NYC Feminist Reading Group

August 19, 2010, 11:38 am
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Women Workers, Take Up Your Rifles! (1918) Lev Brodoty

Women Workers, Take Up Your Rifles! (1918) Lev Brodoty

SCUM – notes
March 14, 2010, 6:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

  • Is Solanis talking about being the existence of an essential pre-cultural man/woman? On pages 2-3 of the verso copy, she gives a list of traits that are innately male: men are egocentric, incapable of empathy, full if sexuality, completely visceral and never cerebral, incapable of mental passion, psychically passive, half-dead. This is innately male, and no matter what men try to do to make themselves more powerful or alive, they are still essentially male in this pre-cultural way. Men are consumed with guilt, shame, fear, insecurity, and try anything to become more like or get close to a woman. Screwing is his attempt to be close to a woman because he wants to be a woman. The only attempt Solanas seems to approve of is becoming a drag queen, which includes cutting off his dick.
  • Similarly, there is an essential woman; she is capable of love, empathy, mental brilliance.
  • Men want these female traits so they fuck women to become women. Men cannot truly love or mother, so they collect that then give away money. They cannot love or be loved so they want power and control.
  • Basically, men are essentially shitty, women are essentially groovy, but men try to control women so they cannot be groovy and must culturally adopt all the super lame male traits like lack of passion and lack of knowledge. Men try to take women’s traits on as their own but cannot truly succeed in doing so. Because being a man or a woman is immutable, the sexes actually maintain their essential qualities even when they are being culturally distorted, exploited or repressed.


  • Male-males are these essential males with their shitty character traits. Examples I heard mentioned after our conversation included “owen and his manboobs” and “freddy the maoist.” I will remove their names when I paste this on the blog.
  • Women-males are these essential males who acknowledge their shittiness and join the men’s auxilary? Still unclear on this.
  • Daddy-girls are women who defer to the power men try to steal and pander to men, never knowing or utilizing their female grooviness.
  • Women-women are empowered, self actualized women. SCUM. I think. Correct me if I’m wrong.


  • what does it mean for men to eliminate themselves??
  • Women are complicit in this (Simone D’Bovoire talks about this)
  • If we treat Solanas’ decision to essentialize men and women as a product of her living under patriarchy we can bring a critical eye to it.
  • DIRECTIVE: don’t just stop worshiping me, don’t ust stop being a daddy’s-girl, also stop worshiping male-women, stop worshiping men who worship the throne of men/capitalism/academia/etc.
  • What is her position on gay men/cross dressers?
  • We can all relate to the experience of seeing these qualities in men and trying to ignore them. Especially radical males.
  • pg24 – sepratism means you are complicit in the system because you are dropping out instead of fucking it up.
  • SCUM is not a mob, because mobs are contained. SCUM are diffused into society. Their actions are discriminate, not careless, but they spread chaos throughout society.
  • Solanas’ individual is not the selfish capitalist male individual we know. It is empathetic, present. Instead of being self absorbed she is self forgetting.
  • Being self absorbed means being part of the mob, it means you are not enacting empathy and really being an individual.
  • Higher education does not educate, it excludes!!!!!
  • This is a white middle class account of culture and oppression. Does she have the responsibility to acknowledge this and situate her argument? Does she have the responsibility and/or the right to talk about race in this manifesto?
  • It’s cool how she oscillates between, or maybe connects, nihilism and utopianism.
  • Revolutions have never been male-lead. Men just write history as and after it happens, so they have written history as if revolutions were male lead.
  • A text to reference: Italian feminist thought – pushed by the violence of desires.
  • Men don’t have true investment in revolution – the section on hippies and commune.
  • technology and science will save us. no evaluation of how scientific and technological discourses are male, patriarchal, etc – they will be taken over by women and they will liberate us.
  • We can live eternally and will never have to reproduce.
  • Living forever will help the utopian women’s world because so many male power schemes are based (accumulation, achievement, expansion) are based on fear-of-death and mortality.
  • fuck the male-females, the daddy’s-girls.

Nina Power
January 25, 2010, 4:41 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In this post is the attachment Ona got for Nina Powers’ paper on Shulamith Firestone. Powers presented her paper at the Critical Feminisms panel at last weekends Historical Materialism conference.

Towards a Cybernetic Communism: The Technology of the Anti-Family, by Dr Nina Power, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy @ Roehampton University.

I couldn’t successfully upload the second file, which was a PDF of her book One Dimensional Woman. Plz take a crack at it! Maybe we should have a blog skillshare?

xoxo basha

Caliban & the Witch Notes
January 18, 2010, 8:54 pm
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some notes from the meeting!

  • primitive accumulation is the material (and social?) conditions necessary for capitalism to occur.
  • p 63 – marx forgot the role of women in primitive accumulation.a
  • it’s useful to investigate the difference between the use of women’s bodies in primitive accumulation vs the ongoing violence and accumulation and of women’s bodies under capitalism.
  • p14 – women is a necessary label and category, because of the structural violence against and oppression of women throughout history. capitalism and history have used women as a class, and we have to acknowledge that subjectivity. to understand how female subjectivities are produced under different historical conditions and in different historical times, we need the understand women as a category and as a class.
  • p15 – sylvia federici criticizes foucault’s analysis of the body as a product of discourse – she maintains that it is the product of class relations and material realities.
  • p16 – bio power = self policing, internalizing power/oppression, panopticon.
  • p16 – the problem with foucault’s theory that power is dynamic and transcending a source or object, is that there is vast historical president for the oppression of women as a class.
  • p17 – primitive accumulation did not cease, as marx imagined it would, as capitalism developed. instead, groups like the IMF, world bank etc help to act out primitive accumulation on a global scale.
  • how does starting with primitive accumulation, with the oppression of the proletariat, with women under capitalism, ignore the larger history of women under patriarchy? is lerner’s thesis commensurate with federicis? …lerner locates subordination of women in how men control women’s sexuality. federici takes this same premise to talk about women’s oppression under capitalism/women’s oppression laying the ground for capitalism in primitive accumulation.
  • women were oppressed under the feudal system, but they were not also oppressed as members of the proletariat – aka they were suffering under patriarchy, but were not further alienated from their labor and means production through a wage labor system, or through a staunch sexual division of labor.
  • to whom do we refer when we say the state?
  • state/capitalist oppression was mimicked by family units – the men controlled the women and the children. this taught them privatization, possession of people, and patriarchy. it reproduces the structure of the state. power like this is not post-structuralist in nature – it is not an abstract mystical power, it is a power with a violent and deliberate source.
  • p25 – when women have to go through men for capital, they are further oppressed.
  • p74 – from a subsistence to a money economy, women were conscripted to reproductive work, which had no money value and was not allowed to compete on the market.
  • p47 – in the gang rapes against women, was the anger of men actually directed toward the state and being redirected toward the proletariat women? or was there already outstanding anger toward women which was alone enough to instigate gang rapes in this violent historical moment?
    -what are the different forms that womens oppression and violence take before and outside of capitalism – how do we keep these in mind while reading these works on oppression in capitalist systems?

Notes and Reflections! Creation of Patriarchy pt2
January 3, 2010, 2:25 am
Filed under: Reading Response

Notes from today’s meetings! Thoughts we had! Please Post freely!

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these are the notes i took during today’s meeting, of central ideas and questions we had. sorry if i missrepresented anything, feel free to add/edit:

  • initially gerda lerner’s analysis is a materialist (and functionalist?) one; that is to say, lerner believes that the material conditions of early human existence like geography, childbirth, etcetera determined the social/patriarchal conditions of life. but as she moves on to analyze more developed communities she includes the influence of culture and symbols inform her analysis of the conditions that create and perpetuate patriarchy.
  • myths and symbols both create and perpetuate the social conditions of patriarchy.
  • culture begets culture; through symbols and institutionalization culture reproduces itself.
  • is gender oppression a functional device? originating from material conditions? that is to say, does gender oppression originate from material necessity like securing land and children, but continue in order to serve the social institution of patriarchy and the power of the state?
  • is gender oppression created to forward the state/nation, or to serve men as a class group? aka patriarchy for the state, or patriarchy for the man? could it be both?
  • p213 – women as a class, or women and men as history’s class distinction. women as the first oppressed and enslaved group, from which men/society learned to enslave other men.
  • a marxist analysis: class distinction is made between who own the means of production and who do not… women have the original means to reproduce aka wombs/childbirth, so men dominating them is the first time men take control of the means of production. when women become child-bearers under a patriarchy, it is the original experience of becoming divorced and alienated from their meas of (biological) production.
  • a marxist analysis: childbirth is also the original division of labor. it created the male/female nature/science cultural dichotomy. (more on p224)
  • genesis: when men control the creation of symbols and begin to name and rename, it is as if they are taking on the power of creation and life-giving.
  • genesis: male gods are put in the place of the female goddesses, and this removes reproduction from the story of the creation of the world.
  • genesis p181 – man is viewed as a mother through an inversion of the creation myth; he becomes an agent of total creation and (non biological) reproduction.
  • under capitalism/in the modern western world, men are no longer conscripted to their biological roles, but women are.
  • p215: man functions as a gate keeper or mediator between woman and god. if you supplement knowledge, class, power, for the word god, the sentence holds true.
  • p215: women in contemporary western society have gained access to knowledge, class, power, and god, without needing a man to access it for them. however, they are still merely gaining access to patriarchal systems instead of liberating themselves from patriarchy all together.
  • p215: in modern capitalism, has race surpassed gender as the foremost globally and nationally oppressed class?
  • how do we feel about biological arguments? is it too mailable, convenient to say that women are oppressed because of childbirth, breastfeeding, menstruation – the list goes on?
  • lerner seems to say that in the earliest nomadic human communities, biology was one of the most basic and important material conditions, so a biological argument in this case is also a material/marxist one. but once culture, religion, economics, state power, class, race… and other modern conditions come into play, do we feel comfortable assuming the biological factor is nullified? or is it still relevant?
  • p224: women are culturally conscripted to a biological sphere, and kept out of male scientific/intellectual sphere. women and oppressed classes around the world are afforded an intimate knowledge that visceral, emotional, experiential, ambiguous – unlike the culturally valued type of knowledge of rational abstract thought which is controlled by and only afforded to men. it is not that one type of knowledge is inherently male and the other female, but that patriarchal social roles regulate who has access to each of these knowledge type while simultaneously valuing one of the other. people who have been handed power and privilege cannot understand experiential knowledge, and people who are denied power and privilege are denied access to rational abstract an socially valued knowledge systems. the types of thought that only the oppressed have are equally valuable and should be considered culturally legitimate.


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Next meeting and our thoughts from last time
December 24, 2009, 6:30 am
Filed under: Reading Response

sunday JAN 3, 2pm
Finish the book (Creation of Patriarchy)

to keep in mind…

  • Question of women relating to question of what is human.
  • SYMBOLS and the domination of symbols, semiotics, can symbols control us? Where is the material base? Money as the template for the domination of symbol. Symbols are powerful when social power is controlled by people who wield symbols?
  • How the domination/exploitation of women comes BEFORE slavery, before exploitation in capitalism.
  • Patriarchy-as-process, tracing the evolution of it, tracing evolution of gender, symbols of gender, division of labor…
  • Evolution of the feminist subject.
  • COMPLICITY of women in their exploitation, complicity of men in debasing their own lives
  • how to be unbiased?
  • Agency and question of Feminism. To what degree do we (can we) accept gender, not accept gender, act on these things?

to see there’s a break, to see there’s a social construct, allows to grasp it and change it



Notes from Dec 20/ The Creation of Patriarchy pt I
December 23, 2009, 5:14 pm
Filed under: Reading Response

It would be real cool if we could all post any notes and or questions we have from last meeting on this entry. Log in with the information Nicole sent out and start adding, anonymously or otherwise:

adam’s rib musta been hella magical
Lerner’s project posits patriarchy as creation- as a system that has been brought into existence. She discloses male domination as a historic phenomenon that “arose out of a biologically determined given situation and became a culturally created and enforced structure over time (42).” -and elsewhere- “Although questions of ‘origin’ initially interested me, I soon realized that they were far less significant than questions about the historical process by which patriarchy becomes established and institutionalized (7).

To view patriarchy as process and not product of biological determinants (or a magical rib cage) we are presented with the potential to radically intervene in the cycle that reaffirms patriarchy as an establishment and the subjugated roles of women within it.

on symbols
“What I am attempting to do in my book is to trace, by means of historical evidence, the development of the leading ideas, symbols, and metaphors by which patriarchal gender relations were incorporated into Western civilization. Each chapter is built around one of these metaphors for gender… In this book I have endeavored to isolate and identify the forms in which Western civilization constructed gender and to study them at moments or in periods of change. These forms consist of social norms embodied in social roles, in laws, and in metaphors. In a way, these forms represent historical artifacts, from which it is possible to deduce the social reality which gave rise to the idea or to the metaphor. By tracing the changes in metaphor or image, it should be possible to trace the underlying historical developments in society, even in the absence of other historical evidence. In the case of Mesopotamian society, the abundance of historical evidence makes it possible, in most case, to confirm one’s analysis of symbols by comparison with such hard evidence.”

I thought this quote would be good to share in reference to our discussion concerning the relationship between symbols and material conditions.  Or to help us understand how Lerner utilizes symbols as means of interpreting- or re-interpreting- history & History (see Lerner’s distinction on p4). Lerner argues for symbols as representations of metaphors of gender. They are, for Lerner , just as revelatory as social norms, written text, or social law. It helps to use the example of how women slaves or women prostitutes were marked visibly to distinguish specific women with a specific (inferior) status.

But the relationship, as we discussed on Sunday,  is not so simple:

“Here we need to stress only the difficulty of reasoning from such evidence [here she is referring to mother-goddess figures] toward the construction of social organizations in which women were dominant. In view of the historical evidence for the coexistence of symbolic idolatry of women and the actual low status of women, such as the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages, the cult of the lady of the plantation in antebellum America, or that of the Hollywood star in contemporary society, one hesitates to elevate such evidence to historical proof” (29)

Here, symbols can exist as false representations of women. Maybe we can distinguish this as Woman (representation/symbol) vs. Women (material conditions/lived experience). In her above example there is a clear disconnect between symbol (woman) and actual status of women. But this disparity is precisely what allows us to grasp the nature of symbols. That is as representations or constructions of gender. And much like lerner’s understanding of patriarchy, they are representations that have been constructed over time to perpetually immobilize, and control women through various methods.

This idea resonates with something else that interests me which is women’s particular relationship to representations of gender. Even though gender is constructed, it becomes something that is absorbed by men and women and made into something that is REAL. This leads into a conversation on complicity and ideology so I’ll have to add more. I just wanted to put this down for now.

It will be interesting to see where the following chapters lead and if she abandons or elevates one form of historical evidence over another, i.e. symbol vs social roles, laws, conditions. The first six chapters seems to rely more heavily on earlier texts, law, within ancient civilization and not as heavily on symbol.