From the New York Times’ “Overlooked No More” column, where they give obituaries to women whom they previously overlooked due to systemic sexism:
Overlooked No More: Valerie Solanas, Radical Feminist Who Shot Andy Warhol
She made daring arguments in “SCUM [Society for Cutting Up Men] Manifesto,” her case for a world without men. But her legacy as a writer and thinker was overshadowed by one violent act.
By Bonnie Wertheim
June 26, 2020
Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times. This month we’re adding the stories of important L.G.B.T.Q. figures.
On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas walked into Andy Warhol’s studio, the Factory, with a gun and a plan to enact vengeance. What happened next came to define her life and legacy: She fired at Warhol, nearly killing him. But the incident, which reduced her to a tabloid headline, was hardly her most meaningful moment in history.
Solanas was a radical feminist (though she would say she loathed most feminists), a pioneering queer theorist and the author of “SCUM Manifesto,” in which she argued for the wholesale extermination of men.
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.”
She sold copies in leftist bookstores and on the streets of Greenwich Village for $1 ($2 if the buyer was a man).
… On that day in June, when she walked into Warhol’s studio, newly located at 33 Union Square West, Warhol wasn’t there. Solanas left and returned several times, until she spotted him on the sidewalk. Together they rode the building’s elevator up to the sixth floor.
Soon, there were gunshots.
In other words, gun violence broke out.
Warhol was taken to Columbus Hospital. Solanas’s bullets had punctured his stomach, liver, spleen, esophagus and lungs. At one point, the doctors pronounced him dead. (He would live for 19 more years, wearing a surgical corset to support his abdomen.)
In other words, Warhol never really recovered and eventually sort of died from his wounds at age 58, making Solanas a sort of murderer rather than just an attempted murderer.
… 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.
That darn gun violence kept breaking out.
… She was deemed unable to stand trial and was sent for a psychiatric evaluation at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where she received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. The evaluators also noted her intelligence-test scores, which placed her in the 98th percentile.
An interesting question about a more interesting person, Andy Warhol, is: What was his IQ? Gore Vidal said “Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60.” And he generally tried to act dim.
On the other hand, he was immensely successful financially, and has become even more popular with the general public after his death as the clown prince who exposed the pretensions of art (while making a fortune off the pretensions of art, which makes it even better).
Looking into it, I see that Warhol graduated from imposing Carnegie-Mellon Tech in 1949. On the other hand, he didn’t major in cybernetics or whatever, but with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in commercial art. So, I’d figure he had a 3 digit IQ but not a huge one.
As I pointed out in 2016, Warhol and Trump are not hugely dissimilar figures, super salesmen with a gift for explaining how New York works in crassly simple terms. In fact, Warhol developed a crush on Trump in 1981, painting him on spec eight pictures of Trump Tower to hang in Trump Tower. But Trump refused to pay the famous artist for the unasked-for pictures because they clashed with Trump Tower’s color scheme, when enraged Andy against Donald.