A Symbol for Women's Progress: A Rhetorical Analysis of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Story as America's Story

By Ault, Ashley | Michigan Academician, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

A Symbol for Women's Progress: A Rhetorical Analysis of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Story as America's Story


Ault, Ashley, Michigan Academician


ABSTRACT

Hillary Rodham Clinton's life has been full of success, but the success has not been without difficulties. As a lawyer, she displayed her legal prowess by maintaining an aggressive and authoritative stand on upholding justice in society. This approach was effective for a lawyer-, however, it was deemed disturbing, from the view of the public, in her role as first lady. As first lady, Clinton dealt with conflicting ideals regarding her manner and power in politics. After her husband's two terms as president, Clinton earned a position as a senator and eventually announced, as well as conceded, her candidacy for the 2008 democratic presidential nomination. As she learned to walk the fine line of gender norms, she became the only first lady to serve in the US Cabinet. Clinton breaks cultural barriers, challenges traditional perceptions, and advocates for women. Using rhetorical analysis and Aristotle's notions of ethos and pathos, I examine Clinton's speech announcing her candidacy for president and her address to the Democratic National Convention. I argue that, using a conversational style, she constructs herself as a symbol of progress within society for women and writes her role in history, while she makes America's story her own story.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON VIEWED THROUGH THE LENS OF HISTORY

As an outspoken advocate for justice, Hillary Rodham Clinton's life establishes the advancement of rights for women. Clinton dedicates her life to serving and engaging people with her commitment to democracy as well as being an advocate for women's rights. As her public involvement led to controversy, Clinton acquired supporters as well as critics along the way. She demonstrates her responsibilities by her service as a channel of communication between the government and the public.

Clinton is constantly criticized for her alternative femininity in the sense that she subverts traditional expectations for women to be demure, pleasing and/or silent. Campbell (1998) expresses an analysis of Clinton stating that women operating in the face of the public request to, "discursively enact their femininity" (Campbell 1998, 15). There have been many instances when people have been unreceptive and harsh towards Clinton because women "who do not [appropriately enact femininity] or who do so to only a limited degree ... will arouse the intense hostile responses that seem so baffling" (Campbell 1998, 15). However, throughout Clinton's life and political status, she manages to rhetorically maneuver through the media as well as public opinion. Through lawyer, first lady, senator, presidential candidate, and secretary of state, Clinton evolves in political status as well as a rhetorician. Through speeches, she constructs herself as a symbol of progress within society for women and writes her role in history, while she makes America's story her own story. Nevertheless, Clinton's journey, or story, is important and should be explored as she progresses in political positions.

Clinton as a high-powered lawyer asserts an aggression and masculine persona. She was professionally trained to be argumentative and relentless in fighting for her cause. Extensive notes, and always doing her homework, gives her the upper hand as a lawyer. Clinton was a corporate lawyer and she developed many defense tactics to attack prosecutors as well as to investigate scandals. Little did she know that she would also need to uses these strategies to defend her husband in the Lewinsky scandal. As she supported her husband in his marital infidelity, Americans seemed to take their cue from her. The public believed in Bill Clinton because his wife stood by his side. Coming from a law background, Clinton is in this idolized war because as a first lady she has the possibility of influencing millions of people.

As a successful and driven lawyer, Clinton was considered for a position as a Supreme Court Justice when her ambitions were derailed by her husband's presidency. …

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