The SCUM Manifesto

Andy Warhol 1975|Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Valerie Solanas had a very troubled childhood. When she was young, she was molested by her father, and soon after, her parents divorced. Once she was older, she constantly moved from home to home. As a young adult, her life did not get any easier. She had a son out of wedlock, and gave him up for adoption; before long, she turned to prostitution in order to support herself. Solanas managed to get a college education and shortly after attaining a psychology degree, she began to develop her idea that “women are biologically superior to men.”1

In 1967, Valerie Solanas self-published her SCUM Manifesto, which stood for the Society for Cutting Up Men. She was able to compose her manifesto by using the money she earned from prostitution to rent a hotel room for days at a time. Her manifesto called for the destruction of men, and blamed them for the problems ravaging our world. The manifesto called for women to come together as “SCUM,” which she described as “dominant, secure, self-confident, nasty, violent, selfish, independent, proud, thrill-seeking, free-wheeling, arrogant females, who consider themselves fit to rule the universe.”2 As for men, the manifesto demanded that they acknowledge their unfitness for power and advocate for their own destruction. Solanas first distributed her manifesto in the streets of New York. And there was quite a mixed response. Some people did not know whether to take the manifesto seriously, while others saw intelligence in Solanas because of it.3 Along with her SCUM Manifesto, Solanas also wrote a play called Up Your Ass. This play follows a day in the life of a prostitute. It details interaction with everyone from a pair of drag queens to a matron. The play also severely criticizes the dynamics of male and female power.4 Solanas was proud of her play and wanted to see it produced, which was when Andy Warhol came into the picture.

An ad placed in The Village Voice by Valerie Solanas on April 27, 1967 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When we hear the name Andy Warhol, fame, pop art, and images of Campbell Soup cans come to mind, but we do not realize the hardships that are also accompanied with this name. Similar to Solanas, Warhol had his share of setbacks while growing up. Warhol’s childhood was marked by crushing poverty during the Great Depression. While his father was away as a laborer, he went door to door with his mother selling handmade flowers in discarded tin cans. His talent soon became apparent and by the age of twelve he had learned to retouch his brother’s photographs. Years later, after receiving B.F.A. degree from Carnegie Mellon University, he permanently moved to New York.5 Unlike Solanas, his life took a turn for the better. In the 1950’s, Warhol gained some standing as a commercial artist. He was hired as chief illustrator for Miller Shoes, and his popularity began to take off. Slowly, his work became more and more well known, and he won several design awards.6 Warhol gained fame through his outrageous behavior and innovative art. His outrageous behavior included such things as painting a self portrait picking his nose, titled The Broad Gave Me My Face, but I Can Pick My Own Nose. He submitted the piece in an exhibit during his senior year of college, but it was rejected.7 The innovative art refers to works of art like his Campbell’s Soup Can that related to the technological world and represented common scenes. Warhol would come to be known as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, and his work became symbolic of Pop Art, and his story as one of rags-to-riches.8

Valerie Solanas in 1967| Courtesy of Wikipedia

Eventually, Valerie Solanas began to associate herself with Warhol’s circle of friends and The Factory, which was a large studio loft that served as a studio and party room. This place attracted celebrities and “near celebrities” who took part in theatrics of various kinds, and soon became a center for pop culture, which attracted a variety of “glamorous people.”9 Solanas appeared in two of Warhol’s films, I, a Man, and Bike Boy. Solanas also hoped that Warhol would help promote her writing. She gave Warhol a copy of her play, Up Your Ass, but he thought the play was too obscene, and ended up misplacing it.10

Solanas did, however, receive attention from Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, who contracted with her to publish her manifesto. As time went on, Solanas grew worried about their contract and believed that Girodias had tricked her into signing over the rights to her written work. Solanas felt that her intellectual property had been rejected and threatened, and so she decided to take matters into her own hands. She armed herself with two guns and went in search of Girodias.11

On the morning of June 3, 1968, Solanas waited for Girodias at his hotel, but he did not return. Armed with two pistols  she decided to look for him at Warhol’s studio. This is where she encountered Warhol and another writer, Mario Amayo. Solanas was angered that he had disregarded her play, and even thought that he may be trying to take credit for it. At 4:15 P.M. Solanas shot Warhol three times. The first gun shot was followed by chaos and confusion. Once Warhol realized what was happening he screamed, “No! No! Valerie! Don’t do it!” but she fired a second time.12 Warhol fell to the ground and tried crawling under the desk. Solanas followed him and fired a third time. This bullet entered Andy’s right side and exited the left side of his back. He recalled feeling as though a firecracker had exploded inside him, which was followed by screams. Valerie believed she had killed Warhol and moved on to her next target, Mario Amayo. She stood over him and fired her fourth shot, but she missed him. As he watched her aim again, Amayo whispered a prayer, after which Solanas shot again. This time she hit her target and he was injured above his hip, but the bullet missed his organs. He was able to stumble to his feet and past double doors that he held shut.13 Solanas believed that they were locked, so she went in search of another victim. She got to another Factory member, who pleaded with Solanas to leave while she still could. Surprisingly, Solanas listened, and she bolted to the elevator and escaped, leaving behind a trail of pain and chaos.

Warhol was rushed to the hospital where he was given a 50/50 chance of survival. He was pronounced clinically dead when he arrived, and his surgical team was astounded at the amount of damage the bullet had done to the interior of his chest.14 The bullet had entered the right side, passed through his lung, ricocheted through his esophagus, gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines, before exiting his left side leaving a large hole. Warhol was in surgery for five and a half hours, after which he survived. On June 13, he was still in intensive care and on the critical list, but doctors reported that he was on his way to recovery.15 Almost four hours later, at 8:00 P.M., Solanas turned herself in to a policeman in Times Square and confessed that she had shot Warhol because he had too much control over her life.16

The grave of Valerie Solanas |Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On June 13 1968, Solanas appeared in court, defended by feminist attorney Florynce Kennedy. It was determined that Solanas was unfit to stand trial and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. A year later, she pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and received a sentence of three years’ imprisonment, which included the year she had already spent in psychiatric confinement.17 After her release, Solanas spent most of her time living in New York, mostly homeless. She relocated to San Francisco several years later, where she began to work on a new manuscript, but died before it was ever completed. When her body was discovered, conditions suggested that she had been dead for days. It was also found that she died of bronchopneumonia, which is an inflammation of the lungs.18

Valerie Solanas craved the approval of Warhol, and to leave an imprint in feminism. Instead, however, Solanas is remembered as the woman who shot Andy Warhol. After the shooting, only a few woman came to her defense; most feminists did not support her ideas. In 1987, a film was produces titled I Shot Warhol that brought Solanas back from obscurity. Even that film, however, did not bring the type of recognition she had so desperately craved.

  1.  Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2013, s.v. “Valerie Solanas,” by Francesca Gamber.
  2. Thomas Riggs, The Manifesto in Literature (Detroit: St. James Press, 2013), 123.
  3. Thomas Riggs, The Manifesto in Literature (Detroit: St. James Press, 2013), 123-125.
  4. Andi Zeister, “Up Your Ass,” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Winter 2008.
  5. The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, 1999, s.v. “Warhol, Andy.”
  6. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Andy Warhol,” by Harry J. Eisenma.
  7. The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, 1999, s.v. “Warhol, Andy.”
  8. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Andy Warhol,” by Harry J. Eisenma.
  9. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Andy Warhol,” by Harry J.Eisenma.
  10. Andi Zeister, “Up Your Ass,” Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Winter 2008.
  11. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History of America, 2004, s.v. “Solanas, Valerie.”
  12. Victor Brokis, Warhol: The Biography (Massachusetts: De Capo Press, 2009), 298.
  13. Victor Brokis, Warhol: The Biography (Massachusetts: De Capo Press, 2009), 298-299.
  14. Richard F. Shepard, “Warhol Gravely Wounded In Studio; Actress Is Held: Woman Says She Shot Artist, Who Is Given a 50-50 Chance to Live,” New York Times, June 1968, https://search.proquest.com/.
  15. Victor Brokis, Warhol: The Biography (Massachusetts: De Capo Press, 2009), 303.
  16. Richard F. Shepard, “Warhol Gravely Wounded In Studio; Actress Is Held: Woman Says She Shot Artist, Who Is Given a 50-50 Chance to Live,” New York Times, June 1968, https://search.proquest.com/.
  17. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History of America, 2004, s.v. “Solanas, Valerie.”
  18. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2013, s.v. “Valerie Solanas,” by Francesca Gamber.
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40 Comments

  • This article is very interesting because I have never heard about this manifesto. Now I actually want to read it to get a full understanding of what it actually says. This article is very well written and engaging, however it needs better transitions. I was confused in some parts of this article because there was no transitions. For example, when it started to talk about Andy Warhol.

  • This article is very well-written and organized. I appreciate the fact that the steps that led Valerie Solanos to her demise are detailed in a way that explains her actions. In the end, she had her own reasoning for taking those actions. I believe she felt that she had been done wrong by the men in her early life and would continue to suffer at the hands of other men.

  • I had never heard of SCUM or Valerie Solanas. Personally, I believe that she gave feminism a very bad name. Feminism is about equality not woman becoming or being superior to men. Truthfully, I think the reason she was so angry towards men was that of the horrible experiences she had with them. That makes me so sad because she could’ve had a better life if her anger towards men didn’t drive her life.

  • Valerie Solanas’ story is definitely one to be remembered. Her manifesto was one that was powered by hate and resentment for the awful acts that she was subjected to by men. This is a perfect example of extremist tendencies as well as toxic feminism. Because she did not approach her manifesto goals in a productive way she ended up deteriorating and pretty much starting a cult. In the end, her mental illness took hold of her and she was unable to healthily attain any of the crazy, extremist goals she had in mind for her SCUM manifesto.

  • I had no prior knowledge on any of the contents before I read the article, but after reading I can say that I have a better understanding. I believe that had Valerie not had such a rough life she might not have went as far as killing Andy Warhol. I think that if she just wanted approval there was many different approaches she could’ve taken than what she did. Overall an amazing read.

  • I had not heard of Valerie Solanas before this article, but I can honestly say I was surprised by the turn of events. I did not expect her to go so far as to go shoot people for disliking her work. Though I do support modern feminists and their ideals, Solanas is too radical in her idea of feminism. I believe men and women should be equal not that men should be destroyed. Great article!

  • Before reading this article I had heard of Andy Warhol and have seen his Campbell Soup art, however, I had never heard of Valerie Solanas or her SCUM Manifesto. I also didn’t know that Warhol had been shot. When reading what Solanas SCUM Manifesto stood for I was shocked, it seems like it would be such a violent manuscript and wouldn’t be supported by barely anyone, which was the case with her play. Solanas did have a rough childhood, especially with being assaulted by her father, which I imagine is what fueled her hatred toward men, however, I do not believe this her upbringing or struggles is an excuse for shooting her Warhol.

  • good article,In almost any woman you can unearth an incredible fury, the Weather Underground activist Bernadine Dohrn once remarked. It is often not even conscious, a threshold thing. But it’s there, and it’s an anger that can be a powerful radicalizing force. The anger that possessed Valerie Solanas was so corrosive and isolating that it refused all solidarities, but its sheer ferocity remains explosive and heady for anyone reading her work now. Not even the MeToo movement has been prepared to voice this level of rage. The predominant tone of #MeToo has been one of indignation and anguish, a kind of righteous vindicated unburdening. Of the many women who have spoken publicly, only Rose McGowan has voiced anything approaching the lacerating fury of the Manifesto. That she has been widely ridiculed for instability is perhaps no accident.

  • The SCUM manifesto is rarely talked about, but when you do hear about it, it’s not in a good way. Valerie Solanas, was extreme in her feminist ways. I don’t believe in a race or a gender being biologically superior to another, it’s an unfortunate lifestyle to have for Valerie, so it would’ve been nice to have seen her recover from her illnesses. Great article by the way!

  • I had no prior knowledge of Valerie Solanas or her manuscript, SCUM Manifesto. I was unaware that he was murdered by a women who I now know as Valerie. It’s interesting that Solanas was going to write yet another manifesto, but she died before doing so. It is possible that her life could have turned out better for her had she gone about it a different way and not living her life off of her ideas in SCUM Manifesto.

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