SCUM Manifesto

I read the SCUM Manifesto quite some time ago. Far from a radical feminist, I figured it would do me good to expose myself to political literature on the opposite side of the spectrum. Fortunately, it’s quite short, so I can just re-read it to write my review. Is review the right word? I’m not here to tell you if it’s good book or if the writing’s bad. I did want to share my thoughts on the book. Apologies in advance for being overly political.

Verb definition of review

Huh, I didn’t know that “to review” implied change is possible. Seeing how Valerie is dead I suppose this is more of a ramble than a review.

Foreword

To pad its petite length, my copy of the SCUM Manifesto comes with a foreword by Michelle Tea. I found the first five and half pages rather engaging. Michelle shares her experience of family and fatherhood and wrestles with the fact that her step-father that makes her mom happy is also a perverted creep. Unfortunately this interesting insight into the human psyche ends there and laughably simplistic claims follow. Among other things, Michelle asserts that all women are prostitutes, and that there are no professional sex workers.  That she was a prostitute that did petty evil things to her clients and why it’s okay to be evil if you’re scared. She evens recollects her plans to blow up fraternities and deciding not to because she didn’t want to do it alone (because that would be crazy). Michelle’s rationalization of her terrible life choices and violent bigotries sets the tone perfectly for the SCUM Manifesto, and slides nicely into her introduction of the author, Valerie Solanas.

Michelle praises Solanas’ ability to use humor as a hammer for the truth. That the book is to be taken seriously and not seriously at the same time. SCUM will crack you up page after page, but the book is not a joke; it is a painfully funny commentary on an absurd reality.

It is so; so funny that it’s hard for me not to condemn anyone bothered by it as painfully lacking a sense of humor.

I personally like dark, absurdist humor and believe humor is a powerful weapon for truth, but I did not find this book funny. It’s one trick is calling men sub humans. That’s the joke. This hardly speaks about the human condition or the absurdity of reality. Instead it’s transparently political, angry and so painfully one-sided that it cannot possibly be a tool of insight except into the author’s tiny, warped mind.

Michelle introduces Valerie’s other political aims besides eliminating men, which reads like a high school communist’s Christmas list: class warfare, overthrowing the government and eliminating money. Michelle points out that so many people get worked up over the calls to genocide that they miss the class rage. Michelle posits that her class commentary, calls to genocide and vulgar language is why she wasn’t noticed by her feminist peers until she attempted to murder Andy Warhol. It seems that many people were fascinated with her life, but no one wanted to claim her as their own. Michelle laments, “In the end, it may be the criminals, the prostitutes and the artists that will claim her” but in reality she died alone.

The Hags

Michelle goes on a tangent to talk about a butch dyke street gang named The Hags, which, for the record, is an awesome gang name. The Hags all meet terrible deaths as a result of their criminal lifestyle: mental illness, flesh eating bacteria, cancer. Except one. One of them transitions to a man, sobers up and lives. I really liked this aside because it confirms my belief that a lot of the virulently hateful butch lesbians and enbies are just trans men that can’t accept themselves. Like anti gay politicians or preachers that turn out to be gay. I’m surprised that Michelle included it in her foreword given it seems an excellent counter argument to the entire manifesto.

Controversy and Conclusion

Michelle curated performance to commemorate Valerie, but decided to shut it down as “unexpected” controversy around the event grew. The main protestors were gay men and trans women, which is unsurprising given her hateful, bigoted and genocidal attitude towards them.

I might not find the SCUM Manifesto funny, but I am finding the foreword hilarious in a way even Valerie might have appreciated. I am actually shocked that Michelle idolized Valerie given how much Valerie would have hated her. Valerie lived by her own rules and specifically advocated for criminal behavior. Michelle is too cowardly to blow up fraternities unless she has social acceptance from her friend. Michelle passes on joining the Hags, despite her own admission that they are Valerie clones, because they are too rough and criminal for her. To top it all off, Michelle cancels Valerie’s memorial event due to controversy!

Possibly Valerie, loyal to no demographic but her constructed, imaginary SCUM Woman, would have appreciated the hoopla, but I was frankly too exhausted and bummed to carry on, and pulled the plug on the event.

Michelle, you are a poser. Valerie would likely hate you. Your foreword includes a story where everyone that lives Valerie’s lifestyle dies a horrible death and the only one that doesn’t becomes a man. Thank you for the laugh. The manifesto is not darkly humorous but your foreword certainly is laughable.

SCUM Manifesto

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.

The opening paragraph nicely sums up and sets the tone for the SCUM Manifesto; Valerie doesn’t like society, she doesn’t like men and she’d like to eliminate both. For the uninitiated, SCUM stands for “The Society for Cutting Up Men” and is not so much an actual society but a state of mind. Valerie wastes no time attempting to justify her hate by listing all of the ways that men are worthy only of death and servitude. Valerie’s theorizes that men screw because they know they’re incomplete women and want to fuse with women to become whole. They also screw to defend against their desire to be female. If that seems contradictory, don’t think about it too hard, Valerie didn’t either. The result of this lack is that men cause things like: war, niceness, dignity, politeness, prostitution, marriage, money, work and prevent the automation of society.

The entire manifesto is a meandering stream of consciousness, so I’ll just briefly discuss  general themes in the sub sections below.

Daddy Issues

Valerie goes on for a bit talking about “Daddy” the father figure of the household. She laments that fathers now provide moral guidance to their children and disappointment at their moral failings, preferring men that beat their children because those men are easier to hate. Freud would have a field day with Valerie, she frequently mentions “Big Momma,” “Big Daddy,” “Daddy’s Girls” in her writing and metaphors.  as she talks about dads wanting to fuck their daughters, steal “momma” for themselves, suck on her breasts, etc…

Individuality

Valerie believes that men are fully physical and automatic creatures not capable of emotion, thinking, creativity or individuality. They are capable of thinking, but not real cognition, a distinction presumably left up to the reader to discern. Her view of female individuality reads like a bad Tumblr post:

In actual fact, the female function is to relate, groove, love and be herself, irreplaceable by anyone else; the male function is to produce sperm. We now have sperm banks. In actual fact, the female function is to explore, discover, invent, solve problems, crack jokes, make music – all with love. In other words, create a magical world.

In actual fact, you sound like high teenager waxing romantic about why they’re so special and society is like, a total drag, man.

Valerie mentions that the suburbs are to bolster a man’s sense of individuality by letting him keep his woman away from other men by isolating her in a self absorbed family unit. Hippy communes are equally condemnable, even though in many ways they are the opposite of a suburban life. This is because they’re just in it for the free access to pussy and will eventually drag some simple minded woman off into the suburbs as soon as they feel insecure enough.

A woman not only takes her identity and individuality for granted, but knows instinctively that the only wrong is to hurt others, and that the meaning of life is love.

I found this statement funny from someone that shot a man in real life and wrote a manifesto promoting genocide. In addition, anyone that takes their identity for granted is in danger of being the most ignorant conformist and claiming that the meaning of life is “love” is as underspecified as “do good, not bad.”

Men & Society

Valeria has much to say about society The Patriarchy™. She asserts that men can’t be TruRebels™ because the men on top want to maintain the status quo, and the men on the bottom want to be the man on the top; implying that all societies patriarchies are interchangeable which is surprisingly insightful on the prevalence of hierarchies across culture and time but equally without nuance. She believes society is setup to prevent friendships, love and conversation and in its place provides great art, culture, sexuality and boredom.

Valerie asserts that art and culture are man made constructs to make up for the lack of friends, conversation and love. Arts purpose is to make men seem heroic, but fails because men are soulless husks with nothing to communicate. To Valerie, the only true artists are “funky females grooving on each other and everything else in the universe.” Surprisingly there is a little nugget of wisdom in her screed. She does make a point about appealing to authority to know what art is good and which is bad. She also calls people out for virtue signaling, “…they can pride themselves on the ability to appreciate the “finer” things, to see a jewel where there is only a turd (they want to be admired for admiring).”

Automation & Knowledge

Repeated throughout SCUM, Valerie asserts that men hoard a wealth of knowledge so that no one will ever find out that men are biologically and psychologically inferior to women. In actual fact, men are so insecure and so desire to work monotonous jobs that they actively hold back progress and automation. Valeries predicts that thanks to men computers will never be widespread. From the comfort of our future perspective we can see just how wrong she was.

Sexuality

Surprisingly, for someone that talks so much about sex, Valerie promotes borderline asexuality as the ‘rational’ position for someone to take. Like a Catholic priest handing out Graham’s crackers she believes that anyone who has sex cannot be cerebral and rational (like herself presumably). Furthermore she believes that people who enjoy sex are likely to be nice people while people that reduce it to the mere act of fucking or abstain all together are likely to be violent psychopaths (again, presumably like herself).

Conclusion

There is a lot I don’t sympathize with in this book. In part, this may be an artifact of its time. I wasn’t alive in the 60’s and perhaps the world has changed so drastically that this book appears lunatic. Mostly I think it’s the high school revenge fantasy style of writing with the goal of promoting genocide. Each page makes plain her ignorance on every topic she cares about. Even if the manifesto is not supposed to be taken seriously then it still reveals how much hatred and impotence is in her heart.

This ended up being longer than I had planned for, it’s so stupid that I wasn’t even sure if it was worth quoting or going through point by point. The book is a trip to crazy town and the only thing it is good for is identifying self professed Valeri admirers as the rotten people they are.

Possible Trans Man

In a twist of dark irony I suspect that Valerie was a trans man. I think Michelle suspects this as well, and makes mention of it in her foreword. Throughout the book there is bizarre insistence by Valerie that men are women and women are men. Besides making the manifesto even more confused and contradictory, it seems to me that she is projecting her own dysphoria onto the world. Why would she do this? Michelle posits that trans people weren’t well known when Valerie lived, but I think Valerie was well acquainted with the queer community to not have ignorance as an excuse. If anything it was her own prejudices that sealed her fate, and I can’t help but feel a smöl bit of schadenfreude.

Dual-Gender Macrochimerism Microupdate

In a recent post I mentioned that males raised as women from birth (complete with GRS, HRT) transition back to male at a rate several orders of magnitude above the general population rate of transition.

A friend reminded me of a similar case we learned about in AP Psychology. The tragic case of David Reimer. David had a botched circumcision that led to a sex reassignment surgery. His parents took him to see popular psychologist, John Money who believed that babies are born gender neutral and gendered behaviors are socially conditioned. They feared that their son could not lead a satisfactory male life without a penis and intended to seek his counsel about raising him as a girl.

Money convinced the parents and surgical team at John Hopkins that David would be better off if raised as a girl. As it happened, David had a twin brother and so this would be an excellent test of Money’s theory. David also had developmentally typical anatomy, unlike most of the ambiguous genitals that lead to ablations in previous studies that could confound the results.

The entire ordeal reads like a trans person’s worst nightmare. Your parents, your psychologist, your physician are all telling you that you’re supposed to be a girl. Putting you through bizarre and degrading scenarios in an effort to convince you to get additional GRS and continue HRT. The entire time you feel like you must be the crazy one, yet you’re also pretty sure you don’t want to feminize further and don’t understand why everyone is so interested that you do.

David expressed it best:

Doctor … said, it’s gonna be tough, you’re going to be picked on, you’re gonna be very alone, you’re not gonna find anybody unless you have vaginal surgery and live as a female. And I thought to myself, you know I wasn’t very old at the time but it dawned on me that these people gotta be pretty shallow if that’s the only thing they think I’ve got going for me; that the only reason why people get married and have children and have a productive life is because of what they have between their legs.

If that’s all they think of me, that they justify my worth by what I have between my legs, then I gotta be a complete loser.

I’d like to note that this case is similar to the other ones mentioned in that resistance to their assigned gender identity increased as puberty approached and progressed. It’s also a half point for chromosomal organization of gender identity, instead of hormonal because it doesn’t rule out the effect of prenatal hormonal exposure.

Dual-Gender Macrochimerism

I stumbled across this paper:

The title is certainly interesting, even it if it’s watered down by the “predicted to be” meaning it’s mostly well grounded speculation. It’s doubly interesting if you’re a narcissistic trans woman on the search for the underlying biological mechanism responsible for making your life more annoying than necessary.

So what is it all about, and how is it connected to gender dysphoria? To understand the paper we have to understand genetic chimerism. Chimerism is when an organism is composed of cells with two or more distinct genotypes. Microchimerism is when small amounts of cells in an organism have different genotypes from the host. The most common occurrence of microchimerism is fetomaternal microchimerism. Fetomaternal microchimerism occurs during pregnancy, when small amounts of the baby’s cells will cross the placenta and take residence in the mother’s body (and vice versa). Prevalence of these cells decrease with age, but have been found even 27 years postpartum.

Macrochimerism is a whole other ball game. The most common cause of macrochimerism is when a two zygotes merge. This can result in entire organs being of a different genotype from each other. This can occur with different zygotes with differently sexed chromosomes as well. One of the most interesting cases of this is hermaphroditism (intersex), where an individual has both sets of genitalia and/or reproductive organs. Most cases of macrochimerism are not so obvious. Typically they are subtle, harmless, and go unnoticed unless the person has their DNA tested. This makes it difficult to determine the true rate of macrochimerism.

This brings us back to Brian Hanley’s paper. He correctly points out that dual-gender macrochimerism exists, and other forms of non-visible macrochimerism exist. Therefore it is likely there are non-obvious dual-gender macrochimeras, in which other, non sexual, tissues are affected. In Brian’s words:

…the existence of human macrochimeras in which large proportions of cells are male and female is predicted to have a correlation with homosexuality and transgender self-identification because in many such cases, the central nervous system, or crucial parts of it, will be of one sex and the gonads and body form will be of the opposite sex.

So far so good, but the paper is mostly speculation. Brian hazards a guess at the true rate of macrochimerism but admits he is probably off by “orders of magnitude.” He provides a framework for the sort of longitudinal study that would be necessary to properly study the prevalence of macrochimeras, but I don’t see them happening anytime soon I won’t hold my breath.

Genotype vs. Hormones

The most interesting part of Brian’s paper was the assertion that the sex of the nervous system is as important, if not more important contributor to gendered behavior than the hormonal environment the system developed in.

This surprised me because I have first hand experience that hormones change the way one thinks and feels. I would have guessed that brain development was guided by the hormonal environment it was soaking in, which in turn was dictated by the chromosomes of the gonads. This is not without scientific support. For example, gendered personality traits seems to be effected by pre-natal exposure to androgens, and I believe there are some studies on homosexuality and transsexuality that find correlations as well.

Brian references three studies in support of this assertion:

Bilateral Brained Finches

This paper discusses a species of finch with gender differentiable brains. One difference is that the males have a stronger “song circuit” in their brains that causes them, but not the females, to sing a courtship song. There is some evidence that hormonal environment affects brain development in these finches. Female finches exposed to estradiol develop a song circuit similar to males and sing the courtship song. However these finches did not exhibit completely sex reversed behavior, and males with testicular hormonal blockers still develop the song circuit. This suggests that both hormones and sex chromosomes are important for gendered neural development.

Conveniently, a rare gynandromorphic bilateral brained finch was found, with a nearly symmetric split between male and female. You can see the bilateral split in the plumage.

Bilateral Gynandromorphic Finch

One side (B) has male plumage, the other side (C) female plumage. The researchers found the finch had a masculinized right hemisphere and much less masculinized, and partially feminized left hemisphere. This provides evidence that the effect chromosomes of nervous tissue are not over powered by the developmental or current hormonal environment.

To be honest, and this is definitely talking out of my depth, the experiment didn’t seem as conclusive on the brain differences as the other anatomical differences. Although the “song circuit” was larger on the right (male) side of the brain, there were issues comparing the size to the controls, which would have proved insightful.

Quail

In contrast to the finches, these quail brain chimeras had to be built, not found. Japanese quails have a male organized brain by default that is thought to be de-masculinized by estrogen, transforming it into a female organized brain. Fortunately, this differentiation happens after the brain starts to appear during gestation. This allows crazy people researchers to graft cross-sex forebrain primordium, causing the birds to develop cross-sexed brains.

Male-forebrained, female host quails showed typical female quail behaviors, including sexual behavior. This is congruent with the idea that estrogen (prevalent in female quails) demasculinizes the transplanted forebrain, reorganizing it to be more feminine. A point for the hormonal basis for gendered brain differences.

Female-forebrained, male host quails are a different case. They exhibited reduced male behaviors, and reduced to non-existant male sexual behaviors. In addition, sexually dimorphic brain features such as the medial preoptic nucleus were found to be feminized despite being raised in a male hormonal environment. A point for the genotype basis for gendered brain differences.

I would be interested to know if gay Japanese quails exist, and if they do, what their typical behaviors are so they can be compared to the cross-sexed quails. I know it’s a faux pas to conflate sex with sexuality, but given their ontological proximity and extremely high rates of correlation I would be surprised if the biological mechanisms weren’t intertwined in some fashion.

People

Birds are great (#bavi) but what about people? Do we have any questionably ethical studies where we manipulate the hormonal, anatomical or genetic components of humans that might give us some insight?

Yes, yes we do!

In 1975 there was a study that followed the development of males born with abnormally small, or missing penises. Since they were too small to function, doctors removed them, essentially performing infant GRS. The “men” were raised as girls from birth, complete with HRT and raised as girls since birth.

From the abstract:

Forty-five cases of genetic males were assigned and habilitated as females, 43 because of a congenitally defective penis (micropenis with or without hypo- spadias], and two because of infantile ablatio penis. One of the latter has an identical twin brother as a control. Now 9 years old, she has differentiated a female gender identity in marked contrast to the male gender identity of her brother. Some of the other patients are now adolescent or adult in age. They demonstrate that the twin can expect to be feminine in erotic expression and sexual life. Maintained on estrogen therapy, she will have normal feminine physique and a sexually attractive appearance. She will be able to establish motherhood by adoption.

I guess that settles the debate, hormonal and social environment trump genetics.

Now, if you’re like me, you might notice that 9 is a bit young to be drawing conclusions. Pre-pubescent humans still have some significant phase of development from which the brain is not exempt. For instance, gendered personality differences don’t manifest until after puberty, indicating that there is significant differentiation that takes place during puberty.

Fortunately someone did a follow up study  and found that the child in question transitioned to male after puberty and has been comfortably living as one since. A similar study found that 8 out of 14 males assigned girls at birth (for similar reasons) ended up identifying as males by puberty and 6/14 even transitioned physically. The 2 other males with the same condition were raised as males and decided to remain as males. Although the sample size is smöl, gender dysphoria and transition are sufficiently rare that this high rate of transition is shocking and convincing.

Conclusion

So what did we learn? I learned that performing infant GRS should probably be halted until we have more research. I also learned that human brain development is not what that I thought is was.

My new model of gendered brain differences:

  1. Gonads develop according to gonadal chromosomes
  2. Different gonads produce different sex hormones
  3. This hormonal environment informs the organization of tissue, including the brain
  4. Brains that develop in a male hormonal environment are organizationally male and vice versa.
  5. Brains are organized, and thus gendered differentiated, due to genotypical and hormonal factors.

A lot more (expensive, time consuming) research needs to be done. I am convinced that the “sex” of human nervous tissue is a significant determinant in human gendered behavior and identification and that dual-gender macrochimerism is a plausible biological mechanism behind the transgender phenomenon.

An Awkward Game of Baseball


NSFW

This post is personal and sexual; if that’s not your cup of tea then it’s time to leave. Apologies to my boyfriend who’s privacy I am implicating in this post.


I have a problem penis. It’s kind of both. My penis poses several problems for me: dysphoria, can’t have kids, accidentally outing me etc. These things considered, my complaint today is relatively minor in magnitude, but makes up for it in frequency. Like an awkward game of baseball, my sex life is missing third base.

For the uninitiated, the baseball metaphor of sex is as follows:

  1. First Base: Kissing, making out
  2. Second Base: Shirts off, touched her boobs
  3. Third Base: Hand in the pants, touching someone’s junk
  4. Home Plate: Handholding

This is accurate to the best of my middle school knowledge.

My frustration stems from the interruption of natural sexual progression. Fantastic foreplay foments a deep and instinctive feeling in my body about where to go next – but I can’t go there and I don’t know what to do. I get a weird feeling in my perineum, where the base of my bulbospongiosus muscle is, but I can’t really indulge it.

The best analogy I can give is preparing food, sitting down to eat, raising the fork to your mouth, opening wide only to find you cannot chew. It’s still possible to eat, but you feel deep down that there is something you’d like to be doing, but for some reason you physiology won’t permit it.

This post is mostly a dressed up complaint; I find that writing about my problems helps uncover solutions, or at least lay them to rest in my mind. I suppose the only thing to do it wait for surgery. If anyone has found a workaround I’m all ears.

A Letter to Dr. Peterson

Tonight I have the pleasure of attending a talk in San Francisco featuring Jordan Peterson. As an avid fan girl of Dr. Peterson, I am very excited to meet him in person and deliver a letter of thanks.

If you ever doubt Peterson’s claims about the letters he receives, then you can know that at least one is true.


Dear Professor Peterson,

I am so happy to meet you in person and wanted to express my sincere gratitude for your works. My life is orders of magnitude better and I now have the tools to move forward.

I had been suicidally depressed for two years before coming out as transgender. While this provided temporary relief; I had spent two years building up the most vicious, overly rational and nihilistic arguments against existence, hoping to convince myself into suicide. I was afraid that during difficult times in the future, these demons would come back to lecture me on the irredeemable corruption of being and, lacking a counter argument, I would be equally vulnerable.

Synchronous, perhaps, that I was introduced to your works through your criticism of Bill C-16. I found your assessment apt and your University of Toronto free speech oration unforgettable. Intrigued, it lead me to your lecture series and I can honestly say I have watched every video on your YouTube channel. You are the first person in my life to adequately acknowledge the suffering of being while providing a theory for transcending it.

Tangentially related, I think your assessment of trans activists is correct. They do not represent me and often work against my interests by undermining the biological basis of gender. The idea that trans people cannot exist in a system with free expression is infantilizing and laughable. Given the nature of dysphoria, I think that trans people in particular could benefit from your lectures.

Thank you,
-Amy Jie