading it, or do you think we can trust them to realise that the racist characters are wrong?

    2. Piss-weak argument, sorry. Frothing all over the internet about how 'disgusting' and 'evil' people are, making people get really angry at them, and then saying "Oh, by the way... here's their addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, places of work and stuff" is not innocent, despite how you may want to sugarcoat it. What do you think people are supposed to do with that information, send them flowers?

    You do realise what the site they want to put the information on is, right? It was set up to post details of women that the MRAs say have lied about being raped. I mean, my suggestion would be to go to the police with this evidence, since lying in court and/or wasting police time are crimes. What do I know though? Now they've branched into 'women we don't like', which basically seems to be 'prominent feminists'. So it's actually a website that encourages vigilanteism. Which seems much more like, y'know, a direct threat of violence than, say, a short trailer featuring a person being shot...

    (continued below)

  5. Continued...

    3. No, I don't think that's analogous. If groups of Jews that believed that there was still a conspiracy by every non-Jewish person to eliminate them on the basis that Mein Kampf exists and was written by a non-Jewish person, I would point out to them the low levels of neo-Nazism in the world today (high enough to still be threatening and need fighting against, not defending that scum in any way), and explain that 'some [group that is not you] does not equal all [group that is not you]'.

    And if someone made a film about Mein Kampf, do you think it would be a Hitler-sympathising ode to genocide, or a film about why Hitler was, y'know, a bit wrong?

    Do you think that The Producers advocates the extinction of the Jewish people? They use Hitler-sympathy for comedic effect. Someone ought to tell UAF.

    Extending your 'you can't make a film about things that are wrong' logic, do we now ban films about any wars, any murders or any distasteful event ever? But hell, even that's a stupid argument, since, apart from Solanas herself (and she was really fucked up), no one has ever attempted to use Solanas' views to justify acts of violence against men. And when Solanas shot Warhol? Not a 'feminist act' at all. She never said it was. Shit was personal between those two - but her publicist later said it was (to... you guessed it, drum up publicity!).

    So now we're at, by extension of your logic, a place where we can't even depict imaginary violence, because in your tiny little mind, people might use it to 'justify' anything. Saw films? Well they (if I recall correctly), depict people being disfigured/killed for 'moral failings'. So they're out. Se7en? Same. 1984? Tortured for not toeing party lines? That's out.

    Do you see how this is a bit... wrong? I mean, who is going to make this list of fiction we're not allowed to look at lest we are corrupted?

    I realise I've rambled a little bit, but here's where your Jewish analogy falls down:

    a) There has never been systemic discrimination against men.
    b) There has never been a holocaust where men were the main victims (because they were men).
    c) No one has ever used Solanas' work to start political parties and organisations who's main aim is the eradication of men.
    d) No one has used their belief in Solanas' work as a (moral) defence for murder.

    If any of this were the case, I would (and I would expect society to be) a lot more intolerant of what Solanas wrote. Would I still defend the trailer? Well, then I'd probably view it as a depiction of historical events and beliefs which, as we discussed above, does not mean that the work as a whole is sympathetic to the 'baddie'.

    I think one of the main problems here (aside from a stubborn refusal to either believe that the play may be critical of Solanas or to read Solanas' work (if you have at all) in any way other than the literal) is that you seem to think that Solanas is a lot more influential than she has ever been. Most feminists have never heard of her and most who've heard of her have never read SCUM Manifesto.

    If you can find me a current, prominent, influential, academic feminist who supports the SCUM Manifesto literally, I will send you a box of homemade biscuits. (This is yet another obvious difference between feminism and neo-Nazism by the way. Although if you were to put the two groups on a Venn diagram, it would look somewhat like this: O O)

    Yet again, continued below...

  6. Continued 2...

    4. I never called you a troll, or an MRA. I have no idea who you are. I was talking about the trolls and MRAs that inhabit AVfM and do things like try to get the personal information of actors who's plays they don't like.

    5. What's wrong with wishing a crumby bed and nightmares on people you don't like? I mean, it's fairly tame. Not like, say, gathering up their personal details and inciting violence or anything. Here is a non-exhaustive list of people I wish the same fate on:

    Tories, MPs, racists, journalists for tabloid newspapers, homophobes, whoever made that stupid John Lewis advert, people involved in reality TV, the cast of SATC, my housemate who never washes up, trans*phobes, Ant and bastarding Dec, whoever coined the term 'totes amazeballs', ableists, people who go to nightclubs, men who dress like Noel Fielding, Noel Fielding, people who think a 'wacky' haircut is a substitute for a personality... (I can go on).

    Know what these all have in common with MRAs? I can tell you exactly why I think that they are wrong, and none of those reasons is 'because they have a penis'. Most of them are to do with a fundamental lack of logical or coherent argument.

    But, you know, nice attempt at an ad-hominem attack at the end of the comment there. Because, as we all know, wishing that someone was a bit uncomfortable when they sleep is JUST LIKE INVADING POLAND AND STARTING CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

  7. Hi Nat

    I'm one of the few who has actually read the manifesto, and one point that is often missed is that it is often laugh out loud funny.
    I don't think it is satire or parody, so much as the late 60s equivalent of trolling. One thing that is often missed is that it was written around the time of the situationist movement, the '68 uprising, Guy Debord and all of that. I don't think Solanas was directly referencing that, but she was definitely splashing from the same pond. The intention was to shock, to frighten, to undermine assumptions, and on those terms it is pretty successful.

    But then as I was reading it, and as I was reading your article above, Nat, I had to keep reminding myself that the author went on to commit a brutal act of attempted murder that was entirely in keeping with a literal reading of the text. That kinda changes the equation, doesn't it? I find it a bit tasteless and, well, superficial to write about Solanas's words without talking about her deeds.

    It's a bit like going back to the crazed rantings of, say, the guy who shot Congresswoman Giffords and saying "hey, actually there's some pretty good stuff in here."

    Solanas was a complex individual. She certainly needs to be remembered and discussed. But I think feminists (whether Swedish students or English bloggers) should be wary of being seen as being on her side.

  8. AllyFogg -

    I agree with you that the SCUM Manifesto is best seen as the late sixties equivalent of trolling, whichever way you interpret it. Some parts of it did make me laugh, mainly because it's so ridiculous. Before anyone accuses me of laughing at the idea of men being killed, that's not what I'm saying. Just the other day I was reading something by a virulent anti-feminist which was titled "Why feminism causes traffic congestion and global warming (if it exists)" which made me laugh so hard that I thought I might vomit, because it was so bizarre.

    However, I'm not so sure about your Giffords analogy. There are a few reasons:

    1. Warhol and Solanas had had prior dealings (he had personally pissed her off by losing a manuscript she had given him to read, and she seems to have had a bizarre, obsessive infatuation with him), and Solanas threatened to shoot Warhol to gain infamy so someone would produce a script she had written. That is to say, not because he was a man and she was literally enacting what she had written the year before. That doesn't excuse it, but it's not the same.
    2. The guy who shot Giffords didn't do it because he had written something and decided to shoot a 'liberal', but rather because of what other, very influential groups (including the bloody mainstream media) had been saying incited him to do it. I feel this differs from Solanas' acts because she has never had mainstream support, nor will she ever. If this case has any analogy with the SCUM saga, I think AVfM would play Palin's camp, blinking dumbly when someone attacked an innocent party then cited them as an influence and saying "What? No! We only published pictures of the congresswoman with a crosshair over her head/the personal details of some actors! Of course we don't think this had anything to do with anything!".
    3. I haven't really defended Solanas or said that I'm on her side. I've said it's an interesting work, but I say that more because I'm interested in the many ways it can be interpreted. Solanas herself sounds like an absolute bloody nightmare, and she's certainly done feminism no favours (seriously, 44 years and this is still the only 'evidence' that MRAs can come up with to 'prove' that feminists want men dead). I have defended the trailer on the basis that it represents a work of fiction. Something I feel the need to keep pointing out is that we don't know what the play's about. If they represent a literal interpretation of SCUM Manifesto as a great thing that should be happening, that's shit - but then again, they have no influence in wider society or support from feminists (like say, how the Westboro Baptist Church's picketing of funerals does not represent the beliefs of Christians as a whole). If they're doing a play about what a fucked up person Solanas was, or showing the downfall of women who take the manifesto seriously, well what's the problem with that?

  9. Yeah, didn't mean the Giffords analogy to be taken quite so literally... just pointing out that if someone writes a violent text and goes on to commit a violent act, then the act must impact upon how we read and understand the text and its author.

    On your other point, I don't feel any need to be understanding or reserve judgement towards the people who made the YouTube trailer. I'm with David Futrelle on that one, just on its own merits it is a pretty repulsive and thoughtless bit of student theatre. Even if the play it's advertising were the most thoughtful, sensitive and anti-violence work imaginable, the trailer would still be an offensive lump of shit.

  10. Gotta say, I agree with all AllyFogg's points, with the exception that I don't think Solanas was being satirical or trolling. When I first started reading it, I assumed it was a cutting satire. When I read up on her life, however, I started noticing that many of her own personal issues were reflected in it. For example she resented the fact that her father had always been aloof and he sexually abused her as a child (there is extensive mention in S.C.U.M of fathers all being aloof and sexually predatory towards their daughters). There are many examples, though I don’t have much time for finding more at the moment. When you consider this, I think it becomes increasingly clear that the hatred behind her words is genuine and heartfelt.

    I can honestly say I have never read a misogynistic diatribe about women that is as vitriolic as this (stating that to compare males with animals would be too generous and that to brutally murder a man is an act of kindness and her insistence on using the term “species member” etc etc). For this reason too, I don’t think she was simply parodying the bullshit diatribes of sexist men. Also with regard to her shooting Warhol, don’t forget that she also tried to kill two other men at the scene without any reason: Mario Amaya, (shooting him in the hip), and tried to shoot Fred Hughes in the head point blank. Seems to me that she lost it and ended up putting her theory into practice.

    She was a tragic individual. She suffered a great deal in her life, much of which was caused by some particularly repugnant men whom she knew and sadly this embittered her greatly towards all men. She is an extreme example of what happens when different genders become deeply alienated from each other as a result of misogyny (MRA sexists should take heed). Ultimately only empathy can overcome this problem.

    Peace and solidarity to you all!