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Rhetoric and Gender

Karen A. Foss

Subject Gender Studies
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Beauvoir, Simone de

Key-Topics feminism, gender

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Rhetoric is the art and study of human symbol use. As a discipline, rhetoric began in ancient Greece as a practical art of persuasion, applied principally to political, legal, and judicial contexts (→  Rhetoric, Greek ). Gender refers to the cultural constructs of masculinity and femininity imposed upon biological sex by any particular culture – what it means to be masculine or feminine . The relationship between rhetoric and gender has played out in four different and progressively complex perspectives in the discipline of rhetorical studies. The starting point of the relationship between rhetoric and gender was one of mutual exclusivity. Gender was not conceptualized as relevant to rhetoric. In fact, however, rhetorical action and standards of eloquence were highly gendered in that rhetoric was synonymous with and considered to be the province of men. The assertion of authority and expertise, the use of logical argument, and the deliberate manipulation of discourse to affect an audience's beliefs and actions were seen as masculine prerogatives (→  Rhetoric and Logic ), unsuited to women and even impossible for them to attain given their biological nature ( Campbell 1981 ). Furthermore, women typically were denied the education necessary to learn the art of rhetoric. At every level, then, considerable cultural complicity was required to insure that there was no place for women ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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