both diversity and community. In this way feminist scholarship reminds us that
rhetoric can be both critical and creative, both suspicious and affirming, both
resistant and renewing.
Nearly a decade ago, Balsamo raised an important but often neglected question: What is the
specific relationship between postmodernism and feminism? (64). In her ensuing discussion, she
observed that feminism had already encountered many aspects of the postmodern condition such as the
lack of faith in master narratives and the problems associated with theoretical universality, noted the
work of especially Haraway and Jardine in attempting to grapple with that postmodem condition, and
concluded by wondering if the postmodern project would be open, flexible, and self-reflexive enough to
engage relevant feminist thought (70). Any serious attempt to foresee the prospect of rhetoric in an age
of postmodernity must, I believe, ask a similar question. While I am aware of the risk of essentializing, I
concentrate on feminist investigations of women's rhetoric. I do not mean to suggest that all women
engage in all the communication practices that are reviewed later in this essay. Instead, I take my cue
from standpoint theory (Wood) and identify women because some women have engaged in coping
practices and some have theorized about those practices because they have experienced oppression
because they are women. Their experience of oppression is analogous if not identical to the postmodern
condition. As Tanno observes: All the characteristics of postmodemism have been reality for the
oppressed throughout history. All oppressed groups have intimately known fragmentation and anomie.
All oppressed groups have continually experienced what it means to have nothing to hold on to. All
oppressed groups have historically recognized the irrationality of a 'rational' stance that has been
curiously selective in determining how far its 'humanizing force' should extend, which groups it would
embrace, and which behaviors it would endorse (318). Although I could examine the communication
practices of any oppressed group to find coping techniques, (probably) because I am a woman, I choose
to turn to women.
Note that I am blurring the distinction between metalanguage and object language such that a
critical rhetorician may be a critic performing critique and/or a rhetor whose rhetoric functions as
critique. Gaonkar argues that the dissolution of a distinction between critic and rhetor may be the most
innovative thread within the project of critical rhetoric.
Charland suggested that the critical rhetorician be considered a bicoleur, a kind of cultural
tinkerer, rather than as a guerrilla, constantly undermining the foundations of any power/knowledge
structure in a continued process of negative critique (74). While McKerrow objected to the image of
bricoleur, he approved the notion of tinkering ( "Critical"77). Certainly a crafter tinkers, but she also
makes something (probably something softer than a brick wall).
Campbell questions the political and ethical impact of dismissing agency from the concept of technê ( "Biesecker"). However, Biesecker maintains that making technê a function of a system of
power/knowledge rather than a function of individual agency still preserves the possibility of resistance
as described by Campbell while adding a self-reflexive concern the fragmented and decentered subject
Balsamo Anne. "Un-Wrapping the Postmodem: A Feminist Glance". The Journal of Communication
Inquiry 11 ( 1987): 64-72.
Bauman Zygmunt. Postmodern Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
Biesecker Barbara. "Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of
Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 ( 1992): 140-61.
"-----. Michel Foucault and the Question of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 ( 1992): 351-64.
"-----. Negotiating with our Tradition: Reflecting Again (without Apologies) on the Feminization of
Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 26 ( 1993): 236-41.
Borgmann Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: U Chicago P. 1992.
Bitzer Lloyd F., and
Edwin Black, eds. The Prospect of Rhetoric. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1971.