First Ladies and Feminism: Laura Bush as Advocate for Women's and Children's Rights
Dubriwny, Tasha N., Women's Studies in Communication
This essay focuses on the strategic use of feminist discourse in Laura Bush's six speeches between November 17, 2001 and May 21, 2002 about the rights of women and children in Afghanistan. I propose that Bush's use of the ideographs (women and children) and (rights) draws upon two traditions of feminism, using liberal feminist ideals of women's rights to education, health, and independence in concert with a traditional understanding of womanhood associated with maternal feminism.
When the United States' search for Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network in fall of 2001 focused on Afghanistan, the stories of Afghan women reached an international audience largely for the first time. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (2001) noted, "We didn't really know how women were being treated until it was brought out in the news accounts. For five years, girls have been denied education in that country." As one of the public figures immediately responsible for encouraging the American public to support President George W. Bush's "War on Terror" after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, First Lady Laura Bush was an integral part of the media campaign focusing on women's rights in Afghanistan. This media campaign included six speeches given by Laura Bush, numerous interviews given by important figures such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, and documentaries and "special reports" about women in Afghanistan shown on the national news networks (Rosenberg, 2002). Although Laura Bush's primary role during this media campaign was to provide a justification for the war against terrorism, Bush also used her speeches to bring a feminist issue to the center of U.S. foreign policy. This essay focuses on the strategic use of feminist discourse in Bush's speeches, for it is through an analysis of Bush's "feminism" that we can see the ways in which discourse on women's rights can at times work to uphold a conservative political vision. I propose that Bush's use of the ideographs (women and children) and (rights) draws upon two traditions of feminism, using liberal feminist ideals of women's rights to education, health, and independence in concert with a traditional understanding of womanhood associated with maternal feminism. The combination of these discourses results in a particularly powerful argument for limited rights for Afghan women outside of the home while maintaining a traditional understanding of women's roles in Afghan society. Bush's rhetoric is unique precisely because of her blending of liberal and maternal feminism, although her rhetoric remains shaped by the role of the first lady and thus is similar in some aspects to previous first ladies' rhetoric. The analysis proceeds in four sections. First, I situate Laura Bush's rhetoric within the context of her position as a first lady. Second, I discuss Bush's advocacy of the rights of women and children in terms of previous first ladies' feminist discourse. Third, I move to an ideographic analysis of the ways in which Bush's main ideograph, (women and children) interacts with its main supporting ideograph, (rights). Finally, I conclude by offering a discussion of the impact of Laura Bush's feminism on women's rights in the United States and abroad.
Drawing on Traditions of Womanhood: Laura Bush and Social Advocacy
On November 17, 2001, Laura Bush became the first First Lady to deliver a speech in the time slot usually reserved for the Presidential Radio Address (Wertheimer, 2004b, p. 452). Bush's address focused on the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule and drew a connection between the abuses suffered by women and the terrorist organizations sheltered by the Taliban. Bush's speech was applauded by a wide variety of critics, including feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Melanne Verveer, a former Hillary Rodham Clinton staff member, but not all responses were entirely positive (Wertheimer, 2004b, p. 453). As Elisabeth Bumiller (2001) reports
Critics lost no time in pointing out that this was the very same White House that has banned aid to international groups that even discuss abortion as a family planning option. The administration also looks the other way, they said, while women in Kuwait cannot vote and women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive. (p. B2)
Laura Bush's radio address and her five later speeches concerning women's and children's rights in Afghanistan--Remarks of Mrs. Laura Bush at USAID event with Interim Chairman of the Afghan Authority Hamid Karzai, January 29; Remarks by Mrs. Bush to the United Nations, March 8; Remarks by Mrs. Bush to Back-to-School Project for Afghan Girls, March 20; Remarks by Mrs. Bush at the Genesis Shelter Mother's Day Lunch, May 1; Radio address of First Lady Laura Bush to Radio Free Afghanistan, May 21--were part of a well organized and widely praised State Department campaign to increase awareness of women's situation in Afghanistan (Rosenberg, 2002). Both Laura Bush and Cherie Blair played integral roles in the campaign, giving speeches and holding meetings with prominent politicians (Poole & Sparrow, 2001, p. 10).
Bush's participation in her husband's "War on Terror" campaign does not stray far from her historical precedents. Myra Gutin (2000) describes the role of first lady as having undergone a progression, moving from ceremonial hostesses, to emerging spokeswomen, and finally to independent activists and political surrogates. Independent activists and political surrogates such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter "used all available means of persuasion in order to influence, educate, and impress their concerns on the minds of the American people" (p. 564). Bush's participation in the campaign to justify war in Afghanistan is couched between the roles of emerging spokeswoman and independent advocate. Bush's spokeswoman Noelia Rodriguez describes Bush's role in the campaign as education oriented: "Laura Bush is very passionate about this subject. She wanted to be able to use ... the bully pulpit to educate Americans about what is going on in Afghanistan" (as cited in Otis, 2001, p. A4). Given her own interests in supporting children's rights (Wertheimer, 2004b), Bush's speeches on Afghanistan provide an understanding of the first lady as both an "involved, visible helpmate" to her husband and an independent activist with her own agenda (Gutin, 2000, p. 566).
First ladies are increasingly recognized as playing a substantial role in the White House, but this role is still limited by what the press and the country deem acceptable. Thus, while Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (1996) offers a framework for understanding the presidency as a "two-person career," the first lady's function in that career varies widely: "In such a two-person career, the wife's functions, depending on her talents, may include 'status maintenance, intellectual contributions, and public performance'" (p. 180). I would add to Campbell's statement that the wife's functions depend not only on "her talents" but on the cultural atmosphere of the time and the political priorities of her husband and his party. What is permissible for one first lady may not be permissible for the next. Perhaps the most important factor in any first lady's success in achieving the approval of the press and the general public is her ability to negotiate her different roles in the public and private spheres. Political commentators and the public tend to react negatively when a first lady is deemed to have inappropriate influence on her husband and his policies (Campbell, 1996). Although the first lady has always been able to exert private influence (Burrell, 2001, p. 3), the first lady's role in policy making remains fraught with concerns about an unelected official enacting power over elected officials (Campbell, 1998, p. 18). As such, the political role of the first lady is always tenuous; first ladies are figureheads of symbolic importance as the "ideal wife" and mother, but the role of first lady does not include institutionalized political power (Campbell, 1996, p. 188). However, first ladies have always found an accepted role as advocates of their husbands' policies. Wertheimer (2004a) notes, "Ever since first ladies have become aware of their power to influence, increasingly have they used that power rhetorically to advance their husbands' and their own agendas" (p. 5). Mirroring Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon's public support of their husbands' policies (see Eksterowicz & Paynter, 2000), Laura Bush's concern with women and children in Afghanistan advances her husband's need to justify war in Afghanistan.
The problems first ladies encounter when they move from the private sphere role of wife to the more public sphere role of "advocate" or "politician" are bound to the issue of gender roles. Campbell (1996) argues that the idea that "presidential wives fit a traditional mold and represent an idealized U.S. womanhood has always existed," and first ladies are consistently attacked for moving out of the traditional mold (pp. 190-191). Edwards and Chen (2000) agree, noting that although the first ladies play "significant instrumental and symbolic roles on the campaign trail and in office," each first lady ultimately offers the country a version of a "wifestyle" (pp. 367-368; see also Gardetto, 1997). As the wife of a politician, the first lady is bound through her domestic role to the feminine ideals of wife and mother. The role of first lady is one fraught with concerns about appropriate gender roles, and Hillary Rodham Clinton was not the only first lady to operate as a "national Roscharch test on which Americans [could] project their views of gender and equality" (as cited in Burrell, 2001, p. 2). Historian Carl Anthony argues, "[The] whole first lady issue is a lightning rod for something that goes far deeper. And that is the hypocrisy we still have about the status of women" (as cited in Burrell, 1997, p. 2). First ladies reflect the changing values of the times (Gardetto, 1997, pp. 226-227), leaving Laura Bush, like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Bush, "caught in a dilemma that seems rooted in the ambiguity faced by modern American women who are expected to play at least two, sometimes conflicting, roles in American society: mother/ homemaker and worker/breadwinner" (Benze, 1990, as cited in Scharrer & Bissell, 2000, pp. 56-57).
The roles of mother/homemaker and worker/breadwinner are combined in one of the more successful roles enacted by first ladies: the republican mother. Burrell (1997) explains, "A consensus developed in the years of the early Republic 'around the idea that a mother, committed to the service of her family and to the state, might serve a political purpose.... This new identity had the advantage of appearing to reconcile politics and domesticity'" (p. 11). Laura Bush follows in a long line of first ladies extending the "republican mother pulpit" to a variety of social welfare issues, including advocacy of the rights of children (Parry-Giles & Blair, 2002, p. 576). The ideology of republican motherhood, including the assumption that "being a good first lady meant hailing, modeling, and promoting publicly the civic values that good mothers historically instilled" (Parry-Giles & Blair, 2002, p. 576), continues to shape the rhetoric of first ladies. As the mothers of the nation, first ladies often limit their rhetorical activities to social welfare causes, a move that reifies the gendered nature of the post (p. 586). However, as Parry-Giles and Blair point out, the republican mother pulpit also allows first ladies to move beyond "championing causes associated with children and their families" by creating "a space for women's rhetorical and political activity" (p. 576). In sum, "First ladies' benevolent discourse not only assisted in eroding some of the negative sentiment over women's rhetorical-political activities, but also constructed a public and empowered role for U.S. women" (p. 581). First ladies' rhetoric from the perspective of the rhetorical tradition of the republican mother is both constraining and liberatory, as it confirms women's political role but usually only in the areas of "women's issues." Bush exemplifies the republican mother tradition by becoming a political/ public advocate for a social welfare/women's issue. Bush's advocacy for women's and children's rights in Afghanistan has historical precedents, perhaps most importantly in the feminist activism of Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
First Ladies and Feminism
Hillary Clinton's legacy as first lady, both her failures and her triumphs, are particularly important to Laura Bush's success in carving out her own role in the public light. In most early media coverage, Laura Bush was framed as an "anti-Hillary" who would not rock the boat. Early commentators interpreted Laura Bush's difference as a "sign that the role of the first lady was being returned to its pre-Hillary, pre-feminist roots" (Wildman, 2001, p. 20). The position of first lady has no simple "pre-feminist" roots to return to as the first ladyship is a site of both archetypal femininity and feminist advancement (Anderson, 2004; Parry-Giles & Blair, 2002), and Laura Bush is not as simple as some would paint her. Wildman (2001) writes, "Much as they would deny it, Laura and the people around her are careful not to stray too far from the trail Hillary blazed" (p. 20). Indeed, Laura Bush speaking on the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan is highly reminiscent of Hillary Clinton, a point that I return to below. Commentators such as Wildman (2001) argue that Laura Bush can be pictured as charting a new path, a third path somewhere between the "radical feminism" of Hillary Clinton and the maternal image of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush. The media image of Laura Bush is "all part of a balancing act: a strong mothering figure but not just a mother, a traditional wife but also a contemporary woman" (p. 20).
The use of the republican mother pulpit offers first ladies an additional rhetorical tradition to draw upon: maternal feminism. If the republican mother tradition encourages the expansion of women's political and rhetorical roles and the championing of social welfare issues, maternal feminism is its theoretical mirror image. As described by Dow (1996), the "difference feminism" of the 1980s as well as the "social feminism" of the nineteenth century both make "claims for valuing women's special capacities in private and public arenas" (p. 169). Women's special capacities are drawn from their status as mothers, or potential mothers. Maternal nurturance becomes the dominant reason for the extension of women's responsibilities into the public sphere (p. 170). Naomi Black (1989) supports this understanding of social feminism by differentiating "social feminism" from "equity feminism." Where equity feminists focus on incorporating women into existing male-dominated ideologies such as Marxism and liberalism, social feminists emphasize women's distinctive experiences and values (p. 53-54). At the heart of social feminism is a belief that women are valuable precisely because they are different and live different lives from men (p. 53). Black's description of social feminism is thus remarkably similar to the strategies used by Frances Willard and other nineteenth century rhetors to gain support for woman suffrage. Willard justified woman suffrage based on an idea of womanhood that recognized "natural" differences of men and women and the superiority of womanly traits (Dow, 1991, p. 298). Woman suffrage would benefit society because it would allow women to exert their superior moral influence. The womanhood rationale used by Willard encouraged the association of suffrage with traditional values of home and family, and the rationale also created a role for women that did not threaten "true" womanhood or disrupt traditional beliefs about the social roles of men and women (Dow, 1991, p. 301).
For the purposes of this essay, social feminism and difference feminism will be discussed under the rubric of maternal feminism, given the common belief that women's "maternal thinking" (see Ruddick, 1989) and their domesticity create a "different voice" (see Gilligan, 1982) through which women can create political change that reflects their maternal values. Women's domestic experiences as mothers, wives, and daughters justify their entrance into the public sphere. Aileen Kraditor explains, "They [suffragists] assumed that their training as cooks, seamstresses, house cleaners, and mothers qualified them to help in legislation concerned with food inspection, sweatshop sanitation, street-cleaning, and public schools" (as cited in Burrell, 2001, p. 12). In a similar fashion, the maternal feminism of first ladies voiced through the republican mother pulpit emphasizes her place within the home and her difference as woman. Eleanor Roosevelt's 1933 book, It's Up to the Women, suggests both the strengths and the weaknesses of maternal feminism. Written to encourage women to take their rightful place in society, Roosevelt's book draws upon her gendered authority as first lady to advocate women's rights in both the private and public spheres (Barry, 2004, p. 190). Roosevelt's advocacy of women's rights is an example of maternal feminism in that she propels the collapse of womanhood into motherhood and secures for women an identity that is largely "consistent with societal expectations" (Barry, 2004, p. 198). Barry concludes, "In sum, the book argues that womanhood provides a power not available to men, a power that can change the current social order in the United States and in the world. By discussing feminist power as an element of traditional womanhood, however, Mrs. Roosevelt disguises the political nature of her arguments" (p. 198). As with other instances of maternal feminism, Roosevelt's book both challenged and reified traditional gender role expectations for women.
Maternal feminism may be the most likely source of women's rights discourse espoused by first ladies because of the republican mother pulpit. However, by their very position as first ladies--powerful women advocating for a variety of causes--many first ladies' feminist rhetoric is also infused with the ideals of liberal feminism. Liberal feminists argue that women are "persons entitled to the same basic rights as men" (Donovan, 1994, p. 5), an argument exemplified by women as diverse as Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Betty Friedan. Where maternal feminism valorizes women's difference, including their domesticity and innate maternal values, liberal feminism insists upon women's equality under the law and denies the idea of inherent differences between women and men. Early liberal feminists drew upon the theory of natural rights to argue that women, like men, were citizens. In her 1854 address to the New York State Legislature, Stanton explained, "There are certain natural rights as inalienable to civilization as are the rights of air ... The natural rights of civilized man and woman are government, property, the harmonious development of all their powers, and the gratification of their desires" (as cited in Donovan, 1994, p. 17). Laws and social customs that reinforced women's status as domestic servants and confined women to activities in the private sphere were interpreted as violating women's natural rights.
During the second wave of feminism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States experienced a revival of both difference/maternal feminism and liberal/equality feminism. The 1967 Bill of Rights by the National Organization for Women [NOW] (1993) demanded rights for women as individuals that included equal employment, equal pay, and equal education (p. 159). Education and access to "male" professions became one of the main driving forces behind the liberal feminist group NOW. Betty Friedan noted "that the gut issues of this revolution involve employment and education and new social institutions and not sexual fantasy" (as cited in Tong, 1998, p. 25). First ladies were not immune to the changing social fabric, as Betty Ford, Rosalyn Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and now Laura Bush demonstrate. Betty Ford adamantly supported two "liberal feminist" issues, the Roe v. Wade decision and the Equal Rights Amendment [ERA], although both issues were politically controversial and could detrimentally affect her husband's presidency (Gutgold & Hobgood, 2004, p. 337). Rosalyn Carter also worked for the passage of the ERA, noting that she would do "just about anything [she] could think of for the cause" (as cited in Blair & Parry-Giles, 2004, p. 351). Both Carter and Ford worked to advance liberal feminist causes, but both also enacted a more traditional role of womanhood as necessitated by their positions as first ladies. Ford is a particularly interesting example, as she strategically used her traditional style and maternal/wifely position as first lady in an effort to help liberal feminist policies find a broader audience. Gutgold and Hobgood (2004) explain, "She saw herself as an ideal spokesperson because she could be a bridge between women's traditional values and those values favored by advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment or proponents of the pro-choice decision rendered by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade" (p. 337). By advocating liberal feminist causes, Ford presented herself as an independent woman aware of women's issues, but at the same time she conformed to a more traditional image of a first lady by continuing to emphasize her role as mother and wife. The republican mother pulpit used by first ladies is, as we see in Ford's case, as easily extended into the realm of liberal feminism as maternal feminism. Liberal feminist issues like those represented by the ERA, while distinctly different from maternal feminism issues like those represented by Roosevelt's emphasis on women's difference, are nevertheless still women's issues and fall under the traditional field of first ladies' advocacy.
First ladies draw upon the republican mother pulpit to advocate both maternal and liberal feminist causes. Laura Bush's use of women's rights is an example of maternal or difference feminism, as her arguments are ultimately successful in creating some changes in policy, but do not challenge the inherent oppressiveness of modern sex/gender power structures. However, her interest in promoting women's rights in the public sphere--particularly through education and work--hints at a liberal feminism that is highly reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's advocacy for the rights of women and children on the international stage. Hillary Clinton is often referenced as the woman who changed the role of first lady because she entered the office as a "formidable politician and thinker in her own fight [who] did not appear to fit the image of a Barbara Bush, a Nancy Reagan, or even a Rosalyn Carter" (Muir & Benitez, 1996, p. 139). However, Hillary Clinton was as much constrained by the traditional expectations for first ladies as were previous women. Shawn Parry-Giles (2000) notes, "[A]s her attempts to reform health care failed and she faced more allegations concerning Whitewater, the White House associated the First Lady more with children's issues ... constructing a 'good mother' role for HRC" (p. 208). When the public and press expressed ambivalence and dislike of Hillary Clinton's attempt to play a more political role in her husband's presidency, Hillary Clinton reappeared on the public stage with a softer and more feminine persona and largely limited her forays into policy areas to appeals for help for disenfranchised people across the world (Corrigan, 2000; Parry-Giles, 2000). Karrin Vasby Anderson (2002) argues that Hillary Rodham Clinton took on the archetypal female identity "Madonna" in an effort to "revamp" her public image after the health care disaster (p. 2). After the health care fiasco, Hillary Clinton drew upon an aspect of the Madonna trope, the motherhood archetype, to soften her image (p. 6). Clinton's maternal identity was bolstered by a new haircut, the publication and promotion of It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us, and her family focused speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention (pp. 6-7).
Hillary Clinton's "feminism" has been described as "soft" liberal feminism that focuses on women's successes rather than their struggles (Muir & Benitez, 1996, p. 152), but Anderson's (2002) work suggests that Clinton's use of the Madonna identity may align her feminism more closely with the maternal feminism associated with previous first ladies (p. 8). Anderson also argues, however, that with Rodham Clinton's international rhetoric on the rights of women, her "Madonna image promoted feminist politics by making a radical feminist [italics added] message more palatable to the First Lady's audiences" (p. 8). Clinton was operating in an oxymoronic fashion, combining a feminine rhetorical style and appearance with feminism, and creating a space "in which femininity and feminism are no longer cast as antithetical" (p. 11). Making a move similar to that of Ford, Clinton's use of femininity (traditional womanhood) allowed her to advocate for liberal feminist issues on the international stage. Strategically combining the advocacy of women's rights with an advocacy of democracy, Clinton's message was ultimately about the empowerment of women through democratic processes (Mattina, 2004, p. 428). Although Clinton has faced criticism that her feminism focuses too much on empowerment and too little on "hard" issues such as abortion and equal pay for equal work (see Muir & Benitiz, 1996; Burrell, 2001), she did not always avoid "hard" feminist issues. Clinton's international advocacy of women's and children's rights echoed liberal feminist theories by associating women's rights with human rights, and it was on the international stage that Clinton directly discussed gendered rights violations such as domestic abuse and rape.
Liberal feminism blends well with human rights discourse in part because both draw upon ideals of equal rights for equal people. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights begins, "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world" (1948). A natural rights perspective provides the basis for both human rights and liberal feminist discourse. It is by associating women's rights with human rights that Hillary Rodham Clinton can decry specifically gendered rights abuses such as domestic abuse, trafficking, bride burnings, genital mutilation, and rape (Burrell, 2001, p. 136). In condemning the practices of the Taliban, Clinton (1999) quoted Madeline Albright, "[it is] no longer acceptable to say that the abuse and mistreatment of women is cultural--it should be called what it is: criminal." In following with a human rights/liberal feminist doctrine, Clinton's (1999) rhetoric more often than not advocated for women's access to the public sphere, as "No nation can hope to move forward if its women and children are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, when they don't have the health care they need, when too many of them still die in childbirth, when they cannot read or take a job for which they will receive equal pay for equal work." Women's access to the public sphere, for both work and political activism, is an essential part of Clinton's main argument: that improvement in women's lives, and women's full participation in government, is the only way in which nations will achieve health, prosperity, and democracy (Burrell, 2001, p. 135). Clinton's success in advocating for the rights of women and children on the international stage lies in her ability to conform to the gendered expectations for first ladies. Although she echoes Stanton's call for the equality of women, she enacts a Madonna persona with a focus on maternal womanhood that softens her liberal feminist message. In essence, Clinton uses the republican mother pulpit in which political activity--in this case, advocacy for women's rights abroad--is couched in the tradition of first ladies' social activism (Parry-Giles & Blair, 2002).
The use of the republican mother pulpit in concert with feminist messages continues with Laura Bush. An analysis of Bush's advocacy for women's and children's rights in Afghanistan suggests that the contradictory results of the republican mother pulpit, the reification of an archetypal femininity and the challenging of gender stereotypes, continue to operate in the rhetoric of first ladies. Described as the "consoler-in-chief" after the events of 9/11, Laura Bush's image has consistently been framed using maternal imagery (Wertheimer, 2004b, p. 451). Her rhetorical acts since 9/11 have included writing letters to school children, speaking to the families and friends of the victims of United flight 93, and giving a speech on the aftermath of 9/11 to the National Press Club (pp. 451-452). She has sustained her support of the Ready to Learn, Ready to Read initiative, announced the creation of the Laura Bush Foundation for American Libraries, and has repeatedly addressed issues of women's and children's rights (pp. 455-456). Asked what she would like her legacy to be, Laura Bush responded, "I would like to be known as an advocate for children" (Wertheimer, 2004b, p. 461). Laura Bush presents an interesting model of first lady, as she "brings to the position a unique blend of conservative and liberal tendencies" (Wertheimer, 2004b, p. 459). Her activities fall comfortably within the duties of a republican mother, and Bush has succeeded in becoming a forceful advocate for women and children's rights. However, her advocacy for women's rights is limited by her use of a unique combination of maternal and liberal feminism that justifies women's limited participation in the public sphere through their maternal duties. This combination can be illustrated through an ideographic analysis of Laura Bush's speeches on women's rights in Afghanistan, focusing on her use of the ideograph
Ideographs and Ideology in the Rhetoric of Laura Bush
Hillary Clinton's transition from domestic policy to international human rights advocate marked an increase in her popularity. Acting as a "missionary" for the U.S. ideals of democracy and capitalism, Rodham Clinton's powerful arguments for human rights were softened by her maternal persona (Anderson, 2002, p. 10). Laura Bush also presents powerful arguments for women and children's rights on the international stage, a move supported by the public because of numerous factors, including her explicit support of her husband's policies, the legacy of Hillary Clinton, and the ability of first ladies like Rodham Clinton to "get away with more on the international stage, perhaps because she was attacking Others rather than us" (Anderson, 2002, p. 10). In 1999, Rodham Clinton noted, "There probably is no more egregious and systematic trampling of fundamental rights of women today than what is happening in Afghanistan under the iron rule of the Taliban." Less than two years later, Laura Bush (2001) concurred by starting a "world-wide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al-Qaida terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban." Throughout her six main speeches on women's rights in Afghanistan, Bush draws upon the traditions of the republican mother pulpit and crafts an argument for women's rights that upholds a traditional understanding of womanhood.
Ideographic analyses allow critics to draw connections between rhetoric and ideology. Michael McGee (1999) defines an ideograph as the "basic structural elements, the building blocks, of ideology" (p. 459). McGee conceptualizes the ideograph as operating within a "rhetoric of control;" each ideograph has a wealth of meaning that citizens are "conditioned" to recognize (p. 459). Ideographs are different than "God" terms in that they focus on social rather than moral or ethical issues, but in the same way that a "God" term obstructs "pure thought," an ideograph is an intricate part of language that "gets in the way of thinking" (p. 461). McGee's full definition of ideographs places emphasis on their ideological aspects:
An ideograph is an ordinary-language term found in political discourse. It is a high-order abstraction representing collective commitment to a particular but equivocal and ill-defined normative goal. It warrants the use of power, excuses behavior and belief which might otherwise be perceived as eccentric or antisocial, and guides behavior and belief into channels easily recognized by the community as acceptable and laudable. (p. 459)
Usually ideographs are "culture bound" to the extent that one ideograph may mean different things in different areas and each ideograph can be used to "define and exclude groupings of the public" (McGee, 1999, p. 467; Edwards & Winker, 1997, p. 302). An analysis of ideographs does not merely recognize the ideographs in any given speech; rather, a critic should take "account of the ways in which political rhetors dip into, add to, and reshape the shared cultural stock of ideographs" (Cloud, 1998, p. 389).
Along with McGee (1999), Cloud (1998; 2004) and Condit and Lucaites's (1993) work suggests that an important aspect of an ideographic analysis is understanding an ideograph in its diachronic and synchronic contexts. For Cloud (1998), this means locating ideographs historically and describing the "tensions and clashes in any given (synchronic) moment" (p. 390). Condit and Lucaites (1993) explain that "the diachronic structure of an ideograph represents the full range and history of its usages for a particular rhetorical culture" while the "synchronic structure of an ideograph represents its usage as defined by its relationship in public discourse to other ideographs relevant to the historically specific situation they are collectively employed to modify or mediate" (p. xiii). When defining ideographs, Condit and Lucaites explain, "Ideographs represent in condensed form the normative, collective commitments of members of a public, and they typically appear in public argumentation as the necessary motivations or justifications for action performed in the name of the public" (pp. xii-xiii). This definition is particularly appropriate for Laura Bush's rhetoric, as she strategically uses a specific ideograph,
Of the many ideographs used by Laura Bush in her six speeches about women and children in Afghanistan,
Although not previously theorized as an ideograph, the importance of the ideological meaning of