All right dear readers! If you have come here after reading the Part 1 of my book review of Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt, welcome!
Anyway, let’s get on with my book review. There’s a lot I need to cover.
Gretchen Felker-Martin’s groundbreaking trans-inclusive horror novel Manhunt opens with two trans women, Beth and Fran, hunting man-beasts in the forested post-apocalyptic landscape of New England. Beth and Fran need to hunt the feral man-beasts (men who have been transformed into beasts by the t-rex plague) because both trans women need to keep their testosterone down to a certain level. If their testosterone rises, Beth and Fran will turn into man-beasts themselves.
The only way Beth and Fran can keep their testosterone down- and remain human- is by eating the estrogen-rich testicles of man-beasts.
After Beth and Fran gather enough testicles, they start to head home. Then suddenly Beth and Fran spot TERFs!
Yes folks, the real villains of Manhunt isn’t the man-beasts. It’s TERFs! It’s women who have the audacity to say “May we please not be forced to compete against biological males in our sports? May we please not be coerced into sharing female-only shelters and prisons with biological males? Please?”
The women who have the disgusting habit of disagreeing with penis-possessing people.
THOSE are the real villains of Manhunt!
Gretchen Felker-Martin sets the scene thus: Fran and Beth squirmed onward until finally, from the relative concealment of a patch of goldenrod growing in a clearing, they saw the TERFs.
They were a hundred yards off, half-hidden by the thinning pines near the forest’s edge. A dozen women, most of them in their late teens or early twenties, a few younger, all in fatigues, most sporting undercuts, stood clustered around the bikes where Fran and Beth had left them leaning up against a rusted metal rack, a holdover from when this place had been shot through with hiking trails for rich yuppies from Boston who wanted somewhere serene to surround themselves with nature and stargaze and do cayenne and lemon juice cleanses.
I’m just gonna burst in here and say that “women” who are younger than their late teens are called “children.”
So basically Beth and Fran have come across a group of women and children. The women and children do not see Beth and Fran. The women and children pose no threat to the two trans women, our heroines.
Still, we the reader are supposed to see this group of women and children as awful people. As Gretchen Felker-Martin describes them: Pussy-certified all-natural by the Daughters of the Witches You Couldn’t Burn or whatever Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival bullshit the TERFocracy in Maryland bowed to.
Yeah! That awful, awful Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival people! Those lesbian and queer women who just wanted a space to themselves for a couple of days a year to hang out naked, listen to music and vibe with other women. Just wanted to shut out men for a few days in a small space, a grassy field in Michigan.
As Alison Bechdel described it when she visited the festival in the 80s, “Not a man in sight. You can have no idea of the toll taken by being constantly gawked and whistled at, taunted and groped… to say nothing of more dire yet no less pervasive threats… until you experience the sudden cessation of these things. In that startling void I underwent a vertiginous perceptual shift! I could see what it meant to be a subject and not an object. I could also see that the body, so disavowed by the patriarchy, was not something separate or ‘other’ here. The other- including nature itself- was restored to the center.”
Whelp. That paradise didn’t last long.
The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is no more. A bunch of people with penises got upset that some women wanted to spend a few days a year being, in the words of Bechdel, “a subject and not an object.”
Well that was just too much for penis-possessing folks. Back to being looked at like objects ladies! Trans people wanted to join the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and rock with their cocks out.
A protest camp called “Camp Trans” situated itself by the Michigan Womyn’s Music festival. Trans activists “committed acts of vandalism — stealing electrical cables, cutting water pipes, keying cars in the parking lot, and spray-painting a six-foot penis, and the words ‘Real Women Have Dicks,’ on the side of the main kitchen tent.” One protester from Camp Trans, a trans woman activist named Dana Rivers, killed a lesbian couple, Charlotte Reed and Patricia Wright, and their young son Benny Diambu-Wright.
Remember women, if you disagree with someone with a penis, the penalty is death. And it will be all your fault, you fucking TERF.
It worked. By 2015 the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival had been cancelled permanently and was never held again.
And in Manhunt, a novel written by a trans woman, our two trans women heroines Beth and Fran are prepared to carry on the legacy of Dana Rivers against a group of women and children (sorry, TERFs) they see in the forest.
First Fran gets aroused watching the women and children in the clearing. Her cock was hard, tenting the front of her stupid cargo shorts.
Beth’s reaction is even more disturbing. Eying one of the women in the clearing, Beth nocked an arrow to the bowstring and drew it back level with the unscarred corner of her mouth. “I’m gonna put one through her fucking neck.”
Yaaassss queen! Shooting arrows through the necks of women who disagree with you while your cock is hard! Totally not toxic masculinity! Totally a feminine reaction!
Oh, and remember: we the reader are supposed to be taking Fran and Beth’s side here. We’re not supposed to be sympathizing with the women and children- sorry, the TERFs who are about to be killed here.
I had forgotten how frightening this scene is. And how even more disturbing it was that we were supposed to approve of this sexualized violence against women here.
This book upset me. And it upsets me even more how fawning the reviews of Manhunt are on platforms like NPR and the LA Review of books. Grace Byron, a trans person who reviewed Manhunt for the Observer, talked about the community of T4T (trans people dating trans people and building communities with other trans people) and how Manhunt reminded her of the bonds she shared with trans people. She ended her book review describing how she called a friend after closing the novel. I left a long voice note for one of my trans girlfriends, “I just need the next person I talk to not to be a cis person.”
And I get that. Sometimes you just need to hang out with your own and be with your community. I get the craving trans people have for T4T community.
I just wish trans activists had allowed cis women that same community at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
I will be posting Part 3 of my book review of Manhunt soon.