Valerie Solanas
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Idleness, Utopia

VALERIE SOLANAS (1936-88) has been called the “first outstanding champion of women’s rights” (Ti-Grace Atkinson) and, less charitably though no less admiringly, the “Robespierre of feminism” (Norman Mailer). She earned these epithets not because she shot Andy Warhol, but because her 1968 SCUM Manifesto declared, among other things, that the American ideal of manhood is “the well-behaved heterosexual dullard”; that “maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples”; and that after SCUM (i.e., women regarded with scorn and fear because they reject contemporary forms and norms) rise up and smash the patriarchy, “the few remaining men can exist out their puny days dropped out on drugs or strutting around in drag or passively watching the high-powered female in action.” Anyone who’s done time in an American home, school, or workplace will recognize the essential truth of everything that Solanas writes about men… which is why we shouldn’t pigeonhole her as a feminist. The first few words of her manifesto — “Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore” — indicate that she is, instead, a lucid, funny, anti-ideological utopian and idler cut from the same cloth as better-known male contemporaries like Abbie Hoffman, Eldridge Cleaver, and Woody Allen. SCUM = Society for Cutting Up Micawberish. Where do I apply for membership?

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Joshua Glenn is a cultural and brand semiotician, and co-principal of the agency SEMIOVOX LLC. He is editor and publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age sci-fi paperback imprint HILOBOOKS. He is author of (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY (2008) and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY (2011), and editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY (2007) and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (2012). With Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone, Josh produced the popular family activities guides UNBORED (2012), UNBORED GAMES (2014), and UNBORED ADVENTURE (2015), not to mention two UNBORED activity kits from MindWare. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons.