Feminist Studies Research Guide
Barr, Liz. “Feminism, Epistemic Authority, and Biomedical Activism.” Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies: Human Bodies, Posthumanist Worlds, Southern Illinois University Press, 2018, pp. 205–226.
Barr coins the term “embodied vernacularity” which “accounts for the speaking body in addition to the spoken word” (206). The scholarly conversation in which Barr is contributing is a body of research on how embodied vernacularity can contribute to research in feminist rhetorical social science studies. She achieves this by using the Truvada hearing as a case study and focusing on the strategies used by the community rhetors. Truvada is an HIV antiviral medication that can treat and reduce the risk of HIV infection. While Barr doesn’t make a case for or against PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis; the approach for preventing HIV infection), she chose the Truvada hearing as a case study because rhetorical strategies were used across asymmetrical relationships in the scientific sphere, specifically pharmaceutical company representatives, clinical researchers, and community members. Barr argues that the community rhetors used embodied vernacularity as an attempt to influence the committee’s policy decisions. The community members had to leverage a different technique than the pharmaceutical and clinical researchers to counter the rhetorical strategies used by the dominant discourses. Barr draws upon the roots of embodied vernacularity, which has roots in feminist theories and builds upon the research of rhetoricians, such as Gerard Hauser, Robert Howard and Donna Haraway to fill the gap in the research and contribute her unique scholarship to the theories of vernacular and rhetorics of the body, elucidating the ways the two theoretical frameworks function in concert to create embodied vernacularity.
Jack, Jordynn. “How Good Brain Science Gets That Way: Reclaiming the Scientific Study of Sexed and Gendered Brains.” Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies: Human Bodies, Posthumanist Worlds, Southern Illinois University Press, 2018, pp. 164–182.
Jordynn Jack calls for feminist rhetoricians to look beyond the results of scientific research to better understand how the conclusions were reached. She uses several examples of how scientific studies begin from an antithetical commonplace about men and women, such as women like to shop, while men prefer to watch sports. In turn, researchers view this commonplace as objective data and seek to explain it by blending psychological and neuroscientific methods. Jack argues that if researchers make different rhetorical decisions, the study may be designed differently, thereby altering results. One such example is a study conducted on the differences in pain tolerances between men and women. The study participants were first asked to complete a questionnaire before rating their pain. Jack explains how this method is an example of Barad’s theory of entanglement, as the material, embodied pain response is entangled with cultural expectations. Using several studies as examples, Jack concludes that sociocultural expectations may prefigure experiments to implicitly evoke their own beliefs and material elements of the experimental situation may shape responses. Jack calls for feminist scholars of rhetoric and science to be careful not to overlook these elements when interpreting studies or drawing from its results.
Sonia, Kruks. “Simone De Beauvoir: Engaging Discrepant Materialisms.” New Materialisms : Ontology, Agency, and Politics, Duke University Press, 2010, pp. 258–280.
The larger theoretical trend that Kruks draws our attention to is Simone de Beauvoir working in and across both phenomenology and a Marxist-inflected culturally oriented structuralist materialism. While Beauvoir is often read as phenomenology, she clearly has “early” Marxist influences. Beauvoir is a Marxist feminist. This can be seen in her work, one example being her commentary ‘‘One could not state it better, ’after quoting Marx (260). Kruks states that Beauvoir’s “self-proclaimed affinity with Marx should make us pause” because “it should remind us that volume 1 of The Second Sex (‘‘Facts and Myths’’) focuses on the ‘‘production’’ of woman as man’s inferiorized other” (260). The reason why Kruks claim that Beauvoir’s work has both phenomenology and Marxist influences is troubling is because the beginning of phenomenology is the reassertion of subjectivity while the beginning of Marxism is the attack upon subjectivity. However, Marxism and phenomenology are not completely opposed, as there are phenomenological themes in the origins of Marxism. For example, the concept of “Reification”, which is the materialization of human activity, is influenced by Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and reification of consciousness. We have seen the relationship between phenomenology, Marxism and rhetoric. Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object (phenomenology). The concept phenomenologyand the relationship to rhetoric can be seen through object-oriented ontology (OOO). We saw this in previous works we read, including Vealey and Layne (2018), who leverage Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) to “seek to reinstate a sense of “thingness” to many objects that litter and make up the world, particularly in a way that is not exclusively tethered to human modes of access, use or meaning” (55). Barad (2008) discusses “thingification”, which is turning relations into “things” and “entities” thereby affecting how we understand our relationship to the world (130). To answer the question, “Would rhetoric benefit from engaging this trend?” consider how Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch (2012) call on feminist rhetorics scholars to be “deliberate about developing and sustaining throughout the analytical process a more conscious and explicit habit of thinking about our work as part of, rather than disconnected from, other rhetorical enterprises around the world” (53). In this manner, feminist rhetorics could greatly benefit from both phenological and Marxist influences.
Engaging Discrepant Materialisms
Another genre of ‘‘materialist’’ theory, one broadly informed
by poststructuralism, focuses on the production
of ‘‘material’’ bodies, or their ‘‘materialization,’’ through
discourse and discursively constituted performance.
What both of these
genres have in common, however, is that they proceed (to borrow the
terms from Elizabeth Grosz) ‘‘from the outside in’’ rather than ‘‘from the
inside out.’’≥ That is, they emphasize the ways in which subjectivity arises
as the reflex or expression of social practices, or as the e√ect of discourses.
Debates about ‘‘biological essentialism’’
versus ‘‘social constructionism,’’ about ‘‘sex’’ versus ‘‘gender,’’ or about
whether to ‘‘displace’’ one of these terms by the other or to ‘‘destabilize’’
both have waxed furious. In this essay I propose, through returning to the
EBSCOhost – work of Simone de Beauvoir, that these discrepant genres of materialist
theorizing may be brought into a more fruitful relationship than their
respective proponents are apt to pursue.
Simone de Beauvoir – phenomenology,
Beauvoir does not work exclusively in this tradition. Rather,
she works in and across the interstices between phenomenology and a
Marxist-inflected and also a culturally oriented structuralist materialism
‘‘Physiological facts,’’ Beauvoir
insists, have significance only within specific social contexts so that, for
example, the relative ‘‘weakness’’ of women’s muscles ‘‘is revealed as such
only in the light of the ends man proposes, the instruments he has available,
and the laws he establishes.’’∞∫ Similarly, Beauvoir argues, menstruation
is an involuntary bodily function (an ‘‘alien vitality’’) to which most
women must attend in one way or another, but the disgust and shame that generally accompany its onset in young girls is integral to their realization
of their subordinate social status (315).
For Beauvoir, the particular problem of ‘‘becoming a woman’’ is that
one is always engaged in a project in which one’s potentialities as a free,
agentic human being can never escape the facticities of one’s organic body
and other life-attributes, including a discursive and social regime through
which one is subjected to systematically inferiorized otherness.
However, working from a perspective more inflected by Marxism than is
Moi’s, Young argues that we need to think more systematically about the
‘‘structures of constraint’’ that operate independently of the individual
intentions of either men or women (21). Without
The Second Sex is not only a
phenomenology of the lived experience of women’s oppression, for Beauvoir
is also concerned with questions about how that oppression is perpetuated
through social structures, institutions, and practices that women
must engage with as the ‘‘givens’’ of their lives. ‘‘Yes,’’ she writes, ‘‘women
on the whole are today inferior to men, that is,
In a for-profit economy
those who are no longer economically productive cease to be valued, and a
prior life of alienated labor produces old people who have no existential
resources to enjoy the enforced ‘‘leisure’’ of retirement. Indeed, with
strong echoes of Marx’s notion of the proletariat as a universal class,
Beauvoir ends Old Age by suggesting that the treatment of the aged ‘‘exposes
the failure of our entire civilization.’’ More generous pensions and
so forth—although she demands them—would not be su≈cient to make
old age meaningful for most: ‘‘It is the whole system that is at issue and
our claim cannot be otherwise than radical—change life itself ’’ (543
Beauvoir’s self-proclaimed a≈nity with Marx should make us pause.
Beauvoir’s self-proclaimed a≈nity with Marx should make us pause.
It should remind us that volume 1 of The Second Sex (‘‘Facts and Myths’’)
focuses on the ‘‘production’’ of woman as man’s inferiorized other. It
explores the social production of woman’s otherness across the history of
human practices and institutions, as well as in more discursive arenas such
as myth and literature.
Beauvoir’s attention to Marx also invites a reading of The Second Sex as a precursor to the Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960), the neo-Marxist
magnum opus of Sartre’s later yearsΩ—a reading I develop below.
Indeed, this is where she explicitly locates herself in The Second Sex and her project, especially in the second volume, is to present a phenomenology of the ‘‘lived experience’’ through which, as she famously puts it, ‘‘one is not born but becomes a woman.’’ Furthermore, qua existentialist, she is concerned with exploring the constraints on and possibilities for freedom that accompany such a ‘‘becoming.’’
In qualitative phenomenological research, lived experience refers to a representation of the experiences and choices of a given person, and the knowledge that they gain from these experiences and choices.
Phenomenology as a methodological framework has evolved into a process that seeks reality in individuals’ narratives of their lived experiences of phenomena
Mountford, Roxanne. The Gendered Pulpit: Preaching in American Protestant Spaces. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2003. Print.
Mountford addresses the gap in the scholarly conversation of rhetorical space by purporting that the pulpit is a masculine rhetorical space and this is problematic for women. She seamlessly brings together disparate forms of research on “rhetorical space” (as defined by feminist philosopher Lorraine Code) and the gendered nature of the pulpit to address the gap in the scholarly conversation. To do this, first Mountford demonstrates that the pulpit is a gendered space through the use of literary examples. Leveraging scenes from the works: Moby-Dick (1851), Adam Bede (1859), Beloved (1987) and Temple of My Familiar (1989), she outlines ana analyzes scenes from each of these works and demonstrates how they support her claim that the pulpit is gendered. Mountford also pulls a common thread to substantiate her claim that all four of these works/scenes draw the reader to pay particular attention to the location of the pulpit, preacher-congregation relationship and understanding of gender. She purports that gender and preaching are both associated with ‘place’. Mountford brings together other scholarship to bridge these ideas, including the fact that gender hierarchies are associated with place (trope of “woman’s place”), relationships between pulpit and congregation (separation) and Bachelard’s spatial metaphors in The Poetics of Space. Like a bricklayer, Mountford carefully builds each of these ideas on top of each other until we look up at the end of the work and see an entirely new structure (idea) built out of these bricks (scholarship). Mountford fills the gap in the scholarship on gender, the pulpit and space by building upon the ideas of literature, philosophers on space (Bachelard), feminist theory (Cheryl Glenn), religion (Bible) and interviews with women in seminary training.
Mountford tells us that she chose literary examples stating, “So why turn to literary examples to explore a real-life phenomenon: the gendered nature of the pulpit? Because of writers, like all spectators of life,
offer a fresh lens for understanding the nature of rhetoric. As Thomas Farrell
has said so well, the exploration of public oratory goes on without the help of
specialists, for through “habituated capacity as an audience,” all spectators
understand intuitively what moves them in a speech (12).”
Then she turns to a philosopher and several scholars to explore the nature of space.
Thus far I have been meditating on the ritualized nature of space and its
association with gender hierarchies, particularly in the case of the pulpit.
But there is another sense in which the pulpit works as a space: in its relationship
to the congregation
Rhetorical space is an extraordinarily important aspect of rhetorical per
Pformance, but especially in sacred locations, where each object and participant
are set in place according to the rituals performed in that space. One of
the categories of “placement” employed in sacred places is gender hierarchy;
another is the separation of sacred leaders and people. We might think of
these two categories as axes, one marked by status, and another marked by
gender. In the Christian tradition, status and masculinity have been required
before one may enter the pulpit, and it is, I am arguing, for this reason that
Melville not only places Father Mapple in a pulpit, but embellishes it so that
the reader does not miss the association of masculinity with divinity. On
They are close to their congregations—literally standing or
sitting with them. Whatever distance there may be (and it is minimal) is
elided by the lack of pulpit or any other physical barrier.
In a recent interview with a woman still in seminary training, I was interested
to learn that she considered the pulpit to be a “shield.”
This is not surprising when we consider that spaces are productive of
meaning as well as endowed with meaning
She says, “Having established that rhetorical space has both material and cultural
dimensions, let us look more closely at the pulpit. My goal is to explore what
kind of “rhetorical space” a pulpit is in order to understand why the presence
of women there is metonymically problematic. I have made the claim that
the pulpit is necessarily a gendered space, so I will attempt to earn that claim
To develop a full definition of rhetorical space, I turn to a philosopher
and several scholars of cultural geography who help us understand the nature
What these two fictional “pulpits” illustrate are the complex cultural
associations of the pulpit as metonym for the Protestant church as institution
(as in the locution, “the Pulpit,” meaning “Church”), the pulpit as site of
clerical authority, and the pulpit as emblem of the nature of God.
Masculine space of the pulpit.
define rhetorical space for the reader and help them understand the cultural implications.