You are on page 1of 8

Ross Bradley

Dr. Earnest Cox
Rhetorical Theory
Reflective Analysis Essay
Reflecting on Blaming Gender and Gender Roles
In my essay Blaming Gender and Gender Roles, I wrote a ceremonial piece
blaming gender for several societal problems. The specific societal problems I blamed
gender for causing were overall bias with the genders and the way the two different
genders are treated by society, the wage gap or the difference in pay women receive as
opposed to men in the workplace, and the gender difference in mental disorder
diagnosis and treatment. By looking at specific qualities of my piece like audience,
proposed outcome of the argument, and time concerns and comparing it to all three
branches of classical rhetoric, it is clear my piece is ceremonial rhetoric and not forensic
or deliberative rhetoric.
Forensic or judicial rhetorics main purpose is to accuse or defend. Eugene
Garver in Aristotles Rhetoric:

An Art of Character writes forensic rhetoric is related to

the laws as particular to general...where deliberative and epideictic rhetoric take for
granted the ends of their audience, forensic speech accepts as given the laws of the
polis (Garver 96). Forensic or judicial rhetoric, as it is called sometimes, has to do with
laws. My essay doesnt have to do with laws, well not exactly. Forensic rhetoric
particular deals with criminal and civil laws and this is the reason there is an association
of the word forensic with criminal investigation. Gender is not really a law, per say.

There is not a law in the United States that states men and women must act a certain
Gender is a social construction and it is maintained by the individuals in society
not by the government. One could argue, that since governments also derive their
power from society and since gender also derives its power from society, that gender
could be treated like a law.
There is a problem with this logic. In Rhetoric translated by
W. Rhys Roberts, Aristotle states forensic speaking either attacks or defends
somebody: one or other of these two things must always be done by parties in a case
(Aristotle 13). The question is who or what am I attacking or defending in my essay?
Am, I attacking or defending a person or a group of people in my essay? No. I am
attacking or more accurately blaming gender and then providing a list of issues.
Forensic rhetoric is concerned with laws, but it is concerned individuals or groups of
individuals who break laws or are falsely accused of breaking the laws. In ancient and in
modern times, forensic rhetoric most often occurs in courts of law. I am not accusing
gender of doing anything. I am blaming it for these things. And, I am also not seeking

restitution in any form, which is a characteristic outcome of forensic rhetoric. Eugene

Garver in Aristotles Rhetoric: An Art of Character states I can face a judicial situation in
which I have to decide what punishment is right for the criminal (Garver 63). I offer no
punishment or verdict in my essay. I just blame, which is ceremonial rhetoric.
All three branches of rhetoric are also associated with a particular time either
past, present
or future. Forensic rhetoric is concerned with the past. In Rhetoric by
Aristotle translated by W. Rhys Roberts, Aristotle writes party in a case at law is

concerned with the past; one man accuses the other, and the other defends himself,
with reference to things already done (Aristotle 13). I do make references to the past in
several places in my essay. For example I state, as long as humans have been around
gender has existed, they [gender roles] have appeared in every culture throughout
history with some variation, and in general I talk about the way gender has been taught
and imposed in the past. But, I am focusing on blaming gender on things that are
happening right now. One example, I use is the wage gap. I write according to the
International Labour Organization, in 2010 American women on average only earned 81
percent of what the male counterparts in these positions earned. Yes, 2010 is
technically in the past, but the wage gap based on gender is still occurring. I do talk
about the way gender has developed, which is dealing with the past, but I am mainly
focusing on the way gender is affecting us now.
Deliberative rhetoric attempts to persuade the audience to take or not take some
action. Ruth CA Higgins in The Empty Eloquence of Fools states the deliberative
rhetor must exhort or persuade his audience...topics such as war and peace, national
defence, trade and legislation, in order to assess what is harmful and beneficial
(Higgins 20). I would argue that my essay is persuasive, but what am I asking my
audience to do? I never ask my audience to do anything in my essay besides blame
gender and provide examples of why gender is bad. In my conclusion I write gender
and gender roles are harmful to our society in the unfair pressure they put on everyone.
I continue We should also blame gender for many of our social issues and not praise
it. This would have been the perfect place to write what I think my audience should do

to fix gender, but my piece isnt deliberative rhetoric. My essay is ceremonial rhetoric
and I just blame without offering an recommendations to my audience.
Deliberative rhetoric is also concerned with the future because the rhetor
attempts to persuade the audience to take or not take some action. Eugene Garver in
Aristotles Rhetoric: An Art of Character writes on Aristotle and states he [Aristotle]
says that deliberation concerns the future (Garver 71). My piece is mostly concerned
with how gender has affected us in the past and how it is affecting us now. For example,
one of my points is the different way men and women are treated for mental health
disorders. The difference in diagnosis based on gender has been an ongoing problem in
society, but it is still affecting us now. I cite The World Health Organization and write
women are more likely to to be diagnosed with depression than men by doctors even
though men and women have similar scores on standardized measures of depression
or have the same symptoms. This particular point and many of my other points are
focused on what is happening now.
There is a bridge between deliberative and ceremonial or epideictic rhetoric
based on time. Lloyd P. Gerson in Aristotle: Politics, rhetoric and aesthetics writes on
this overlap epideictic also implicitly directed to the future; and its argument
sometimes bridges those that are typically used for deliberative rhetoric. (Gersen 185).
I am blaming gender and there is this unwritten message to my audience where I argue
something must be done. I do not write this or give a specific action my audience should
take, which is deliberative rhetoric. It is just the nature of epideictic or ceremonial
rhetoric as Gerson points out.

Epideictic or ceremonial rhetoric is meant to blame or praise an individual or in

my case societal views. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty in The Direction of Aristotle's
Rhetoric states epideictic rhetoric is largely ceremonial: it is addressed to a general
audience and directed to praising honor and virtue and weakness (Rorty 185). My
topic is on a societal construction-gender. And, my audience is society or anyone who is
part of society, which is just about everyone. I even broaden my audience to include
people outside the society and culture I live in by stating, gender roles are societal
rules or norms that are imposed upon the genders and they have appeared in every
culture throughout history with some variation. This is a very general and broad
audience. I do narrow my audience down in some of my points, but I still address a very
broad audience. For example, I do bring up the point of the way parents perpetuate
gender roles through color and toy choices for their children. This is a much smaller
audience than society, but addressing parents in general is still a very general
Epideictic or ceremonial rhetoric also tends to be educational and informative. In
The Direction of Aristotle's Rhetoric Amelie Oksenberg Rorty writes epideictic rhetoric
has an important educative function (Rorty 185). I am very informative throughout my
essay and as my essay continues I incorporate more facts than the general audience
would know. In order to praise or blame something or someone, you must provide
evidence or knowledge showing the audience why something or someone should be
praised or blamed. One example of this, is my section on the wage gap and gender
differences in pay. A specific example of this, is when I write on women CEOs and pay

difference. I write only 24 percent of CEOs were women in the United States and on
top of that they on average only earned 74.5 percent of male CEOs. The general public
would not know these facts. And, in order for me to ask my audience to blame gender, I
must provide reasons why.
Epideictic or ceremonial rhetoric is focused on the present, but there can be
some focus on the past and future. Aristotle in Rhetoric says the ceremonial orator is,
properly speaking, concerned with the present, since all men praise or blame in view of
the state of things existing at the time, though they often find it useful also to recall the
past and to make guesses at the future" (Philosophy Classics: Greek and Roman
Philosophers (Includes 28 Titles). I am focusing on how gender is affecting us today and
why my audience should blame it. I acknowledge the past more than the future in my
essay because I do point out how gender developed and how it has affected us and
continues to affect us.
My piece is ceremonial rhetoric and not forensic or deliberative rhetoric because
there are specific qualities in my piece about audience, the outcomes I seek, and the
time I am focused on. As I demonstrated in this essay, my essay is more aligned with
ceremonial rhetoric than the forensic or deliberative for several reasons. But, after
writing this essay and reviewing the literature on the three branches of classic rhetoric.
It seems that ceremonial rhetoric borrows a lot from the other two branches. For
example, ceremonial rhetoric focuses on the present primarily, but also looks to the past
and present. This makes it difficult to analyze because forensic and deliberative are so
clear on what period of time they are focused on.

Work Cited

Aristotle. Rhetoric. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts. N.p.: Courier Corporation, 2012. Print.
Garver, Eugene. Aristotle's Rhetoric: An Art of Character. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1994.
Philosophy Classics: Greek and Roman Philosophers (Includes 28 Titles). Vol. 2. N.p.:
ReadHowYouWant, n.d. Print.
Rorty, Amelie Oksenberg. The Directions of Aristotles Rhetoric. Aristotle: Politics,
Rhetoric, and Aesthetics edited by Lloyd P. Green, Taylor & Francis, 1999, 182-229
Ruth CA Higgins. The empty eloquence of fools: Rhetoric in Classical Greece.
Rediscovering: Law, Language, and the Practice of Persuasion edited by Justin T.
Gleeson and Rutch C.A Higgins, Federation Press, 2008, 3-44