“Feminist criticism has its roots in a social and political movement, the feminist or women’s liberation movement, aimed at improving conditions for women” (Foss, 2004, p.151). The history of Women’s rights goes further back than what is actually recorded. The definition of women’s right is sometimes hard to articulate. “It is the equal opportunity concept: everyone has an equal opportunity to offer a definition of hopes that her or his particular perception of the situation will prevail” (Stetson, 2004, p.1). Women rights activist not only fight for the equality of women, but for children and men as well. Therefore, women’s rights are also human rights. “The concept of rights implies that the status of women has both legitimacy conferred by government action and value as public good” (Stetson, 2004, p.1). For my artifact, I choose a speech by Hillary Clinton. The speech is called “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”. This speech was given in Beijing, China at the 4th World Conference for Women. Although the majority of feminist issues are considered to be social and political; Clinton spoke about issues among women that are not talked about. She stated, “The issues that matter most are the lives of women and their families: access to education, healthcare, jobs and credit, the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights and to participate fully in the political life of our countries.” This famous speech was not targeted for women only in the United States, but for women all over the world. She spoke about issues of women and poverty, the education and training for women, women’s health, violence against women, power and decision-making for women, the advance of women, human rights of women, and women in the media. “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well. That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family and every nation on this planet have a stake in women’s right that takes place worldwide.” This is a very relevant aspect in the speech. She is making the argument that men as well as women should focus on feminist issues. There are many definitions for feminism. “Feminist criticism is the analysis of rhetoric to discover how the rhetorical constructions of gender is used as a means for domination and how that process can be challenged so that all people understand that they have the capacity to claim agency and act in the world as they choose” (Foss, 2004, p. 157). The definition most suitable for this critique is “movement towards creating a society where women can live a full, self-determined life” (Foss, 2004, p.151). Foss argues, “The diversity among definitions of feminism also characterizes the goals and objectives of feminist.” Feminism is diversified into three stages. The first stage from the 19th century through the 1920’s, which focused on women’s voting rights. The second stage was from the 1920’s to 1980’s, this stage focused on women’s equality with men and gender expectations. Many feminist perspectives were recognized in this stage. Liberal, Radical, Marxist feminist were the most well known. Others included lesbian feminists, cultural feminists, revalorists, essentialists, womanists, and ecofeminist. The artifact used for this critique would be considered radical feminism. “Radical feminists advocate the revolutionary transformation of society and the development of alternative social arrangements to those currently in place” (Foss, 2004, p.152). “Radical feminism signified a movement that aimed to challenge the social order as profoundly as did the labor and civil rights movement” (Dubois, 1998, p.4). The third stage of feminism began in the 1980’s. These feminist had many advantages and freedom the first and second stage feminist did not have. The feminists in this stage included women and men from all races, religions, social economic classes and sexualities. This stage was much more diverse than the first two stages. This stage had their own characterize feminist, which included women-of-color feminist, power feminists and postfeminism. Women-of color feminist were also know as third world feminist, they opposed racial exclusion. Power feminists believe women were victims, and argued that women should focus on oppressive conditions. “Postfemininsm is sometimes defined by the media as anti-feminist or as a label that suggest that feminism no longer is needed” (Foss, 2004 p. 153). Although, feminism originally set out to fight for the equality of women, it now wants to end oppression and domination in general. “Feminist criticism involves two basic steps: 1) analysis of the construction of gender and 2) exploration of what the artifact suggests about how the ideology of domination is constructed and maintained or how it can be challenged and transformed.” The artifact does not demonstrate much masculinity. However, it illustrates femininity. The audience of this artifact is majority women. The target audience is for both men and women. The artifact portrayed women as needing a voice. During the speech, Hillary states, “the great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard. Women comprise more than half the world’s population, 70% of the world’s poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write. We are the primary caretakers for most of the world’s children and elderly. Yet much of the work we do is not valued; not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders.” The point she is trying to make is that women’s work should not be disregarded no matter if it is in the home or the fields. The artifact argues women who are homemakers should be considered just as important as men who work in an office all day. The duties women do everyday such as: giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, and cleaning houses should be destabilized. There should not be one formula for how women should lead their lives, and women should have the respect to make their own choices. For example, issues like abortion. It should be a women’s choice to abort or keep a fetus. Hillary states, “We must recognize that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected.” The goal for the conference was to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take control over their own destinies. The women apart of this artifact want change. Although, this artifact is over fourteen years old, it is still a great example of feminist criticism. It illustrates motives and moves of femininity among women and a few men who participated. Gender expectations is a major problem within women right, especially when it comes to women who have raised families, than after their skills and life experiences are not valued in the job market. Other topics covered in the artifact included, slavery prostitution, genital mutilation,
Discrimination and inequalities among women, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other group is the work feminist who participated in this conference want to achieve. The artifact argues “freedom means the right of people to assemble, organize, and debate openly. It means respecting the views of those who may disagree with the views of their governments. It means not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.”
This artifact contributes to rhetorical theory because it can improve all human communication. By knowing the facts on women’s right is not only history but it is also communication. Women’s rights are human rights. Therefore, women are not the only group who fight for inequalities. So much has been changed since the date of this artifact. I believe women have many rights now, in comparison to previous years. I think expectations of men and women in general will always be different. References
Foss, S.K. (2004). Rhetorical Criticism: exploration & practice. (3rd ed.) Long Grove IL:
Waveland Press, Inc.
Clinton, H. (1995) Women’s Rights are Human Rights Famous Speech. Delivered September 5,
1995. Retrieved from AmericanRhetoric.com December 1, 2009. Stetson-McBride, D (2004). Women’s Right is the USA: policy debates and gender roles. (3rd ed)
New York: Routledge.
Dubois, D.C. (1998). Women’s suffrage and Women’s rights. (1st ed.) New York: New York