Monday, 9 April 2012

thoughts on the SCUM manifesto and relevance of radical feminism

I like Valerie Solonas because she is really determined and strong and angry, and one really gets the impression when reading the SCUM Manifesto that she would not mute her angry passion, no matter how much society judges it to be ugly or intimidating or childish. She rejected every expectation of femininity, and wrote really actually radical statements. There is a really personal, striking element to radical feminist literature like this, which i think reaches out to women. It screams FUCK YOU AND LISTEN TO ME, I WILL NOT BE QUIET OR WAIT MY TURN OR PLAY BY YOUR RULES! I am sure lots of women have felt this way, I know I have.
"middle-class ladies with a high regard for the touching faith in the essential goodness of Daddy and policemen. If SCUM ever marches, it will be over the President's stupid, sickening face"
I can relate. Many presidents have had "stupid sickening faces", politicians are professional liars and as a man of great authority he has many tools in his metaphorical gun-holster to patronize and undermine women. (They have misogynist comments, innapropriate sexual advances, female stereotypes, scrutinising our appearance.. and even the nicest man is given these tools whether they use them or not). Solonas identifies a lot of truth with this bizarre call to arms, her childish rage is not to be dismissed as incoherent but as honest.This radical feminism is about complete and total rejection of male authority, and Solonas powerfully reprimands the well behaved suffragette for stopping way short of true liberation. I think it reaches the psychological core of inequality, and calls for a passionate uprising not a polite reform. Well done.

A lot of people take the extreme bits, read: she hates men, she wants to kill half the population, how silly, that must be rubbish, what a nutter. If you quibble over generalizations you risk missing the point. The SCUM Manifesto is about how much patriarchy kills distorts and subordinates women, mankind have changed female nature into something that exists to compliment men. And she is simply turning it back on itself and imagines the worst excesses of a gender based war. Solonas herself said in 1977 it is a "literary device". Essays that are this extreme are needed to drill home the message to uncertain feminists and are a rallying cry for women who have been beaten, raped, objectified and fucked over: literally or otherwise. In our minds, we all have our inner SCUM, and that source of anger and complete, level headed man hating energy can be a source of strength. Filmmaker Mary Harron recalled how reading the SCUM Manifesto helped her "reach a core of anger she never knew she possessed" [1]. This angry core exists but is difficult to put into words, however I think Solonas' attempt to do so is pretty accurate.
"What will liberate women, therefore, from male control is the total elimination of the money-work system, not the attainment of economic equality with men within it" [2]
I really like it when radical feminists talk about some sort of economic revolution. What Solonas calls the money system is what Marxists call capitalism? Maybe the problem is property and ownership not currency, but as the theory goes in its most simply form, we are an unfree society and it doesn't have to be this way. The Marxism vs feminism debate both intrigues and annoys me, because I can see both sides and don't want to pick one. Radical Feminist women want their freedom from men NOW and don't want to be put in a hierarchy where men talk over them and give orders, no matter what the revolutionary goal. Consequently, the Marxists see this as divisive of the working class, as if gender is creating a false dividing line when we should all be concerned with class based politics. But that is a whole separate issue. I am so far undecided and have a lot more reading before I take a side, but these differences I want to see debated! And Inspirational women like Alexandra Kollontai managed to walk a line between the two, so there is hope. Well there was in 1917. The advent of neoliberalism is putting global changes into overdrive, things aren't looking too good for the working class,women or the entire human race in 2012- if we like having things like healthcare, having enough food and having a stable environment we need to get our shit together! And these big revolutionary questions shouldn't be vanquished to the past. It really makes me angry when people talk of the left as being "political dinosaurs". What sort of agenda dismisses these ideas just because they aren't discussed by the mainstream, although they seem like common sense to me?

I get disappointed and bored when all the current debate in the news is "should we introduce boardroom quotas?" (like last months appalling ten o clock live effort). Yes, I am sure that high profile corporations are horrible patriarchal places and must be frustrating for the women who work in them.. but getting more Christine LaGardes and Margaret Thatchers hasn't really solved anything, these are unfree women who have to play a mans game in a mans world. Though they have these jobs the organisations they represent like the IMF and the British government has inflicted extra economic suffering upon millions of less fortunate women. Christine LaGarde or Angela Merkel is not the friend of Greek working class women right now.. I just think today's arguments about women and feminism have become totally bourgeois and individualistic, they either relate to women who, the radical feminists predicted would be completely unfree, equality in an unfree world means we swapped one set of chains for another.. Or are so plagued by arguments about "difference" that the original message has become diluted. Rainbow coalition.. really? (OKay i got off topic here..)

Towards the end, Solonas talks of the SCUM manifesto's master plan, elimination of men and the society becomes utopian, death and disease will be worked on by dilligent women until they don't plague us anymore.. This part of the essay is not the unrealistic raving of an unhinged woman. She isn't seriously planning a genocide of men, but to exterminate destructive masculinity. Solonas was smart and had a Psychology degree and it is an insult to denounce her work on the grounds that these sections are a bit improbable. She is merely pointing out that Women have been so restricted by elitism, sexism, hierarchy, (an academic scene who's purpose she felt was to "perpetuate" its own existence..) that if they were truly liberated, the possibilities and achievements could be potentially miraculous and boundless.

So in short, I think that the SCUM manifesto has huge relevance today. Really aggressive feminism should stay in the minds of women and feminists, the passion rage and energy are valuable and not to be rejected just because it is also very negative and violent.
Men shouldn't be hostile just because its man hating, Women shouldn't be scared to identify with angry feminists because we sure do have a lot to be angry about. Its important to understand that sometimes you need to push the boat out and scream FUCK YOU, and say all the things that you supposed allowed to say, and I applaud Solonas because all accounts of her seem to show that she does this extremely well.

I am going to watch I Shot Andy Warhol, the biopic.

bibliography/ sources. Not very extensive. --> where i read it , (2)

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