In the latest installment of its “Overlooked” series, the New York Times has chosen an exceptionally vile subject for what the paper believes is a long-overdue obituary: Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who shot Andy Warhol and called for the extermination of men in her 1967 “SCUM Manifesto.”
In 1968, a deluded Solanas shot Warhol in his New York apartment, believing that he and his friend, French publisher Maurice Girodias, were conspiring against her. Warhol survived the attack, while Solanas was institutionalized for a few months.
Though her attack on Warhol is her claim to fame, Solanas’ radical feminist writings are what garnered praise from the Times:
The manifesto, self-published in 1967, reads as satire, though Solanas defended it as serious. Its opening line is at once absurd and a call to arms for the coalition she was forming, the Society for Cutting Up Men:
“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.”
On the subject of reproduction, she wrote: “We should produce only whole, complete beings, not physical defects or deficiencies, including emotional deficiencies, such as maleness.”
Oddly enough, the Times didn’t feel the need to include this quote from the SCUM Manifesto:
SCUM will kill all men who are not in the Men’s Auxiliary of SCUM. Men in the Men’s Auxiliary are those men who are working diligently to eliminate themselves…. A few examples of the men in the Men’s Auxiliary are: men who kill men; … journalists, writers, editors, publishers and producers who disseminate and promote ideas that will lead to the achievement of SCUM’s goals; faggots who, by their shimmering, flaming example, encourage other men to de-man themselves and thereby make themselves relatively inoffensive…
Journalist Timothy Noah explains that, in Solanas’ dystopia, all men would be required to participate in “Turd Sessions,” in which every man is required to say, “I am a turd, a lowly abject turd,” Each man would then be compelled to “list all the ways in which he is.”
The Times also points to “Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote Scum (and Shot Andy Warhol),” a biography written by Breanne Fahs, in which Fahs demonstrates that Solanas never meant for her writing to be interpreted as satire.
Solanas’ friend, Jeremiah Newton, asked if her manifesto was to be taken literally. “I don’t want to kill all men,” she replied. “I think males should be neutered or castrated so they can’t mess up any more women’s lives.”
The Times continues, noting the dissent among feminists at the time when Solanas shot Warhol:
Her attack on Warhol fractured mainstream feminist groups, including the National Organization for Women, whose members were split on whether to defend or condemn her. Those who defended her, including the writer Ti-Grace Atkinson and the lawyer Flo Kennedy, formed the bedrock of radical feminism and presented Solanas as a symbol of female rage. The shooting became wrapped up in a larger narrative on gun violence when Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot the next day.
The Times continues its rosy depiction of Solanas as an underrated revolutionary:
The text distilled the anger and yearning that Solanas had exhibited throughout her life. In college, as a recently-out lesbian, she rallied against the idea that educated women should be defined as wives and mothers, even as she acknowledged that, in a society ruled by men, such fates were probably inevitable.
Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen, a former NYT employee and a “loyal reader” was disgusted by the glowing editorial on Solanas:
But…come on. If you work for The Times, I hope you are in some way able to raise your voice against what can only be described as a grotesque embarrassment, not to mention a contradiction of Black [Men’s] Lives Matter. Maybe the headline will be gone or changed by the time you read this, but the saddest part is that this seems to be part of a pattern, not just a one-off mistake. I’ve known many people at the NYT, at various levels, and each and every one has seemed like a good (and talented) person to me. I can only conclude that something has gone very very badly wrong in the editorial control process.
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