The Female Man Who Was Plugged In: Comparing Works

There are a lot of similarities between The Girl Who Was Plugged In and The Female Man. I thought it would be interesting to look at the similarities and differences between the two. The Girl Who Was Plugged In focuses more on the objectifying of women, beauty, and fame, and it also says a great deal about the issues dealing with these motifs that are ingrained in our society. It can also be interpreted as a cautionary tale, with it’s message that tells the reader to never allow his/herself to be in a sense sold or bought in a way that it forces the reader to give up any or all aspects of their humanity and dignity.

The Female Man definitely focuses more on feminism, but also about the plight of its author. There is a lot more ambiguity as to who or what the narrative is referring to at times, especially in the case of the character (author?) Joanna. The Female Man also has a much more angry tone than The Girl Who Was Plugged In.  The focus is on inequalities between men and women as far as gender roles.

I did a little research and it turns out that the author of each respective story actually knew each other. Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) wrote to Joanna Russ, and in one letter she comments on the anger embedded in Russ’s work, comparing it to a volcano that “wonders if it can explode”. I think the differences between the two women are really interesting. For example, we all know that James Tiptree Jr. is a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon, and she managed to keep her real identity a secret for a good while. Many other authors and readers figured out it was a pseudonym, but most assumed it was a man writing. A man named Robert Silverberg said that there was “something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing”, and argued that Tiptreee was a man. It was not until her death that many found out that he was a she. Joanna Russ however not only did not use a pseudonym, but she was also an “out” lesbian, which must have been very difficult considering the common stances on LGBT issues at the time. Russ was also not afraid to express just how she felt about what other writers had to say on femininity and gender roles. She got a lot of criticism for leaving angry reviews on stories whose politics or stances she did not agree with. And this all just goes to show that both authors, while very different, had a huge impact on the feminist movement, as well as the emerging sci-fi genre.


One response to “The Female Man Who Was Plugged In: Comparing Works

  1. Wow that is awesome that they knew each other. Good for you for putting in work to research! It’s pretty interesting that you compared the two works and the two authors, and that Tiptree is so much more calm and subtle in her writing than Russ’s angry, aggressive style.


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