Study Guide

Anna in The Female Man

By Joanna Russ


Anna is one of Jael's Manland contacts, a "half-changed" who retains the male body with which he was born, but dresses, acts, and is treated like a woman. In his "pink chiffon gown, with gloves up to his shoulder," he reminds Joanna of Greta Garbo in Lovein which she portrayed Anna Karenina. Unkindly, the omniscient narrator describes him as "a monument of irrelevancy on high heels": "such a vision was he, so much he wore, such folds and frills and ribbons and buttons and feathers, trimmed like a Christmas tree" (8.7.24).

The omniscient narrator/Joanna's low opinion of Anna stems from her belief that "changed" and "half-changed" Manlanders are proof of men's total depravity and inhumanity. As she sees it, male authority and power must have someone to oppress in order to exist, and if "real women" aren't available, men will create women by feminizing and enslaving a number of their own kind.

(Later in her career, Joanna Russ voiced her regret that the novel's depictions of "changed" and "half-changed" Manlanders reflected a limited understanding of—and prejudice toward—transsexual and transgender identities and experiences.)

Like other "changed" and "half-changed" Manlanders, and like all of the citizens of Womanland, Anna faces a constant threat of violence from Manland "real-men." Rape is a common occurrence in Manland, and it starts young; in fact, it's one of the mechanisms that "real-men" use to distinguish between the strong and the weak. As a twelve-year-old boy, Anna was attacked and raped by a group of fourteen-year-olds, and because he chose to submit rather than lose his life trying to defend himself, he was marked as "womanly" from that point on. The Manland Boss to whom he brings Jael and the other three J's isn't really his employer: Boss is Anna's owner and master.