Issue 18 Fictional States Summer 2005
Inventory / How to Join the Men's Auxillary
“Inventory” is a column that examines or presents a list, catalogue, or register.
“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.” Thus begins Valerie Solanas’s 1967 SCUM Manifesto, a
radical feminist, anarchist, and anti-male text Solanas mimeographed
and distributed on the streets of New York City in 1968. SCUM, or the
Society for Cutting Up Men, was the brainchild of a writer and
playwright who, having first fled her home at age fifteen, and then her
graduate psychology work at the University of Minnesota, supported
herself in Greenwich Village with panhandling and prostitution. She’s
also remembered, of course, as the woman who shot Andy Warhol.
The guidelines typify the witty logorrhea of Solanas’s prose, as well as her sometimes convoluted logic. One thing, however, immediately becomes clear: the men’s auxiliary was not Solanas’s concession to a few good men, but rather a designation for enemies inadvertently working in her favor. “Which men deserve to live?” is not her question so much as “How much evil does one tolerate in an ally?” The first criteria presented indicate types of men to be included in the Men’s Auxiliary. However, “[b]eing in the Men’s Auxiliary is a necessary but not sufficient condition for making SCUM’s escape list.” Solanas goes on to furnish a second set of criteria by which the safety afforded by inclusion is nullified. A drug dealer may be admitted to the Men’s Auxiliary for his corroborative role in eliminating men by promoting lethal drug addiction. But, if he’s a drug dealer in the habit of sitting on stoops and “mar[ring] the landscape” with his presence, he is no less an enemy to SCUM than any other man.
The Men’s Auxiliary was a precarious unit of exemption, if it was one at all. In fact, the man Solanas invited to be president of SCUM was Warhol himself, prior to the shooting on 3 June 1968. Another man she intended to kill that day was her publisher, Maurice Girodias, who—for offering Solanas an advance to publish a novel based on the SCUM Manifesto—was surely also a member. Far from an insurance policy, the Men’s Auxiliary is better understood as shorthand for the categorical instability of ally and archenemy in Solanas’s scheme of things. As is logically appropriate, Solanas had to test her rule—all men are scum—by its exceptions, and found the rule held true.
Sasha Archibald is an associate editor of Cabinet.
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© 2005 Cabinet Magazine