Accepted paper:

Feminist dystopias? On Solanas's radical heritage for the post-war Women's Movements


Marcel Wrzesinski (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Giessen)

Paper short abstract:

In her "SCUM Manifesto" (1967) Valerie Solanas advocates radical dis/identification and envisions an odd future. This paper measures the impact of "SCUM" within radical feminist memory and traces its ideas back to Druskowitz's "Pessimistische Kardinalsätze" (1905).

Paper long abstract:

US radical feminism (1967-1975) was a memorable period in the post-war Women's Movements. It provided the "feminist" with groundbreaking activist practices (e.g. "consciousness raising"); it also deprived the Women's Movements of its myth of unity. While criticizing the conciliatory tone of the so-called "liberal feminist", these radicals established fringe groups and published manifestos, which promptly became notorious. One of the most infamous is Valerie Solanas's "SCUM Manifesto" (1967): she showcases key radical issues such as the dis/identification with the concept of "woman" and the critique on male epistemology. Eventually, she envisions a future society, which is liberated from patriarchal dominance through the extinction of the male race. By all means, such a society is composed ahistorically and will vanish itself in the end. This paper addresses the desire for imagining the future by analyzing the mnemonic context of the manifesto. A dense description of the text and the circumstances surrounding its production enables us, on one hand, to trace its semantics back to Helene Druskowitz's manifesto "Pessimistische Kardinalsätze" (1905). While her challenging thoughts have already been part of the 1960s radical memories, Solanas's invoking of them, on the other hand, constitutes another important mark in the cultural memory of the second wave feminism. Solanas's and Druskowitz's interventions can be read as performative gestures that deal with unbearable social circumstances. They thereby became founding myths and historical benchmarks used to measure the impact of radical feminist thought from the 1960s onward.

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Radical memories, imagined futures: practices of history-making and prefiguration in social movements