Many of the short stories and essays by James Tiptree, Alice B. Sheldon, reflect his personal experiences and thoughts on situations that were going during his time and life in general. The politics of Sheldon are heavily present in all of her stories, mostly hidden behind the theme or plotline of the specific story. The Girl Who Was Plugged In is no exception to this rule. The main politics that Sheldon conveys in this story concern her thoughts on what it means to be human; specifically what defines humans and their interactions. She focuses specifically on male and female roles separately and their interactions with each other. More importantly throughout the story she conveys her thoughts on empathy, which she sees as the best qualities that one can have, and her hopes of human evolution as an ultimate goal. The Girl Who Was Plugged In conveys Sheldon’s politics about the faults and dark-sides of human life, while she is simultaneously telling the reader about her thoughts on how to overcome those problems and evolve as a species.
Sheldon’s personal life was full of lots of confusion and inner turmoil with herself, while she tried to figure out who she was and what her purpose was in life. She went through periods of questioning herself as a human being and more importantly as a woman with ambitions, goals, and desires that conflicted with her very being. She was always married to men, but she longed to make love to women and the greatest loves of her life were all women. She had secret crushes on several women in her life, during boarding school, college and her career in military intelligence. However, it always seemed to be unrequited love and she never really felt comfortable acting on any of her feelings. She felt like she was locked inside a body that didn’t fit her true self, so in a way she felt trapped and enslaved by a body that wouldn’t allow her to feel and act on what she truly wanted. Just as P. Burke is trapped inside the body of
“she learned that women who worked outside the home were ‘masculinized’ a condition which endangered their marriage, their children, and sex life…feminism ranked with Communism, anti-Semitism, nihilism, and anarcho-syndicalism as on of the ‘organized movements of the modern world gathered around the principle of hatred, hostility and violence’” (Phillips 170).
Sheldon struggled with her own sense of masculinity and how much it conflicted with her biological characteristics of being a woman. Society didn’t help, only adding more pressure by setting strict standards that women were to uphold or have the very sex questioned. This male dominance society is the same society that P. Burke must survive in. GTX was composed of mostly men, “five of them technically male and the sixth isn’t easily thought of as a mother” (Tiptree 6). This is the corporation that runs and controls all of the communication and public relations in the society. Men are the dominant force once again and they expect to use beautiful young bodies of females, like
Besides dealing with the pressures that men put on women, she felt that all women in general already had issues and conflict to deal with on their own. To Sheldon, their sex alone and biological make-up caused problems for them. She wrote,
“Women are more apart from their bodies than men are; having a woman’s body is quite something; it is like being the owner of a large and only partly tamed animal, day and night the damn thing is being itself, with its own semi-inscrutable operations…It is like being attached to a sleepless, amoebic, oozing, urgent, swelling, welling, vegetable animal, forever slipping out of control and leaking its pseudopod round the corner. An unpredictable, volcanic, treacherous, merry, rather overpowering thing to live with” (Phillips 181).
This description of the bodies that women have describes P. Burke and her experience with the body of
She uses this story to talk about the social problems that existed at the time, and in many ways still exist today. As Phillip mentions the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, among other things were going on when Sheldon was writing and they all influenced her thoughts on human beings and what made them do certain things. She dealt with the cruelty of human beings and how it had caused some to take over the once glorious, adventurous, and amazing place she knew as
(I didn't use much reference to Tiptree's CIA or Military career, because according to the biography it really wasn't that much of an important phase in her life, as far as having huge impacts on her thoughts and writings. The CIA especially was a very short-lived career, so it wasn't that significant to her life. I'm also not sure if it would be better to use Tiptree or Sheldon in the essay. I find it easier to use Sheldon because I talk about her experiences as a woman. Also it ends abruptly because I just stopped writing, it's not an actual conclusion.)