Gender and Public Address

Karlyn Campbell & Zornitsa Keremidchieva. The Handbook of Gender and Communication. Editor: Bonnie J Dow & Julia T Wood. Sage Publications. 2006.

Feminist scholars long have debated the usefulness of gender as an analytic category, questioning whether it can avoid renaturalizing sex differences (Hawkesworth, 1997) or be used to analyze issues other than those related to women. Addressing the challenges of writing history through the lens of gender, Scott (1997) argues that uses of gender related to “women, children, families, and ideologies,” shield topics such as “war, diplomacy, and high politics” from critical scrutiny (p. 156) and “endorse a certain functionalist view ultimately rooted in biology and [that] perpetuate the idea of separate spheres (sex and politics, family and nation, women and men) in the writing of history” (p. 157). Although this usage captures the social construction of sex relations, it cannot explain their historical and cultural particularity, their internal mechanisms, and the forces that transform them.

Rhetorical scholarship faces similar challenges. Although rhetoric has been practiced and studied since antiquity, public address as an object of study begins with Brigance’s (1943) A History and Criticism of American Public Address, in which he claims that “the emergence of women on the American platform was so distinctive a phase of history that it seemed best to give it fitting emphasis in a separate chapter” (p. viii). Thus, while acknowledging women’s oratorical history, Brigance inaugurated a scholarly pattern: discussions of gender would be associated primarily with women’s rhetorical practices, whose traditions would be considered separate and distinct, hence not immediately relevant to mainstream theorizing about public address as a cultural and political form.

Public address had been studied as oratory. Wrage’s (1947) Public Address: A Study in Social and Intellectual History codified a shift from the study of speech performances to the study of speech texts, marking the decline of elocution and oral performance and the rise of textualism (Parrish, 1957; Rosteck, 1998). In textualizing oratorical performance as a history of ideas, Wrage (1947) posited a claim fundamental to public address scholarship, that “from the speeches given by many men, it is possible to observe the reflections of prevailing social ideas and attitudes” (p. 456). Such study illuminated the nature of society: “A speech is an agency of its time, one whose surviving record provides a repository of themes and their elaborations from which we may gain insight into the life of an era as well as into the mind of a man” (Wrage, pp. 455-456). Public address gained eminence as scholarship that represented disparate cultural experiences, a synthesis underwritten by gendered assumptions.

Yoakam’s (1943) study of women’s public address in Brigance’s A History and Criticism of American Public Address presupposed the dominant notions of publicness: (a) public speech is a practice that constitutes U.S. democracy; hence, public speaking is a means of governance of inherent political significance; (b) public and private speech differ, a conceptual distinction between political and apolitical speech and a spatial distinction between public forum and private occasion. Significantly, the public domain was seen as the terrain of men’s activities, whereas women were associated with the private sphere.

Yoakam (1943) claimed that the early 19thcentury woman, clearly white and middle-class, was confined to a “woman’s sphere,” centered in the home, where “it was believed she could yield to society the greatest returns” (p. 153). Women, however, found numerous points of contact with the world outside, particularly as audiences at public lectures and organizers of abolitionist bazaars and fairs. Those activities fell “within the dictates of the sphere … to be of service in the cause of humanity” (p. 157). Yet women soon aspired to the public platform. Their methods were

too slow for the time, for the need. All the pent-up energies, all the rebellion against degradation and submission, all the desires to effect radical changes could no longer be held in submission. [Women], too, must use the public platform to disseminate their ideas, to create and stimulate a public sentiment so strong that eradication of oppression and inequality could be the only ultimate result. (p. 157)

Implicit in Yoakam’s depiction is that public speaking has an effectivity unmatched by other means of social engagement. Her positing of an idealized public sphere as an engine of progress is consistent with Brigance’s (1943) emphasis on public address as a technology of influence and (progressive) citizenship (Hance, 1958; O’Neill, 1941; Temple, 1947; Timmons, 1942). Adopting a context of spheres necessitates a narrative of inclusion in which the story of women’s public speaking will always be about women moving from (politically insignificant) female space to a (proper, singularly important politically) male sphere, although separate spheres risks an androcentric understanding of the democratic process. When incorporated into evaluations, it risks “a tedious predictability, offering us but two basic findings: women talk differently from men, and all existing discourse is patriarchal” (Condit, 1997, p. 112), which calls into question its descriptive, analytic, and explanatory utility. If, following Butler (1990), scholarship also is understood as an “apparatus of production” (p. 7), then public address scholarship produces culturally available conceptions of the natural order. Gender underwrites its history and the ways in which public address has been studied.

Our purpose is to locate gender as a conceptual foundation from which to evaluate what public address has been and/or needs to be as a communicative phenomenon and as an object and tradition of scholarship. In what follows, a dual inquiry—into the state of scholarship on gender in public address and on the gendered underpinnings of the field’s theory and methods—leads to further inquiry into the interplay of rhetoric and gender in the constitution of communal practices, modes of knowledge, and means of governance.

Gender and the Public(s) of Public Address

During the cold war, Wrage’s argument that speeches are a history of cultural ideas permitted scholars to emphasize public speaking as a distinctively democratic practice and to assert the discipline’s relevance in a context marked by the anxieties of war. Often reiterated (Baker & Eubanks, 1960; Dearin, 1980; Haring, 1952; Lang, 1951; Wallace, 1954), the claim that studying public address is a means to understand national character and promote “patriotism” (O’Brien, 1951) culminated in Lucas’s (1988) insistence that “[the major oratorical texts] are unsurpassed historical and cultural documents of the first order. Central to our country’s mythic heritage and historical experience, they merit interrogation as quin-tessentially American documents” (p. 247). In Lucas’s extension of Wrage’s argument, public speaking defined the norms of U.S. democracy, and public address scholarship documented national ideas and values, thus becoming part of the project of U.S. exceptionalism (Greene & Kuswa, 2002).

Public speaking and citizenship were interdependent, a link that Dearin (1980) claims “is by no means encompassed by the genre called oratory or ‘public speaking,’ in the United States, as well as in certain other Western societies, it is epitomized by this genre. To ignore speeches is to ignore an important determinant of history” (p. 355).

Dearin echoes Brigance (1943), who insisted that personal influence and social status, not artistry, guided his choice of speakers, which presupposes that those who speak in national forums are the kinds of citizens worthy of critical attention. Requiring that scholars study works of national significance encouraged analysis of the speeches of U.S. presidents, leaders of national movements, and eminent churchmen, although the nationalization of politics was historically specific to the late 19th and the early 20th centuries (Beasley, 2001). As an assumption it treats “what were life and death concerns affecting a majority of the population … as frivolous, minor, and largely irrelevant to our rhetorical past” (Campbell, 1989d, p. 218). Apart from studies of women’s participation in the suffrage, antislavery, and prohibition movements and in Equal Rights Amendment activities, the local and municipal politics traditionally more densely populated with and engaged in by women would not meet the so-called national significance test (Mattingly, 2002; Ryan, 1992). Thus, interrogating what is public in public address scholarship challenges the “privileging of one sphere over the other and the kinds of discourses that get valued or marginalized as a result” (Griffin, 1996).

Scholars of gender and public address have had a variety of responses to the problems presented by the gendering of the public platform. Generally, however, they have been united by an emphasis on recovering and revalorizing women’s rhetorical activities, both public and private, thus understanding gender as the difference represented by women. As we discuss below, one dominant trend has been scholars’ emphasis on the inclusion of women in public address studies, a project that details the contexts for resistance to women’s public discourse as well as women’s rhetorical responses to that resistance. This emphasis has produced a body of scholarship designed to highlight women’s rhetorical contributions in disparate public contexts.

Recovering Historical Women’s Voices

Scholars researching women’s activities have made sustained efforts to democratize public address. The project of recovering women’s rhetorics was launched to counteract the gender bias at the core of the rhetorical canon; its initial focus centered on the rhetorical activities of 19th- and early 20th-century women rhetors in the United States (Campbell, 1985, 2001). Campbell (1998a) argues that “women’s ignorance of their history, of their invention, has placed a double burden on them, compelling them to reinvent over and over again the spaces and selves that have given them voice” (p. 117). Although not without its skeptics (Ballif, 1992; Biesecker, 1992; Hopkins, 1989), recovery of women’s public address has appealed to feminist scholars despite the challenges posed by a lack of texts, a phenomenon attributable to structural biases against archiving and reproducing women’s documents, especially those written by women who were not educated or affluent (Campbell, 2002). The recovery project has produced a number of collections of women’s historical and contemporary public discourse, including those by O’Connor (1954), Kennedy and O’Shields (1983), Anderson (1984), as well as Campbell’s (1989a, 1989b) two-volume commentary and reader on historical feminist rhetoric (see also Campbell, 1993, 1994). In addition, scholars in composition and rhetoric have produced a number of book-length critical anthologies treating women’s rhetoric and rhetorical theory (Donawerth, 2002a; Lunsford, 1995; Mattingly, 2001; Miller & Bridwell-Bowles, 2005; Ritchie & Ronald, 2001; Wertheimer, 1997), as well as other work on women’s historical rhetorical education (Bacon & McClish, 2000; Donawerth, 2002b; Eldred & Mortensen, 1993; Hobbs, 1995; Mattingly, 1995; Rothermel, 2002).

A primary emphasis in this critical scholarship has been understanding women rhetors’ responses to the restrictions on their public speech, restrictions which historians attribute to such cultural mythologies as the “cult of domesticity” (Kraditor, 1968), the “cult of true womanhood” (Welter, 1976), and “republican motherhood” (Kerber, 1980). Campbell’s (1989a) observation that women overcame considerable obstacles to speak was based on study of the woman’s rights movement. Another significant strain of scholarship has examined the rhetoric of historical women on behalf of themselves and other marginalized groups in movements advocating abolition, woman’s rights, temperance, birth control, and labor reform (see Browne, 1999; Carlson, 1992, 1994; Conrad, 1981; Croy, 1998; Daughton, 1995; Dow, 1991; Hayden, 1999a, 1999b; Henry, 1995; Hogan & Solomon, 1995, 1996, 2000; Japp, 1985; Kendall & Fisher, 1974; Kowal, 2000; Linkugel & Solomon, 1991; Mattina, 1994; McCleary, 1994; Miller, 1999; Powell, 1995; Ray, 2003; Shepler & Mattina, 1999; Sillars, 1995; Solomon, 1988; Tonn, 1996; Triece, 2000; Waggenspack, 1989; Zulick & Leff, 1995). Much of this work focuses on the inventive strategies employed by women rhetors to respond to the difficult historical contexts they faced as “public” women advocating social change (Campbell, 1998a).

More recent scholarship has identified specific cultural and political forces contributing to women’s exclusion by demonstrating that gender becomes a public concern as means of resolving other political exigencies. Zaeske’s (1995) narrative of the emergence of the “promiscuous audience,” the forbidding of women to address audiences of men and women, notes that Frances Wright, among the first to address mixed audiences, was not so attacked despite “creating a sensation by lecturing in public about politics” (p. 194). The tour by the abolitionist Grimké sisters, which attracted men and women, prompted the General Association of the Massachusetts Congregational Churches to issue a written order against women speaking to mixed-gender audiences on public topics. Containment of women’s right to speak was articulated in the political agenda of thwarting abolitionist activism (see also Morris, 2001).

Indeed, scholars have argued that women’s responses to the rhetorical problems they faced were sensitive to the political and historical contexts in which they operated, even at the risk of compromising feminist goals. Zaeske (1995) demonstrates that early feminists, such as the Grimké sisters, Abby Kelley, and Lucretia Coffin Mott, argued for women’s right to address promiscuous audiences from the standpoint of a “gendered morality that emphasized the special nature of female benevolence and the social utility of exercising that benevolence through the spoken word” (p. 192; see also Carlson, 1992). This rhetoric reinforced a view of women as citizens of a different kind. By the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, speakers derived arguments from the philosophy of natural rights (Campbell, 1989a), reflecting the rise of modern liberalism, which has proved ill equipped to address the structural bases of women’s exclusion from public life. In the 1870s, arguments from expediency, which linked woman’s rights to social benefits, began to predominate (Campbell, 1989a; Dow, 1991), often reinforcing contemporary political anxieties about immigration, racial equality, and industrial labor disputes (see, e.g., Murphy, 1990).

Studies of historical women’s discourse have focused on the activities of white women, although critical anthologies have tended to include a chapter or two on African American women’s experiences and discourse (see, e.g., Campbell, 1989a; Logan, 1997). A few essays in communication journals have examined their historical rhetoric (Behling, 2002; Campbell, 1986). In recent years, however, a number of books have initiated a recovery project for African American women’s rhetoric that parallels the project described in this chapter (see Bacon, 2002; Houston & Davis, 2002; Logan, 1999; Peterson, 1995; Royster 2000). Bacon’s essay in Chapter 12 describes that project and explores the intersections of race/ethnicity and gender in rhetorical action.

Gender and the Disciplining of Public Address

Recent public address scholarship that goes beyond a focus on historical women continues to examine the ways in which disciplining gender becomes a tool for political suppression. Morris (2002) demonstrates that intensified investments in gendered speech norms often constitute a response to political and social crises. His study of the sex crime panic launched by J. Edgar Hoover traces the transformation of the homosexual from “pansy into menace” following the Great Depression. Through historically contingent networks of political exigencies, such studies suggest that gender, itself intensely historical, comes to underwrite norms of rhetorical access. Gender, then, is a regime of power that produces norms and forms of public address and regulates who can enact them (see also Brookey, 1998; Campbell, 1995; Hiltner, 1999; Miller, 1998), a conclusion that is borne out in studies of the public discourse of contemporary women (see, e.g., Campbell, 1998b; Jamieson, 1995).

Public address scholarship on their rhetorical activities, although it has retained some focus on women’s efforts in movements for social change, such as the second wave of feminism, generally has tended to emphasize the role of women’s discourse in organized political contexts, as Beasley does in Chapter 11. For example, continuing in the tradition of “great women speakers” inaugurated by scholars of historical public address, researchers have created a stream of scholarship on the rhetoric of U.S. first ladies (Anderson, 2002; Campbell, 1996, 1998b; Edwards & Chen, 2000; Parry-Giles & Blair, 2002; Wertheimer, 2003). Much of the rhetoric of second-wave feminism, particularly radical feminism, does not lend itself to the same kind of treatment as historical women’s rhetoric because much of it did not emerge on the public platform in the same fashion. Instead, as Campbell (1973) has described, second-wave feminism was characterized by writings that emerged from consciousness-raising. Such discourse was highly personal and thus resists traditional modes of analysis that analyze rhetoric addressing public issues. Even so, a small body of scholarship has emerged on feminist rhetoric—and responses to it—from this period, although much of it focuses on visible public issues, such as the Equal Rights Amendment or abortion rights (Condit, 1990; Foss, 1979; Hancock, 1972; Pearce, 1999; Perkins, 1989; Solomon, 1979).

Engendering Alternatives to Dominant Modes of Public Address

Like women rhetors on the public platform, scholars of gender and public address have had to face the rhetorical/critical/theoretical implications of the gender-based dichotomy between public and private, a dichotomy manifested in the rhetorical spaces, modes of address, and subject matter that they study (Kerber, 1988; Matthews, 1992). In recent decades, researchers have explored the ways that the gap between private and public is bridged through inventive rhetorical styles and genres as well as through the rhetorical functions of discursive practices that stretch the traditional boundaries of public address.

Theorizing Gender, Genre, and Style in Public Discourse

Struggles to overcome the limitations of available rhetorical means are addressed in scholarship investigating intersections of gender, genre, and style (Ritchie & Ronald, 2001; Shugart, 1997). Proceeding from her claim that the rhetoric of women’s liberation was a distinctive genre that required unconventional means of analysis, Campbell (1989a) later coined the phrase “feminine style” to encapsulate the means women speakers developed to “cope with the conflicting demands of the podium” (p. 12). It included maintaining a personal tone, relying on personal experience and inductive forms of reasoning, and addressing the audience as peers. Through consciousness-raising, the goal was to empower audience members to see themselves as “agents of change.” Significantly, feminine style is not essential to women’s communication, but can be enacted by anyone (Campbell, 1989a, 1989b; Dow, 1995; Jamieson, 1988).

Subsequent scholarship enlarges the functions of feminine style. Zurakowski (1994) finds that speakers’ use of feminine style encouraged audience participation and helped to sustain female commitment to the abortion rights movement. A similar effect of creating membership cohesion is reported in Hayden’s (1997) study of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Mattina’s (1994) work on Leonora O’Reilly, a Progressive Labor reformer and paid organizer and recruiter for the Women’s Trade Union League, suggests that the possibilities and perils of feminine style were relevant to working-class reformers. Hayden (2003) also explores its strengths and weaknesses for a contemporary movement for social change.

Dow and Tonn (1993) extend feminine style by arguing that its elements appear in mainstream political discourse. They also contend that it produces a substantive effect by challenging the available grounds for political judgment. Based on examination of five presidential campaign films, however, Parry-Giles and Parry-Giles (1996) warn that feminine style can fall short as a transformative strategy for female political candidates, given that political image construction still relies on the “traditionally masculine myths, icons, and character traits derived from participation in male-based institutions” (p. 350).

Exploring Alternative Rhetorical Practices and the Role of the “public”

In other efforts to interrogate traditional conceptions of the private and public spheres, scholars have enlarged what counts as public address by investigating women’s diverse rhetorical practices that are equally valuable in creating and sustaining public opinion (Foss, 1996; Foss & Foss, 1991; Mattingly, 1999; Torrens, 1997; Williams, 1994). In various reform campaigns, men and women have employed print, forms of association, correspondence, and visual rhetorics as alternative means that challenge the narrow definition of citizenship through public speaking and open the possibility for appreciating women’s activities as more than time fillers for do-gooders. An illustrative case is Williams’s (1994) study of quilts as examples of women’s protest rhetoric: the Secession Quilt made by Jemima Cook in 1860, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s Crusade Quilt of 1876, and the 1989 Eugene Peace Quilt made by residents of Eugene, Oregon. Quilts, Williams argues, gave some women “a vehicle for speech” (p. 21). Woman suffragists also used non-traditional means, such as parades (Borda, 2002), cartoons (Ramsey, 2000), tableaux vivante, “living speeches” or storyboards in shop windows that activists would slowly turn, picketing the White House, and burning President Wilson in effigy in order to disseminate their message (Baumgartner, 1994).

Solomon (1991) notes that, although public speaking was important in the woman’s rights movement, “workers themselves recognized the vital importance of another rhetorical medium: the periodical edited and published by sympathizers. Through this channel, the movement could reach, educate, and inspire scores of women who could not be tapped by other means” (p. 3). Gring-Pemble (1998), in addressing “how women, like those who ultimately united in Seneca Falls and who have limited access to public space, locate a transitional space for exchanging ideas and discussing public matters prior to a public formal declaration” (p. 44), uses the correspondence between Antoinette Brown Blackwell and Lucy Stone to highlight the “pre-genesis” stage of women’s rights (see Voss & Rowland, 2000). Mattingly (1995) focuses on 19th-century women’s recruitment into activism via “women teaching other women” (p. 45; see also Gale & Griffin, 1998).

These authors suggest that women created zones to discuss matters of collective concern. Their use of print, alternative forms of public discourse, and organizing strategies suggests the possibility that their public sphere had distinct internal norms of stranger sociability (Freedman, 1979). Study has been shifted from the internal dynamics of women’s social movements to identifying the social and political impact of women’s activism. Publics are bigger than movements, but movements affect the rhetorical culture of a public. In this sense, the affiliative forms developed by women and the influence of various women’s movements in raising issues deliberated by the larger culture reflect a key characteristic of a public; namely, “individuals who are personally strangers derive the core of common meanings that enable them to inhabit the same world” (Hauser, 1987, p. 438). By accounting for the captive and accidental audiences of women’s rhetorics, including the responses of those who were opposed or passive or skeptical yet also remained in contact with women’s issues, we gain a fuller sense of how discourses of and about women circulate and how investments in regulating women constitute public culture.

The public need not equal the political. Recent scholarship details the popular encounters of men and women of different classes at lecture halls, dinner parties given by women’s clubs, on street corners, in charity clubs and reform meetings. Mead’s (1951), Bode’s (1956), Campbell’s (1989c), Hogan and Hogan’s (2003), and Ray’s (2004, 2005) studies of the lyceum and of debating clubs historicize the moments when public speaking, gender, and class intersected in specific cultural locations. Nineteenth-century parlor rhetorics offer a glimpse into women’s space not considered public but exhibiting oratorical performance (Johnson, 2002; see also Martin, 1987). Adopting a spatial conception of the public/private distinction risks conflating gender with class because politics is not always public, and men sometimes find political capital in the private sphere. Ryan (1992) notes:

The political formulations of the late nineteenth century seemed only to reverse the spatial ordering, if not the power relations, of public life: the lower classes claimed open public spaces as the sites of political resistance, while their social superiors retreated into private recesses to exert power behind the scenes, in reform associations or bureaucratic channels. (pp. 277-278)

Private acts can become political actions. Theodore’s (2002) work on women’s first national petition campaign against forcible removal of the Cherokees and other tribes and Zaeske’s (2002, 2003) studies of the evolution of women’s petitioning call attention to the ways that signing petitions as private individuals became self-reflective performances of citizenship.

Finally, women’s appeals to the state for rights posit a significant challenge to our view of the (male) public sphere as the zone par excellence of democratic governance. Following Habermas (1962/2000), Hauser (1987) describes a public sphere located between “the private realm of the personal, business, professional and special interests on the one hand and the domain of state action on the other” (p. 438). At the same time, Hauser fears that “at the institutional level, where the public sphere mediates between society and the state and is thus attached to a formal structure of authority, there is great susceptibility for degeneration of the public sphere as a discursive space” (p. 439). A public sphere ensures a zone where “as words and deeds are publicly enacted without restraints, humans attending to communication experience freedom to discover their interests. As restraints are imposed,” Hauser warns, “interests become distorted” (p. 438).

Historically, such free humans could only have been propertied white males. Pace Griffin (1996), this alone does not make the public sphere essentially male. Much research reveals that women have contributed greatly to the invention, dissemination, and regulation of public opinion and to topics of public debate. The question is whether to adopt Habermas’s thesis about deterioration of the public sphere as a de facto loss of democracy to instrumental rationality. In Habermas’s (1962/2000) narrative, the decline of the bourgeois public sphere coincides with the rise of the modern, liberal, constitutional state followed by the social welfare state. In the process, “the free exercise of the autonomy of private persons through norms of critical rationality is replaced by the instrumental logics of the state” (p. 225).

One way to address concerns about the decline of deliberative democracy is to apply historiographic rigor in investigating whether Habermas’s narrative applies to the U.S. context (Ryan, 1992). Another is to consider whether our use of public and private confuses an analytic with a historical distinction (Kerber, 1988). Finally, historians and political theorists long have recognized women’s historical role as state builders (Mink, 1990; Sklar, 1993; Wilkinson, 1999), given their efforts to obtain rights from the state, thus granting the state new relevance. Without underestimating the problematic gender dynamics of state politics, scholars should consider the ways in which concern about the deterioration of the public sphere reflects anxiety about the undermining of foundational, exclusive, and unencumbered male rights. Feminism is indeed “a scandal” that brings the personal into public life (Deem, 1999).

Conclusion

Technological developments pose still other challenges. In theory and practice, performance, the way public address is enacted, grows in significance as it increasingly emerges through visual mass communication technologies that invite, even require, “image-based politics” (Parry-Giles, 1998, p. 460). To capture attention, nondominant rhetorics must become hyperembodied in visually saturated mass media landscapes. Such bodies are not “merely flags to attract attention … but the site and substance of the argument itself” (DeLuca, 1999, p. 10; see also Pezzullo, 2003), a claim that challenges argument as a singularly linguistic form and demands reevaluation of what counts as evidence in public address scholarship.

In a regime of visibility, the body becomes the text and voice of public address, and the visual medium frames its expressive capacity. In her study of public address in the electronic age, Jamieson (1988) concludes that gendered aesthetics govern visual representations. She argues that the personal female style is particularly suited to television because of its emphasis on conversation, appearance, emotionality, and self-expression. In demanding that male politicians adapt to its feminine norms of appearance and conversation; in reducing their male bodies to the two-dimensional surface of the screen; in requiring that they enact the “effeminate” style of disclosure and pseudo-intimacy, television effectively “queers” men’s public address. Put differently, the male body performs the discursive demands of the medium in drag.

Our assessment of gender in public address scholarship and of our discipline’s mode of inquiry leads us to conclude that the disciplinary embrace of the public/private and mind/body splits, particularly in an age dominated by visual media, constitute major challenges.

We are entering a new stage in the conversation about the place of gender in public address scholarship, shifting from the gendered constitution of identities toward the gendered constitution of practices, forms, sites, and bodies, a movement further explored in Stormer’s (this volume) essay on gender and rhetorical theory. Such scholarship is fostered by recognition that the character of public address and of our knowledge about it have always depended on the implicit and explicit work of gender. Substantively, as it offers new ways to appreciate the politics of women’s artistry and the discursive force of corporeality, work on gender has been instrumental in democratizing public address. It has added vitality to public address as a political practice and as an object of inquiry. Gender is also a powerful analytic to destabilize the heteronormative assumptions of the dichotomous public(male)/private(female) model of discursive constitution; as such, gender challenges our theory and methods.