Feminist Rhetoric

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Definition

Feminist rhetoric is the study and practice of feminist discourses in public and private life.

"In content," says Karlyn Kohrs Campbell*, "feminist rhetoric drew its premises from a radical analysis of patriarchy, which identified the 'man-made world' as one built on the oppression of women. . . . In addition, it incorporates a style of communication known as consciousness-raising" (Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 1996).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "In the 1980s, feminist rhetoric scholars began making three moves: writing women into the history of rhetoric, writing feminist issues into theories of rhetoric, and writing feminist perspectives into rhetorical criticism. Initially, these scholars drew on feminist scholarship from other disciplines . . .. Once inspired, however, feminist rhetoric scholars began writing scholarship from the site of rhetoric and composition. . . .

    "In the midst of this scholarly activity, intersections of rhetoric and feminist studies have been institutionalized within rhetoric and composition studies, thanks largely to the work of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, which was organized by Winifred Horner, Jan Swearingen, Nan Johnson, Marjorie Curry Woods, and Kathleen Welch in 1988-1989 and was carried on by scholars such as Andrea Lunsford, Jackie Royster, Cheryl Glenn, and Shirley Logan. In 1996, the first edition of the coalition's newsletter, Peitho, was published by [Susan] Jarratt."
    (Krista Ratcliffe, "The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries." The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-First Century Guide, ed. by Lynée Lewis Gaillet with Winifred Bryan Horner. University of Missouri Press, 2010)
     
  • Rereading the Sophists
    "We see a more community-based social version of feminist ethics in Susan Jarratt's Rereading the Sophists. Jarratt views sophistic rhetoric as a feminist rhetoric and one with significant ethical implications. The sophists believed that law and truth derived from nomoi, local habits or customs that could change from city to city, region to region. The philosophers in the Platonic tradition, of course, challenged this sort of relativism, insisting on the ideal of Truth (logos, universal laws that would be acommunal)."
    (James E. Porter, Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing. Ablex, 1998)
     
  • Reopening the Rhetorical Canon
    "The feminist rhetorical canon has been guided by two primary methodologies. One is feminist rhetorical recovery of previously ignored or unknown women rhetors. The other is theorizing of women's rhetorics, or what some have called 'gendered analysis,' which involve developing a rhetorical concept or approach that accounts for rhetors who are excluded from traditional rhetoric."
    (K.J. Rawson, "Queering Feminist Rhetorical Canonization." Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods & Methodologies, ed. by Eileen E. Schell and K.J. Rawson. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
     
  • "[F]eminist rhetoric frequently occurs away from the platforms and statehouses of government. Feminist scholarship in rhetorical studies, as Bonnie Dow reminds us, 'must turn its attention to the variety of contexts in which feminist struggle occurs' (Dow, 1997. p. 104)."
    (Anne Teresa Demo, "The Guerrilla Girls' Comic Politics of Subversion." Visual Rhetoric: A Reader in Communication and American Culture, ed. by Lester C. Olson, Cara A. Finnegan, and Diane S. Hope. Sage, 2008)
     
  • A Feminist Rhetoric of Motives
    "A feminist rhetoric of motives can recover the voices and philosophies of women in classical antiquity by restoring to feminine traits and voices the honor of a tradition (see [Marilyn] Skinner) and by granting them the human quality of agency (see, e.g., [Judith] Hughes). [James L.] Kinneavy wants to recover the positive aspects of persuasion under the heading of the audience's volition, free will, and assent, and is successful in this enterprise by borrowing for pisteuein [belief] elements gleaned from scanning forward into Christian pistis. The feminine aspects of persuading that have been denigrated as seduction can be similarly rescued through an examination of the close ties among emotion, love, adhesion, and persuasion in the pre-Socratic lexicon."
    (C. Jan Swearingen, "Pistis, Expression, and Belief." A Rhetoric of Doing: Essays on Written Discourse in Honor of James L. Kinneavy, ed. by Stephen P. Witte, Neil Nakadate, and Roger D. Cherry. Southern Illinois University Press, 1992)

    * Karlyn Kohrs Campbell is the editor of an influential two-volume anthology: Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood, 1993) and Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1925-1993: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood, 1994).