Citation: Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. “The Discursive Performance of Femininity: Hating Hillary.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 1.1 (1998): 1-19. Communication and Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 June 2016.

Hillary-hate is not a new phenomenon. Campbell’s argument, written while Clinton was first lady, sets Hillary-hate in the context of the history of women’s rhetoric. Referencing Henry Louis Gates’s New Yorker article, “Hating Hillary,” Campbell asks why the indecorous attacks Gates documents occurred. She explains how gender can be a rhetorical performance and looks at the rhetoric by and surrounding Clinton in the context of a “feminine style” of rhetoric. Feminine style was often employed by the earliest women’s rights advocates who had to perform femininity to counter charges that they were masculine–or even biologically male–by speaking and writing to public audiences. She defines feminine style:

“In rhetorical terms, performing or enacting femininity has meant adopting a personal or self-disclosing tone (signifying nurturance, intimacy, and domesticity) and assuming a feminine persona, e.g., mother, or an ungendered persona, e.g., mediator or prophet, while speaking. It has meant preferring anecdotal evidence (reflecting women’s experiential learning in contrast to men’s expertise), developing ideas inductively (so the audience thinks that it, not this presumptuous woman, drew the conclusions), and appropriating strategies associated with women—such as domestic metaphors, emotional appeals to motherhood, and the like—and avoiding such “macho” strategies as tough language, confrontation or direct refutation, and any appearance of debating one’s opponents. Note, however, that feminine style does not preclude substantive depth and argumentative cogency” (5).

Campbell analyzes Clinton’s rhetoric using examples from Clinton’s advocacy–before and after becoming first lady–to show how she doesn’t fit the roles usually assigned to the FLOTUS, which prompted the initial rounds of Hillary-hate.

Apply Campbell’s insights and discussion of feminine style to Clinton’s more recent speeches and ethos. Based on the examples Campbell provides from earlier in Clinton’s career, do you think Clinton has changed her style? Can Campbell’s analysis of the causes of “Hating Hillary” apply to Clinton as a presidential candidate?

The Gates article she references is available here.

 

 

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