Final Reading Journal 5–5–17

Black Panther Party: 10 Point Program

Growing up I always heard stories about the Black Panther Party and what it personally meant to my grandmother. However, reading the Ten Point Program expanded my idea of The Party and what it’s purpose and motivation was.

Although it is no doubt that The Panthers were a group of highly educated and dedicated people, there are a few sections in this piece of work that make me wonder the reasoning behind their word choice. In this document they use the words “black men” and “black people”, but never mention black women. The best example of this would be point 8. Point 8 of The Ten Point Program of The Black Panther Party states “We Want Freedom for All Black Men Held in Federal, State, County and City Prisons and Jails”. From this introduction, one could get the idea that The Panthers were only concerned about the freedom of black men, and that black women could stay in jail. However when they expand on that point, it reads “we believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons…”. It could be perceivable that The Panthers use the words “people” and “men” interchangeably, but there would be no reason to change the words in the same point. I know that at times there could be deep-rooted sexism in The Party and this may be a case of it. It is almost as if the black woman is considered as an extension of the black male, and afterthought. This idea is not only seen in The Black Panther Party, but throughout most of society. It proves that even when we are going against current culture, we cannot deny that we have been shaped and molded by it. We must continually check ourselves for biases and contradictions in our lives.

After point 8, the next one states “We Want All Black People When Brought To Trial To Be Tried In Court By A Jury Of Their Peer Group Or People From Their Black Communities, As Defined By The Constitution Of The United States”. This interests me for several reasons, but mostly because it seems like it should be something already offered to them. By defining peer group in the extension of this statement, The Panthers certainly have a case in my eyes. Also by defining peer group, they leave very little room for argument. By stating blatantly that black men are being tried by all white juries, it paints a picture for the reader for the reader. Additionally, it leads me to imagine the outrage if a white man were on trial with an all black jury, and just how shocking it would be in general.

To further add to this rhetorical analysis, I find the use of the word “want’ strange. In hard hitting pieces that challenge the government and other organizations, you must be strong and determined. Many pieces of revolutionary rhetoric use words such as “we demand” or “we call for”. I see The Panthers choice to stay away from this as a way to show their humanity. They had gone on saying what they demanded, it would have added reasons for people to call them violent and dangerous. Although, I’m unsure that they would have had a big issue with being painted in that light once more, it could have hurt their cause at some point. By simply stating what they wanted, The Black Panthers showed that they too had hopes and dreams and wishes. They proved that they were people just like their white counterparts, and they were tired of being treated as less than.

Lastly, by ending the points with an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, The anthers turned the nation’s identity against itself. They held it accountable for its shortcomings.

The SCUM Manifesto

The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas can come across as a bit scary. Although it is controversial in nature, it is a very important document for the women’s movement of the time. It’s content may be debatable, but its effect on the world is not. Focusing on the historical context of this document serves to better open the reader to its message. Although its message may seem crazy now, the events leading up to its publication shed light on it’s under the surface meanings.

The 60’s were such a radical time in general. People were moving towards being who they were and embracing that, and I believe that Solanas captures that time well. Sure, some would say you would have to be crazy to agree with some f the things she wrote, but she believed them so she wrote them. The Patriarchy has had its run for an immensely long time and to attack in the brutal way that Solanas took courage. Women have historically been subjected to new “findings” and “studies” that “prove” them to be inferior in some way. To disprove these findings and flip them on their heads, even if they were disagreeable, is revolutionary. Particularly interesting is when Solanas writes “being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female”. This statement may or may not have any scientific grounding, but when reading it, it would be hard not to think that Solanas was a scientist. She is sure in her statement and expects her reader to believe it as well. By flipping the male superiority complex 180 degrees, she proves just how silly the idea is. Furthermore, Solanas creates a new society, where roles are reversed. Women in the 60’s were used to having gender expectations placed on them and knew that they were supposed to be obedient and male dominance was just the way of the world.

Solanas is a word genius. She is angry. And whether or not her anger is rightly placed, she displays this anger well. She uses a mix between common and lofty language to appeal to a variety of audiences. If I had to summarize Solanas’ theme it would be the following:

“Every problem somehow comes from the existence of men, the only way to fix this problem is to eventually get rid of them all”

Honestly, if my observation is correct, she supports her argument well. Not only that, but the entire second half of the SCUM Manifesto is Solanas’ action plan, or solution to the problems she brings up. By taking jobs and going on strike men will one day be a worry of the past.

This radical global vision of Solanas is attached to her life. Solanas’ distrust of men started early on and only bloomed as time went on. After attempting to kill Andy Warhol, Solanas spent time in jail and a psychiatric hospital which is a big reason that people discredit her work. If the timing of this piece had been different, or if Solanas’ life had taken a different direction, it may have had a different outcome.

The rhetoric of the time basically said that men were superior and women were to be submissive. The main issue that I, and many others who read this have, is that instead of having men and women become equal, she believes that women were dominant and men were unnecessary. Instead of dismantling the wall between the sexes, she wants to build a new one.

This brings up the different ways of interpreting this document. While some critics take it at face value, others see it as a satirical writing. The argument is that our current patriarchal society is so ridiculous, that the only way for men to see it if we showed them a world that was flipped. In this sense, her writing style is often compared to Jonathan Swift, and his writings. Even Solanas’ first publisher thought that it was some sort of joke. The ideas put forth in society at the time of Solanas’ writing were certainly laughable and worth mocking. I, however, do not believe that it was a satirical text.

The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism

When we originally read The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, I found it annoying to say the least. It’s introduction is fancy, fluffy and abstract, and had very little concrete meaning. Background research on the Manifesto opened my eyes to why it is that way. The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism was written in France in 1909 by poet F.T. Marinetti. It’s definitely poetic in nature.

I’m unsure of if this manifesto could be called a list of demand s. it seems more like a list of things Marinetti and his friends plan on doing. This to-do list however, is definitely revolutionary. They have plans to “glorify war” and “destroy museums”, all while “singing of great crowds”. One of the points that I question is number 10. It declares the following:

“We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice”.

Museums, libraries, and academies of every kind are some of my favorite things. However, they are inaccessible to the poorest among us, creating a hierarchy among what is considered “culture”. Although I would disagree with their actual physical destruction, I do agree that there needs to be some sort of restructuring.

Moralism is defined as “the practice of moralizing, especially showing a tendency to make judgments about others’ morality” by the Merriam Webster dictionary, and I can understand trying to fight this. Although I personally believe morals should be a large part of our lives, judging others on how they lives their lives is not cool.

My issue with this statement appears with the inclusion of feminism as something that needs to be destroyed. Feminism is simply the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. How feminism hurts Marinetti’s cause is beyond me.He refers to feminism as a utilitarian cowardice. Whether or not women are mistreated in society is not a question. Feminism could be seen as utilitarian, because if women are treated equally with men a lot of people would be happier. However, feminism is not only utilitarian. It does not matter if women are the majority or the minority, feminism is necessary and it benefits both men and women. Also, there is nothing cowardice about feminism. It takes courage to from women to stand up for their rights and it also takes courage from men who realize their privilege and refuse to be accepting of it. You must be sure about yourself and demand respect even while others deny this to you. By simply believing that men and women should have equal rights, you are a feminist. Perhaps Marinetti did not feel this way, and that is why he felt the need for feminism to be dismantled. But, taking down feminism would not help his cause. Women create and influence art and always have. Their contributions to the world while under enormous sexism is admirable.

It is still a significant work though. Futurism itself influenced Europe on a grand scale after the publication of this document. Unlike most manifestos, the Futurist Manifesto is not entirely political in it’s nature. It’s focus on art and attacking certain aspects of art and artists, set it apart of other documents like it. It made art revolutionary.

The Futurist Manifesto ends with this statement: “Lift up your heads! Erect on the summit of the world, once again we hurl defiance to the stars!“ It’s a great ending, even if it is vague and lofty. It is catchy and although it is open to many different interpretations, this closing captures and inspires it’s readers once more, before sending them on their way.