Feminist Dispaches from #4C18

Volunteers from among CFSHRC members and supporters who attended 4C18 composed brief summaries of feminist-related sessions at the convention. This year, we find it especially important to publish these summaries because many feminist scholars did not journey to CCCC in light of the cancellation of the Wednesday night CFSHRC SIG and amidst concerns about the NAACP travel advisory for Kansas City. These session summaries are intended as synopses of sessions rather than as reviews with critical commentary.

Our goal is to share and promote feminist scholarship that was presented at the meeting. With this in mind, we encourage you to follow up with any speakers whose work interests you and to spread the conversations about their work far beyond the limits of the places, spaces, and times of the sessions in which it was shared. We also encourage feminists scholars whose CCCC sessions are not  currently summarized in this blog (due to scheduling conflicts and time limitations) to contribute brief summaries (400 words) of your sessions. Feel free to contact us at sharerw @ ecu dot edu or pfancher @ ucsb dot edu. We are happy to see this list grow. 

Finally, we offer our sincere thanks to the summarizers for their help in broadening these feminist conversations. Happy reading!

Wendy and Trish

Session titles: 

  • A.10 Feminist Rhetorics as Heuristics: Disrupting Familiar Spaces of Composition
  • A.11 Transforming the Writing Classroom through Contemplative Language and Practices 
  • B.22 (Transforming) Stories of Familial, Racial, and Sexual Dis/re/orientation: The Labor and Language of Being Women and Doing Family 
  • C.38 Feminist Rhetorics in the Age of Trump: Invitations to Action 
  • E.40 Feminist Rhetorics and Digital Humanities: Challenges and Opportunities
  • G. 32 Rhetorical Education Transformed: Racial and Feminist Critiques and Interventions
  • H.22 Critical Language Lessons in Queer Rhetorics
  • I.40 Embodied Rhetoric: Literacy for Social Justice
  • J.43 Writing Against Gendered Racism: Strategies from Higher Education, Community Writing, and Feminist Organizing
  • K.06 Feminist Rhetorics: Logos, Language, and Ideology
  • L.07 Ethics and Representation in Feminist Rhetorical Inquiry


Feminist Rhetorics as Heuristics: Disrupting Familiar Spaces of Composition Thursday March 15, 2018 10:30-11:45am

Jenna Bradley, University of Delaware, Newark
Rachael Green-Howard, University of Delaware, Newark
Charlotte Hogg, Texas Christian University
Summarized by: Lora Arduser

Panelists in the session reconsidered familiar composition spaces—teaching manuals, textbooks, and source materials—using feminist rhetorics as a heuristic.

Jenna Bradley began the session by examining the presumption that students’ silence in the classroom is negative and associated with boredom or disengagement. Grounding her research in scholars, such as Cheryl Glenn, who have worked on silence, Bradley has studied texts used to train composition instructors, with a specific focus on how these texts address silence.  She argued that we assume participation through vocal contributions, an assertion supported by three trends present in the texts she examined:

  1. Quiet students are constructed in these texts as passive and unmotivated. The teacher’s job, therefore, is to transform these into active learners.
  2. “Active” is conflated with critical thinking.
  3. The texts prepare teachers to see quiet students as the enemy.

Bradley suggested that silences are actually undervalued in the classroom and point to a different way to think about engagement. She concluded with two ways to integrate “active” silence in the classroom:

  1. Use Peter Kaufman’s silent discussion, in which students “discuss” a topic/text by writing to each other rather than talking.
  2. Use silence to give students time to think or reflect: let them pause after asking a question.

Rachael Green-Howard similarly engaged with texts to examine her research question More specifically, she used feminist methodologies to examine a historical text from the 16th century about education of Christian women, drawing on Gerald Graff and Cathy Berkenstein’s They Say, I Say as a way to consider how these texts talked about the education of women.

Finally, Charlotte Hogg examined the politics of citations by mapping a brief assignment she developed for her FYC classes. The assignment draws on Jennifer Baumgartner’s book Abortion and Life and has the students historically trace the term “abortion.” Hogg suggested that this is one way to use feminist rhetorics as a heuristic in order to disrupt the familiar spaces of first-year composition classrooms. Feminist rhetorics, Hogg maintained, offer four things for these classrooms. They

  1. Challenge dominant epistemologies
  2. Assert new topoi
  3. Place material experience at the center of knowledge form
  4. Reconnect rhetoric to action and change

Hogg concluded that such activities can lead to “safe discomfort,” which she defined as activism outside the classroom space that students bring back to the class and reflect on.


Transforming the Writing Classroom through Contemplative Language and Practices Thursday March 15, 2018 10:30-11:45 am

Libby Falk Jones, Berea College
Elizabeth Flynn, Michigan Technological University
Robbie Pinter, Belmont University
Kurt Spellmeyer, Rutgers University
Respondent: Gesa Kirsch, Bentley University
Summarized by: Sarah V. Moseley, svm4a@virginia.edu

This panel was a well-coordinated exploration of classroom application for hospitality, ritual, silence, and Buddhist mindfulness. The audience enacted mindfulness practices throughout the presentation as well: the presenters posed reflection questions to consider between each presentation and before final comments.

Libby Falk Jones explained two Benedictine contemplative concepts for the classroom. The first concept, hospitality, promotes trust and mutual responsibility – students sign a “guest list” for attendance, and peer review becomes an act of “gift-giving.” The second concept, lectio and visio divina, teaches students to engage with texts in a slow, dialogic way, which includes observing what is absent. Jones finds that contemplative language helps transform the traditional “snarl words” of composition into “purr words,” moving away from scarcity, constraint, and judgement, towards invitation, abundance, and possibility.

Robbie Pinter focused on silence in the classroom, building on Sondra Perl’s work on felt sense of first recognizing what is inside through silence to then put it down on paper. Pinter brings silence into a wide range of classes, and she gave many examples in her presentation, from studying silence as a way of knowing, silence as a function, silence as an act and symbol, silence as consent, and silence as oppression. Pinter described an assignment sequence on silence, including a “silence log” where students experience or study silence in different settings and then reflect.

Kurt Spellmeyer presented on zen, or Mahayana “the great way,” as an overlooked mindfulness approach to teaching writing, in contrast to more popular concepts based in the vipassana tradition. Mahayana mirrors post-structuralism in its emphasis on language and culture as mediators of experience, and so rather than discovering the singular reality of vipassana, practitioners focus on ethically resolving conflict between multiple realities; zen is an active process of creative synthetic imagination to overcome difference. Implemented in the classroom, it encourages students to encounter fear and the unknown to reshape their understanding of the world.

Gesa Kirsch closed the session by asking the audience to write down a word, sentence, or poem representing what stood out from the presentations, as a starting point for our discussion.


(Transforming) Stories of Familial, Racial, and Sexual Dis/re/orientation: The Labor and Language of Being Women and Doing Family Thursday March 15, 2018, 12:15-1:30 pm

Elise Dixon, Michigan State University
Kate Firestone, Michigan State University
Bree Gannon, Michigan State University
Summarized by: Lora Arduser

This roundtable emphasized the ways we queer, resist, unravel, and rewrite the possibilities for womanhood and the ways we “family” – a word the panel used as a verb rather than a noun.

Each speaker worked from a personal narrative into the political. Elise Dixon discussed her experience as a bisexual woman who is married to a man and who went through a miscarriage. She argued that she labors and languages her bisexuality on a daily basis and that it is difficult to find tropes that can connect bisexuality and miscarriage. Moving this personal experience into her research, she examined archives at Michigan State University to look for “something queer” and argued that ephemeral archival materials can capture nostalgia, personal tragedy, and fantasy in ways that make an object important for finding such missing tropes.

The second speaker, Bree Gannon, talked about family-ing through her project which focused on how religion impacts women’s education and considered what it means to live and work in the in-between. Using the 70-mile trip she took back and forth between home and school as a metaphor to look at how a woman can move through a space and recursively dwell by theorizing this experience through ideas of home as discussed by Terese Monberg and  Devika Chawla, who examine how the idea of “home” is a fluid concept for some.

The final speaker, Kate Firestone, addressed her experience as a transracial, transnational adopted child.  Using queer experience to talk about her work, she explored how families are made, unmade and remade in the face of transracial, transnational adoption, noting that making one family can involve the unmaking of another. She worked from a queer phenomenology perspective to theorize her work of framing her identify by literally writing herself into the trope of family photographs through the remediation of family photos.


Feminist Rhetorics in the Age of Trump: Invitations to Action Thursday, March 15, 3:15-4:30 PM

Cheryl Glenn, The Pennsylvania State University
Shirley Wilson Logan, University of Maryland
Andrea Lunsford, Stanford University
Krista Ratcliffe, Arizona State University
Respondent: Jacqueline Jones Royster, Georgia Tech
Summarized by: Wendy Sharer

Cheryl Glenn urged attendees to embrace hope and take action, despite the oppressive political climate. She suggested that we foster and implement tactics of “rhetorical feminism,” a theoretical approach that has seven key features:  (1) disidentification with mainstream rhetoric; (2) goals that are dialogic and transactional; (3) attention to marginalized audiences; (4) use of vernaculars and experiences shared with marginalized audiences; (5) redesign of the rhetorical appeals; (6) use of and respect for alternative delivery systems; and (7) a deep commitment to possibility and hope.

Shirley Wilson Logan suggested ways feminists can respond to Donald Trump’s regular use of “the foil” as a rhetorical tactic. The foil is a strawperson, set up by a rhetor as a locus of blame in order to deflect attention. For example, Trump regularly uses Barack Obama as a foil.  Logan recommended that feminists respond to such tactics by running for office, voting in large numbers, and organizing activists to speak out for feminist causes. Logan pointed to the record number of women of color running for office and the impact of black women’s votes in the defeat of Roy Moore as examples of feminist strategies of resistance to Trump’s rhetoric.

Andrea Lunsford argued that the willful ignorance and mean-spiritedness of political leaders means it is time for feminist rhetoricians to “double down” on key principles, principles that Lunsford summarized in the mantra “Stop, look, and listen, and only then talk.” “Stopping” involves shutting out the “noise” of social media. “Looking” involves researching external sources (news stories, etc.) and critically examining one’s own stance. “Listening” involves ensuring understanding what another is saying. All of these steps should be undertaken before responding to arguments.

Krista Ratcliffe, suggested parrhesia, or the rhetorical tactic of speaking boldly, as feminist action. Parrhesia has five key characteristics: 1) Frankness; 2) Truth (in a pre-Cartesian sense); 3) Risk for the speaker and the courage that comes with taking that risk; 4) Criticism of self or audience; and 5) Duty (one speaks out to promote the greater good). Some current rhetors employing parrhesia include Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren, and the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.

Jacqueline Jones Royster concluded the panel by reminding attendees of the rhetorical strategies of resistance offered and providing additional examples of rhetorical tactics of resistance, including the CCCC ‘s decision to relocate in 1993 after Arizona legislators opted not to observe the MLK holiday.


Language-Oriented and Labor-Oriented Reflections on Writing about Women’s Professional Lives in Rhetoric and Composition Friday March 16, 2018, 8:00-9:15 am

Tiffany Bourelle, University of New Mexico (Chair)
Elizabeth Flynn, Michigan Technological University
Irene Papoulis, Trinity College
Shirley Rose, Arizona State University

In “Language, Labor, and Luck: Co-editing the Collection and Crafting an Essay” Elizabeth Flynn described the recently published book, Women’s Professional Lives in Rhetoric and Composition: Choice, Chance, and Serendipity (The Ohio State University Press, 2018), edited by herself and Tiffany Bourelle, explaining that it originated at a dinner at the 2014 CCCC in which the attendees described their careers. No one had followed a predictable straight and narrow path but, rather, had taken risks, often by moving when movement did not seem advisable. Bourelle was not at the dinner but suggested that the stories could become a book.

Flynn explained, further, that the framework for the fifteen essays discussed in the introduction attended to concepts such as choice, chance, serendipity, intersectionality, resilience, and moral luck, and drew on the work of scholars such as Marilyn Cooper, Carolyn Miller, Jacques Derrida, Robert Merton and Elinor Barber, Kimberly Crenshaw, Roxane Gay, Elizabeth Flynn, Patty Sotirin, and Ann Brady, and Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel.

She then described the process of producing the book including a call for essays, a proposal that included a table of contents with thirteen essays, a draft introductory chapter, and a draft chapter. Tara Cyphers of The Ohio State University Press expressed interest and sent the proposal to two reviewers. They suggested revisions and the addition of two more essays to increase the diversity of the chapters. This presented a challenge because the thirteen essays and introduction were already over the 100,000-word limit, so the thirteen original essays had to be trimmed, sometimes quite drastically, and the additional essays had to be drafted.

Shirley Rose followed by focusing on the rhetorical choices she made as she revised her contribution to the collection, “What I learned about Teaching, Administration, and Scholarship from Singing with the Scottsdale Chorus.” The book was in preparation for three years, and Rose made the point in her early drafts that the experience of singing in the Scottsdale Chorus allowed her, for once, to be a follower rather than a leader and to explore followership theory. She explained in her paper, though, that in actuality she had been asked, later in the process of developing the book, to join the organizing committee of the chorus and so she was both a follower and a leader.

Irene Papoulis rounded out the session by describing the dinner that gave rise to the book and feeling out of place at that dinner because the others had better positions and accomplishments than she did. At first she was reluctant to contribute a chapter because of her feelings of inadequacy but was able to explore those feelings in her piece, “My Life in Composition Studies: Serendipity, Shame, Status Anxiety, and Trusting My Instincts,” and in the process learned a lot about herself.


Feminist Rhetorics and Digital Humanities: Challenges and Opportunities, Friday, March 16, 2018, 8:00-9:15 am

Patricia Fancher, University of California, Santa Barbara
Gesa Kirsch, Bentley University
Lydia McDermott, Whitman College
Jacqueline Jones Royster, Georgia Tech
Alison Williams, Chapman University
Respondent: Malea Powell, Michigan State University
Summarized by: Nancy Small

Jacqueline Jones Royster began the session by grounding the panel in the feminist concept of “social circulation” (Traces of the Stream, Feminist Rhetorical Practices). She illustrated how digital humanities (DH) methods and tools apply to historical study of social circulation by sharing archival-based work-in-progress on Black clubwomen’s activism and publications. DH offers new tools and perspectives for understanding the human condition, yet we must continue to consider the implications of these emergent methods and methodologies, too.

Lydia McDermott shared her work with a cross-disciplinary group to create a DH initiative on her campus. Her interest is in discovering new ways DH tools help us create and think about embodied performances. For McDermott, DH allows us both to think more critically about the technologies we live in and to ask how we can upend them for our own purposes.

Gesa Kirsch described how DH shapes her study of social circulation through the archives of a woman’s medical journal published throughout the twentieth century. She urged us to remember that, even as they create new perspectives, DH tools silence and exclude and must be carefully contextualized. She encouraged us to embrace “squirmy” moments as we study the past and to put contradictions that emerge (e.g., on attitudes regarding race and gender) on the table for (re)examination.

Patricia Fancher reflected on her collaboration with Kirsch, described as a “deeply intuitive” intellectual process. She identified five broad phases through which the project moved: 1. Listening to the nuance of historical discourse; 2. Dreaming how DH tools and method/ological decisions might shape the project; 3. Conversing about potential tools with collaborators, experts, and mentors; 4: Tinkering with data and interpretations by toggling between coding, testing, and prototyping. 5. Designing data visualizations. Ongoing challenges included lacking/developing technical expertise and the affordances and constraints of the tools themselves.

Alison Williams discussed the “complicated navigation” of distance and close reading during the process of developing the project with Kirsch and Fancher.  Close reading was required to understand the foundations of what they were working with, even as new digital tools empowered them to see new patterns in a large corpus of texts. She asked us to ponder: What happens in the space between bigger visualization and close reading? And what happens as we move between these two methods?

Malea Powell made brief comments about how digital tools can be “ethically vexing” and led a discussion of how to integrate DH into our teaching.  


Rhetorical Education Transformed: Racial and Feminist Critiques and Interventions Friday, March 18, 2018, 11:00 am-12:15 pm

Rebecca Gerdes-McClain, Columbus State University
Anna (Willow) Trevino, University of Oklahoma
Cassandra Woody, University of Oklahoma
Summarized by: Wendy Sharer

Rebecca Gerdes-McClain explained that approaches to rhetorical education have tended to be inner-directed (focused on individual expression and writing processes), outer-directed (focused on literacy development in the context of discourse communities), or a combination of both. These approaches share the underlying assumption that writing instruction will enable writers to access political power through the existing rhetorical practices and literacy tools of American democracy. Bit what if America is no longer a true democracy, particularly when it comes to participation by oppressed groups? If we continue to teach the rhetorical practices of our current political system, do we risk simply perpetuating inequalities?

Cassandra Woody responded by sharing the curriculum for the first of a two-course writing sequence at the University of Oklahoma as an example of rhetorical education that can help students recognize and interrogate the often undemocractic nature of contemporary political/civic life. A foundational belief in this course is that extended consideration of values, views, and the experiences behind them should happen before a rhetor can ethically and thoughtfully take on the task of persuasion. Rather than jumping into teaching “rhetorical prowess,” rhetorical education should begin by helping students critique models of rhetorical success and the power inequities those models perpetuate. The Oklahoma model puts rhetorical listening at the heart of the first composition course: students do not make their own arguments; rather, they investigate and analyze rhetorical situations, rhetorical choices, and the values that inform them.

Willow Trevino highlighted the risks are of continuing in the path of traditional rhetorical education. The history of Western rhetoric and the curricula of rhetorical education derived from that history, Trevino pointed out, is the result of majority narratives, dominant epistemologies, and a Eurocentric perspective. Similarly, the “public sphere” construct that informs models of civic rhetoric derives from a Eurocentric model. Given the power inequalities built into current conceptions of rhetorical education, Trevino urged listeners to reexamine their approaches to rhetorical education in light of systemic racism and the need to help students develop rhetorical tools to dismantle the myth of white supremacy.


Critical Language Lessons in Queer Rhetorics Friday March 16, 2018, 12:30-1:45 pm

Lauren Marshall Bowen, University of Massachusetts, Boston (Chair)
Ruby Kirk Nancy, East Carolina University
James Swider, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Summarized by: Nancy Small

Ruby Nancy’s paper, “Gender-Fluid Writers and ‘Verbing with Nouns’: Critical Language Lessons from Feminist and Queer Rhetorics,” explored the complex practice and subaltern tradition of repurposing conventional genre forms in unconventional ways. To illustrate, she offered Gloria Anzaldua’s work as an example interweaving dreams, myths, and histories and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton as biography, history, hip hop, and musical. Remaking and remixing, “genre-fluid” writers perform as boundary crossers and disrupters, and her paper was a “broad brush look” at why our field should examine such composers in more careful and systematic ways. Leveraging genre fluidity can inspire deeper learning, can assist with transfer, and can be considered, in Adam Banks’s terms, as a “survivalist strategy” for marginalized groups. Nancy calls on previous scholarship to remind listeners that genres are constructed, always already changing, and therefore, never fully calcified anyway. She calls for rejecting a binary view of norms and conventions, even as we help students learn to use and subvert genres with critical awareness.

James Swider’s “Global Queer Rhetorics” took a comparative view of tropes across cultures. Swider sought to build on previous queer theory and its engagement in critique of the “normal” by looking at international contexts for expressions of LBGTQ identity and community. His initial framework applied Jonathan Alexander and Jackie Rhodes’ tenets of queer rhetoric using George Kennedy’s methodology to answer this guiding question: “How can we compare queer rhetorics across cultures and also complicate this comparison?”

Swider’s presentation focused on a series of examples:

  • In Chinese, tongzhi—a gender-neutral title for Mr. /Ms. rooted in Communist rhetoric and implying a notion of “comradeship”—has been queered into a term for the LBGTQ community.
  • “Aswang,” a supernatural creature in Pilipino folklore typically featured in horror movies, has been camped into a queer icon of “dangerous femininity.”
  • The US project “Silence = Death” has morphed into “Silence = Life” in Gambia because there, silence is a more contextually feasible form of resistance to dominant discourses of intolerance.
  • Native American “Two-Spirit” presents both male and female spirits as inhabiting the same body. Each retains its own substance but the two intertwine to form a new, unique identity.

Swider asked us to consider how world perspectives on identity can help us reconsider the privilege, power, and influence shaping discourses.


Embodied Rhetoric: Literacy for Social Justice Friday, March 16, 2018, 2:00-3:15 pm

Heather Adams, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Ashley Canter, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Letitia Harding (chair), University of the Incarnate Word
Mary Helen O’Connor, Georgia State University, Perimeter College
Summarized by: Sarah V. Moseley, svm4a@virginia.edu

This panel explored embodied rhetoric methodologies and teaching practices, incorporating feminist, digital, visual, and archival approaches, for social justice purposes: for confronting sexual assault survivor shaming, for critiquing the political-economic system that devalues “othered” bodies, and for self-representation by refugees that counters dominant images and narratives.

Heather Adams began the panel with her study on the Breaking Out Project, a photography exhibit (now digital) of sexual assault survivors holding posters with a quote or sentence representative of their stories, a local protest to Duke University policy change that is modeled on the national Unbreakable Project. Adams considered the exhibit as rhetorical action and activism and explored themes of rhetorical shaming. Building on Cheryl Glenn and Laurie Gries, Adams viewed the project as a feminist redirected shame event – the posters projected messages and emotions away from the survivors toward the viewers, asking the audience to respond, potentially defusing the shame by sharing it.

Ashley Canter’s presentation applied a political-economic lens to embodied literacy, building on Kristie Fleckenstein’s research on visual rhetoric and social justice to consider bodies as part of capitalist transactions. Canter applied her theoretical approach to Julia Davis’ electronic literature work “Pieces of Herself,” which features a dress-up doll; audio clips are paired with clothing items, and the clips automatically play when that item is selected for the doll. Demonstrating the program for the audience, Canter argued that digital technology can expose the transactional element between bodies and culture. She closed by suggesting the classroom value of such a project.

Mary Helen O’Connor presented on teaching composition to refugees using the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Her presentation challenged popular images and narratives of refugees, in part through the inclusion of students’ own digital literacy videos. Students complete a sequence of assignments leading up to the creation of these video self-representations of the refugee literacy experience, which offer students alternative modes of composing, increased agency, and a way to critique language and politics of power. As a pedagogical tool, the DALN shows students a range of narratives and literacies, as well as the intersections of literacy and power.


Writing Against Gendered Racism: Strategies from Higher Education, Community Writing, and Feminist Organizing Friday March 16, 2018, 3:30-4:45 pm

Benesemon Simmons, Syracuse University
Tamara Issak, Syracuse University
Vani Kannan, Syracuse University
Summarized by: Amy Lueck 

This panel discussed antiracist writing across three different contexts: the college classroom, a Muslim women’s writing group, and a multiracial women’s organization. Benesemon Simmons began with a discussion of Critical Race Theory and the proposal to use counterstory as a methodology for antiracist pedagogy that can help us think about representation and structures in the academy that perpetuate inequality, center stories of the silenced, empower the marginalized, and disrupt dominant discourse in the academy.  

Tamara Issak then presented on the Muslim Women’s Story Lab, a six-month writing workshop in NYC designed to build alliances and solidarity, organized by Women in Islam. This was a space for women to gather and write together, featuring workshop activities about problems Muslim women face and how they might solve them in their own communities. The program fostered a supportive environment. But interviews with participants also revealed that coalition building is a messy process, and that problems (racism, classism, etc) exist within all of our organizations. Participants felt conflicted about the work of the organization, the ownership of materials produced, and the need for real reciprocity—including resources and opportunities. Everyone says they want to empower Muslim women, but what does that mean, and what does that look like? These are questions we need to consider as we engage this important work.

Vani Kannan rounded out the session with a discussion of the Third World Women’s Alliance, a multiracial women’s organization in the US in the 1970s. Framing the Alliance as an alternative site for administrative education, Kannan suggested that trainings in the movement ensured that rhetorical education took place in the everyday workings of the organization, making its work about internal capacity building as much as public facing persuasion. People who participated saw this as a crucial space of leadership building and space of educating each other about their different histories. Their practices unearthed the debate about intersecting oppressions in the everyday workings of the organization.

Following their talks, the panelists presented the audience with thought-provoking questions to consider in relation to their own experiences and contexts. Attendees took time to write before the group shared their ideas and discussed the issue of antiracist principles together.


Feminist Rhetorics: Logos, Language, and Ideology Saturday March 17, 2018, 9:30-10:45 am

Melanie Lee, University of Southern Indiana
Erica Lange, Ohio University
Sarah Moseley, University of Virginia
Summarized by: Nancy Small

Melanie Lee reviewed two perspectives on logos: secular “logos” tied to speaking, legitimation, substance, and exactness; and sacred “Logos” of the Judeo-Christian God, his Word, and his Son (Christ as “living Logos”). L/logos is, therefore, either an omnipresent, omnipotent deity or an argument demanding references to previous arguments, themselves linked to even earlier arguments, all usually made by men. Together a conjoined L/logos underpins patriarchal culture, yet their overlaps are under-discussed even as they bar women from joining many conversations as legitimate rhetors. In academia, exclusion is further evidenced in the gendering of composition, where the feminine is relegated to undervalued, marginalized labor. To “ungender composition,” we must replace masculine L/logos with a logos (re)infused by Tehkne, the goddess of art, craft, and skill. Masculine logos “not only represses…but also vilifies powerful women.”

Erica Lange shared stories about her students struggling to understand the goals/values of contemporary feminism, and about her colleagues remarking  that she cares too much about her appearance to be a “real” feminist. Through these personal stories, Lange argued that divisions within the feminist community have become ultimately alienating and destructive. Contemporary feminists have set up a “with us or against us” mentality, going as far as forcing women to disclose trauma (and then allowing their trauma to be co-oped) in service to feminist causes. Stereotypes such as the “feminazi” activist and the cisgender anti-feminist create a “strawwoman” wedge distracting us from the real patriarchal dismantling to be done. We must (re)consider: What is feminism? How do we bridge this divide? How can we foster inclusivity? We need to embrace each other as “imperfect allies” and destroy the strawwoman.

Sarah Moseley explored what women must do to establish logos or “prove themselves” in the workplace, and in her presentation, she suggested re-envisioning what a feminine logos might look like. Proving oneself through traditional means such as passing tests and meeting performance standards are not enough for women in male-dominated workplaces. Moseley shared vignettes from her research, stories of women facing gender and racial obstacles as they persisted in becoming firefighters. She concluded that women establish logos via a different construction. A feminine logos re-envisioned for the workplace is based on (1) observation (growing out of rhetorical listening) of what it means to dwell in an unfamiliar workplace body; (2) relationships and support; and (3) time. Women may struggle significantly because they must carry the burden of proof for longer.


Ethics and Representation in Feminist Rhetorical Inquiry Saturday March 17, 2018, 11:00 am-12:15 pm

Amy Dayton, University of Alabama
Jennie Vaughn, Gannon University
Cristina Ramirez, University of Arizona
Summarized by: Amy Lueck 

This panel discussed the issue of ethics and representation in archival research that is also the topic of a forthcoming edited collection from the panelists. Each of the panelists framed the importance of ethics and representation in terms of feminist researchers, such as Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch, who have brought these issues to the fore for feminist historians.

Amy Dayton began by discussing her contribution to the collection, a chapter on methodological choices. Focusing on a memoir by Donna Hodgeman as a less varnished account of the everyday activities of the settlement house she was researching, Dayton balanced her interest in the memoir with a lack of trust of Hodgeman as a potentially “tone-deaf” narrator with a troubled relationship to the task she has taken on of teaching immigrant learners. Dayton relied on coding/triangulation, self-reflexivity, and the approach to historical subjects as human subjects to find a way forward in her work with this text.

Jennie Vaughn then discussed what she called the “Living Archive,” referring to “the people, relationships, conversations, and sources that the researcher cultivates alongside her work in the traditional institutional archive—the ways social relationships have shaped research.” Her concept of the “living archive” is grounded in the principles of social circulation, serendipity, and ethical responsibility that each relate to social relationships as much as to texts. She used as a case study the cookbook of Martha Jane Coleman Banks, whose ownership of over 100 slaves troubled the “passionate attachment” Vaughn developed with her as a researcher. But the social relationships she encountered in studying this text led to ethical considerations, which led to changed research practices in the “living archive.”

Christina Ramirez’s paper on translation as an overlooked methodological issue and inherently feminist practice was read by Dayton and Vaughn. Ramirez observed that, although all of our canonical texts come to us through translation, we treat rhetoric as though it was in the Western, English context. The tacit monolingualism in our framing of texts and topics keeps our discipline’s view of rhetoric in a narrow realm. By contrast, translation reaches across cultural and linguistic divides, working against difference in recognition that writers who do not share our own language/culture have something worthy to add to our conversation. The strength of translation lies in that it is a complex process of retrieval and representation of the discursive practice of the primary author, allowing culture to come through.

L.31: Intersectional Tensions, Crip Style, Rhetorics of Choice, and Title IX Response, Saturday 3-17, 11:00 am-12:15 pm

Margaret Price, The Ohio State University (Chair)
Shannon Walters, Temple University
Tara Wood, Rockford University
Amy Vidali, University of Colorado, Denver
Respondent: Madaline Walter, Washburn University
Summarized by:  Lisa Bailey, University of South Carolina

In “Elements of Crip Style: Normalization and Resistance,” Shannon Walters argued that disabled writers resist a normative rhetorical tradition of style by using figures and tropes to experiment with language. She further asserted that the historical diminishment of figurative language is related to a larger ableist trajectory. Campbell’s and Blair’s recommendations for purity, propriety, and precision, as well as for a clearness and lucidity, promote a rhetorical style with distinctly ableist undertones. Stylistic figures and strategic word choice function to unmoor rhetoric from some of its normative foundations steeped in correctness and mechanics. The normative history of style might be rewritten to invite rhetors for whom correctness, clarity, and cohesion does not meet their needs.

Tara Wood, in “The Politics of Mandatory Disclosure: Disability Theory and the Title IX Controversy” argued that disability theory is a powerful lens to speak back to and act against practices that take away the agency of sexual assault survivors. Requiring faculty to be mandated reporters forces professors to take the narratives from students and turn them over to the university. Mandatory reporting is always narrated by universities as an effort to protect students, but in reality it is an effort to protect universities from damaged reputations, lowered enrollment, law suits, and liability.

Then, in “Rhetorics of Choice: Feminism, Disability, and Infertility,” Amy Vidali critiqued feminist discourses of choice that state that all women are fertile and can have children until they are 35 or 40 and argued that positioning infertility within the frames of disability studies allows infertile women to resist shame and blame discourses, reconceptualizes infertility outside of deficit models, and values infertility as a feminist-disability intervention into decisions to have children. Feminists have sometimes been against age-education campaigns surrounding fertility because they might bully women into having children before they’re ready. A disability critique takes us further in terms of what it means to “choose” to have a test or become otherwise “fertility-educated.”

Madaline Walter concluded the session by reflecting on how the space of Cs in Kansas City and the presentations of this panel came together. For many, Cs this year fell short, and maybe even failed. When the most vulnerable members of Cs feel threatened by a space and people inhabiting that space, there must be accountability for the institution that has deemed such space appropriate for gathering. Walter offered the following call to action: Disability Studies scholars must listen carefully and openly to ALL those that society has “othered,” silenced, and threatened. All who chose to attend Cs this year need to be advocates for change, pushing for an agenda of inclusion in safe spaces for all.