Women's Inferiority in Math and Science

Topics: Rhetoric, Appeal to emotion, Logic Pages: 6 (2058 words) Published: November 22, 2005
Rhetorical Analysis of Paired Arguments: Women's inferiority in math and science

Audience Analysis: "Sex Ed at Harvard" by Charles Murray

Published in the New York Times, Murray is addressing a primarily liberal audience. However, it is read by a general audience both liberals and conservatives between the ages of twenty and sixty because it is circulated nationwide and internationally. This newspaper reaches the educated upper, middle, and lower classes. Murray includes himself in the same category as the reader, however his tone and word choice suggest that he sides with Summer's radical comments and this in turn weakens his argument as a whole.

Audience Analysis: "Summers of Our Discontent" by Katha Pollitt

Like Murray, Pollitt addresses a predominately liberal audience between the ages of twenty and sixty. Though, being published in The Nation, it reaches a smaller audience and though it is published nationwide it is not readily available. Pollitt's loquacious and verbose tone may turn off some readers, while adding fuel to the fire for the people intensifying her argument. Her strong emotional appeal is direct towards a more female and liberal audience. Moreover, her usage of "I" and "me" are important because she shares her ideals and values with her audience.

The fields of math and science have traditionally been male driven areas of study. However, in the last few decades, women have slowly begun to permeate into these disciplines showing equal skills and abilities as their male counterparts. Therefore, it was greatly discredited when Harvard president, Harry Summers, proposed his claim that there are few women pursuing math and science because of their nature. Much controversy arose and this scandal provoked two writers, Charles Murray of the New York Times and Kathy Pollitt of The Nation to write for and against Summer's assertion respectively. Investigating the authors' uses of the rhetorical approaches-ethos, pathos, and logos- as well as the common topics, demonstrates that Politt's article is more persuasive. Pollitt's article employs weak intrinsic ethos against Summers to strengthen her argument. She characterizes Larry Summers, "a distinguished economist who was Treasury Secretary under Clinton" (Pollitt), as a man who follows the saying "…behind every successful woman is a man who is surprised" (Pollitt). According to Pollitt, Summers is another chauvinistic male underestimating a woman's potential. His ignorance challenged his credibility which he later attempted to regain by apologizing. Furthermore, his lack of judgment is revealed when he "doesn't want the world to know what he actually said" (Pollitt), by not making his official statement public. By informing the reader that Summers apologized for his assertion, Pollitt is strengthening her argument and revealing his ineffective authority. She also effectively does this my demonstrating his lack of providing women opportunities to be tenured in math and science. "The numbers of tenure offers to women at Harvard has gone down in each of Summers' three years as president, from nine in thirty-six tenures to three in thirty-two. Surely women's genes have not deteriorated since 2001?" (Pollitt). Pollitt's morbidly sarcastic tone also plays on her pathetic appeal. This is especially aimed toward the fellow women who think genetic differences as a basis of less tenured women in these fields is absurd. She also challenges Summers at the end of her article by questioning his knowledge as to "why women are underrepresented in math and science" (Pollitt)? She mocks him by telling him to "do his homework, beginning with Nancy Hopkin's pathbreaking 1999 study of bias against female faculty at MIT" (Pollitt) and maybe then he will understand the prejudice women must overcome. Unlike Pollitt, Murray strongly agrees with Summers by supporting his reasoning with "all the scholars who deal professionally with data about the...
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