Redstockings and S.C.U.M.:   Two Contrasting (And Failed) Approaches of the Late 1960’s 

The Redstockings Manifesto and  S.C.U.M. Manifesto together exemplify the internal division of the women’s movement. Written only two years apart, these manifestos are notably different. This division among feminist groups contextualizes the subsequent and continual stagnation of the movement. And this division is relayed most clearly by each manifesto’s unique approach to the audience and the “enemy.”

In terms of audience, each manifesto has a separate approach both in writing style and inclusion of readers.  While the Redstockings’ manifesto is written in a  unifying and uncomplicated tone that fosters a relationship with the audience (using “we” to create an affinity), Valerie Solanas’ S.C.U.M. Manifesto is isolated, bizarre, complicated, and not relatable. And while Redstockings uses the inclusive “we” in each new stanza, Solanas appeals only to the “few good women” worthy and capable of joining S.C.U.M.. The exclusivity that ostracizes Solanas is paralleled by The Redstockings Group’s opposing method: eager-to-please, generic feminist appeal. Yet feminism’s inclusion–once a question of race, religion, or ethnicity–today extends further to issues such as sexual orientation, “queerness,” political affiliation, etc. Feminists have a long tradition of searching for growth and support while still remaining exclusive. Note the failings of any manifesto read in class to make a space–without excuse–for feminist men. Each manifesto fails to capture a lasting audience–the only other result they have in common. Yet somehow these two incredibly different groups each claim to have the solutions for all problems surrounding feminism.

These two manifestos’ polarizing differences continue in each individual definition of “the enemy.” The Redstockings Manifesto approaches women’s issues with a Marxist appeal: women are an “oppressed class,” defined most by their relation to those in power, regardless of gender. This creates a small space for many other groups to join this oppressed class of women, and creates a more open kind of feminism. On the other hand, S.C.U.M. defines the enemy most clearly as men, viewing women as an oppressed gender. Solanas characterizes feminists first by their genitals, and by their standing in current society second, in part due to her plan for a complete global overhaul of that society. Each manifesto’s claim to truth forces all opposing feminist theory to then be interpreted as false. For example, this division between feminist sects’ definition of “enemy” extends to redefining each group’s allies, polarizing the groups further. Neither manifesto acknowledges, however, the internal enemy in feminist organizations.

Of course,  both groups ultimately fail at unifying women of the late 1960’s. Instead they more deeply define the schism between  ideologies in the feminist community. The Redstockings group underwhelms with a voice meant to please everyone that captures no one, while Solanas’ S.C.U.M. Manifesto’s message drowns  in extremism and improbability. The end result–a division of force and diffusion of bright, capable, proactive feminists–continues today in the many subsets, cliques, and “true” feminisms present in  our culture.

  Redstockings and S.C.U.M.:   Two Contrasting (And Failed) Approaches of the Late 1960’s 

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