Faith in Women’s Rights

Faith was a cornerstone of both the women’s movement and the abolitionist movement. It is arguably what empowered so many women and men alike to finally arise and make their voices known. In part, as a result of the learned among them, as they worked out their own faith, had begun to see the glaring inconsistencies of those in power, attempting to use the faith they held so dearly, as a means by which to subjugate those they deemed the lesser. Faith was a central aspect of many of the arguments made concerning both women and slaves, and whether or not either had the right to even challenge their standing, let alone attempt to do away with that standing altogether. There were those few rhetorical giants, however, who saw through the silencing of women and slaves. People like the Grimkes, for instance, who took issue with, “men’s power, their fear of losing power, and their desire to keep it” (Sklar 130). In reality, this is not a male phenomenon, but a human one, and it seems that many of these rhetoricians knew this on some level. It is that need to have and keep power that drives so many of this race we call humans. Unfortunately, the outcome of such a singularly malcontented purpose, stokes the fires of dissent within the hearts of those being crushed under its weight.

The Grimkes had a different purpose. Theirs was not in gaining power, per se, but in reclaiming the agency that was taken away from themselves and their fellow women, by

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The Grimke sisters sitting for a photograph.

men who sought to keep them quiet. Not even simply quiet through the means of discreditation, but also through the means of less than adequate education being offered to women, at the time. Lucretia Mott also shared similar thoughts pertaining to woman’s education. In a letter Mott wrote to the women’s rights convention in Ohio, she said, “…when a fair opportunity shall be given for the equal cultivation of the intellect, and the stronger powers of the mind shall be called into action” (Sklar 65). Champions of women’s equality recognized that much of their difficulty in engaging with their opposition, in rhetorical spaces, was that men had greater “intellectual resources”. That is to say, more access to the means of expanding one’s intellect past the bounds of the small box our everyday lives are placed in. They had a higher quality of education, which sort of placed the opponents on a mountaintop and the proponents on a steep incline to climb, in order to even reach the first peak. Mott’s sentiment is an interesting one, because it is one that is echoed, or rather alluded to, in Frederick Douglass’ writings.

 

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Frederick Douglass was the most photographed man of his time.

Being that Douglass grew up in the prison of slavery, he put the utmost focus on education. He did educate himself after all. He figured out something, at an early age, that thousands of other slaves never figured out: learning to read and write was the key to forging his path out of slavery and abject poverty. He found that reading a variety and educating himself, was the way out of bondage. He realized that the reason the slave master refused to teach him how to read and write, was because even the master recognized that keeping the bound dumb, in the classical sense of the word, was the best way to keep them content in their bondage. To this point Douglass wrote, “the more I read, the more I began to detest my enslavers”. Douglass’ sentiment ties directly into the mindset of the women’s rights advocates. Women began to recognize that men in power wanted to keep them confined to “their spaces” in the house and as advisers to the men, because they feared how effective women would be at opposing the domineering culture that had been erected in an effort to keep them in their places. This is why people like the Grimkés were immensely effective.

 

The Grimkés used their rhetorical prowess, written and spoken, to refute two major institutions, or modes of thought, during their day. The subjugation of women— their speech stifled in the public forum— and the second would be, the institution of slavery. Many of the justifications for the acceptance of these two peculiar modes of thought were given on biblical grounds, from that aforementioned foundation of faith that the two sisters held close to the core of their beings. In actuality, biblical grounds were used for many justifications of the day. Of course, this is not shocking considering many early states, and of course the nation as a whole, were started by people of faith. What the Grimkés do extremely well however, is utilizing the bible to reason out why the modern justifications for both the subjugation of slaves and of women alike, often given on biblical bases, are falsely reasoned. They studied scripture, in its original forms of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), which gave them an ethos they might have otherwise been without. They wanted women to be able to speak freely in the public forum and live as equals to men, as God intended. In one of her letters, addressed to Mary S. Parker, Sarah Grimké invokes Jesus himself to bring this point home, by saying,

“The Lord Jesus defines the duties of his followers in his sermon on the Mount. He lays down grand principles by which they should be governed, without any reference to sex or condition… I follow him through all his precepts, and find him giving the same directions to women as to men, never even referring to the distinction now so strenuously insisted upon between masculine and feminine virtues: this is one of the anti-Christian ‘traditions of men’ which are taught, instead of the commandments of God”.

In that statement, Grimké immediately puts any person, who might be in opposition, on the defensive by pointing out how any argument that is opposite of men and women being completely equal, flies directly in the face of the very word they all claim to believe. She uses direct and precise words, to sort of cut directly to the heart of the matter, causing the reader or listener to contemplate their own hypocrisies. The most

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Grimké Sisters, at a later state in life.

notable way Grimke refutes the common notion of female inferiority, is a masterful one. As alluded to above, she uses the argument from authority. Such an argument is immensely effective against a group who claims to believe in the authority the speaker is invoking. God, the ultimate authority, is who the Grimke’s use continually to demonstrate to their audience, that much of what they have been taught does not actually stand the test of following Christ. She says, “hence our intercourse, instead of being elevated and refined, is generally calculated to excite and keep alive the lowest propensities of our nature… surely no one who contemplates the design of God in the creation of woman, can believe that she is now fulfilling that design”. She is saying here, that if men claim to follow God and believe in His precepts, that they should not accept women as mere objects for carnal enjoyment, not on the feminine basis, but should have interaction with woman as equal, because then women will serve the purpose which God put in them to do and can therefore be better partners for men, and for society. To this point her sister Angelina, in a letter to Theodore Weld and John Whittier, says, “…women could do and would do a hundred times more for the slave if she were not fettered… but we are actuated by the full conviction that if we are to do any good in the Anti Slavery cause, our right to labor in it must be firmly established… on the firm basis of human rights, the Bible” (Sklar 131-132).

 

 

West By Northwest; North by Northwest

In chapter 6 and 7 of Blue Highways, there are a few themes that stuck out, but one that sort of overshadowed the rest. The theme of human error and how that error, or potential to live in error, guides one’s life. Least Heat Moon seems to use segued stories and historical anecdotes about man’s inconsequence regarding the natural world around him, to mirror perhaps his own inconsequence within that world. When that world fights back, in earnestness of being acknowledged, it is inevitably the human subject who suffers, due to their own self-absorption.

In 6-2, Heat Moon uses a quote from a Native American man to illustrate a bit of this. He says, “Blue road is the road of one who is distracted; who is ruled by his senses and lives for himself rather than for his people.” This man’s statement seemed to show Heat Moon his own preoccupation with self and his own, “skewed vision,” or “the vision of a man looking at himself by looking at what he looks at.” The entirety of this reading has been one of a man who, in willful escape, leaves behind everything to go on a path of self-discovery and to wander the blue highways (a term he even admitted he believed to have thought up on his own). But almost in spite of himself, he is finding himself through the lens of how others view him, as well as through the lens of his own heritage.

Another important passage, which also served as a mirror for Heat Moon’s own journey, was when he was speaking to the two hang-gliders. When inquiring into the logistics behind the sport, he was met with an interesting response.

You feel like a wounded goose before you take off but once the sail fills and you’re stable, it’s like you’ve grown wings… You’v got to be a little nervous or you get cocky and careless, then it’s stuff-it time. Gotta risk a little more to improve -to go beyond- but if we take up too much, it could be our last lesson. The problem is we don’t always know when we get in over our heads. Gotta trust our gut reactions without giving into them. That’s what’s hard.”

This interaction demonstrates, I think, the journey that Heat Moon himself has set upon. A slow and steady step into a furtive glide to a world that is different from the past one, with a present freedom to guide himself to a more weightless future that is cautioned by life’s inevitable error.

Atlanta University Center: Robert W. Woodruff Library

 

So I decided to do this supplemental post on a trip I took to the AU Center, as a part of the Atlanta Student Movement project (information on the movement can be found here) I was involved in, with Dr. Jeanne Bohannon.

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A photo I took of the inside of the AU Center. The university has spared no expense in providing students with a peaceful environment that is equipped with modern fixtures, artwork, and technology.

 

At the AU Center, we had the opportunity to delve into the history of the Atlanta Student Movement that happened here in our own backyard of Atlanta, Ga where black students gathered, on their own, to lead a movement against segregation in the 60’s. Their major feat being their successful sit-ins at Rich’s department store, that did not want blacks eating in the very store where they spent money.

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Rich’s Department Store in the 60’s. Building still stands, in Atlanta.

 

The AU Center staff gave us about a 2 hour long presentation on the movement and allowed us to view primary documents such as hand-written notes, itineraries, and even an original print of the newspaper where the students had their Appeal to Human Rights manifesto printed. Though we were not able to take pictures of the documents themselves, it was still fascinating to see them, in person.

A brief video on the Atlanta Student Movement

 

While we were at the AU Center, we were also able to talk to Dr. Lonnie King, who was one of the organizers of the movement. he was supposed to meet with us in person, but he had unfortunately been injured and unable to. All-in-all, hearing him speak on his experiences probably had the largest impact on most of the students who went with me. His efforts, along with others around our own ages, led to changes that swept that state of Georgia, in relation to segregation and equal treatment, under the law.

Though we were unable to take photographs of documents, we were able to take some of the people on the wall.

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Johnny Parham was one of the men involved in the movement. I took his picture because his last name struck me, being that it is similar to the name of my late great grandmother. 

 

Here is a video provided to us by Dr. Bohannon. It is of an interview she did with Dr. Lonnie King, where he answers questions on the movement. It is quite long, but is incredibly useful. Lastly, if anyone is interested, feel free to check out the podcasts some friends and I did, on the Atlanta Student Movement. They are all short and give brief histories, with a bit of commentary from the group.

Podcasts:
Interview With Dr. Bohannon
Arlington to Atlanta
Rich’s Sit-ins
Secret Chamber of Commerce Meeting

 

Annotated Bibliography

Benjamin, Walter, et al. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. Schocken Books, 2007. Essay: Critique of Violence

Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence is critical to my thesis, if it is taken in its entirety. Well, critical if I decide to go the route of arguing that the intentional proffering of untruth, by media outlets and public officials, is a form of violence against the people. His analyses of the varying types of violence could help me to flesh out my own initial thought of speech suppression and media need-to-be-first mentality being a form of violence against the citizenry. His concept of a cause being violent only when it bears on moral issues, also is a lynchpin of sorts, for my entire argument to follow a justifiable logic. Though I may or may not touch on his views of illegitimate vs legitimate forms of violence, that too sort of shapes my thinking for the arguments I want to make, in my own paper. Benjamin’s essay allows the connection from Plato’s views on truth and goodness, to morality as is the implication of goodness. From there I am able to, I believe, bring the point to its logical completion.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. Pg. 80-86; 138-155

The Rhetorical Tradition textbook has served a major role so far, for the research for this paper. It is the foundation and a sort of catalyst, for the entire thing. Within the textbook, I probably used about 3 sections. The one that has lent the most credence to my research is the section on Plato. My entire thesis centers around Plato’s rhetorical theories of truth and goodness being the foundational principles in gaining knowledge and understanding. His comments on rhetoric being pernicious, instead of morally neutral, also connects to one of the quotes I found from Walter Benjamin. I also used Frederick Douglass’ quote of speech being the way through which “interesting thoughts” in one’s own mind gives birth to what is in one’s soul. This merely serves to supplement the importance and intimate nature of speech that is allowed free expression from thinking individuals. It serves as a nice addition to the paper, I believe.

Caplan, Lincoln. “Stress Test for Free Speech: SOCIAL MEDIA ARE DESTROYING THE DEMOCRATIC CULTURE THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS MEANT TO PROTECT.” American Scholar, vol. 87, no. 4, 2018, pp. 20–35. EBSCO Host, eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.kennesaw.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=21f864e0-d138-449f-a886-d11e198aa919@sdc-v-sessmgr05&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ==#db=lfh&AN=131414739.

This source is simply one I am using as a catalyst for my own thinking. In fact, the first page is all I read from it, because it sparked so much thought for potential places for my paper to go, that I realized I didn’t need to take it any farther than that.

CNN. “Twitter CEO: ‘We Are Not’ Discriminating against Any Political Viewpoint.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Aug. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm_lmWWKDug.

This is a YouTube video where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is being interviewed by CNN’s Brian Stelter. In the interview Dorsey answers questions about the nature of his company and its goals in the public forum. He also speaks to what he feels Twitter must do better, which ends up seeming to simply be ways that police the users, through usage of complex algorithms. This source is mainly for the purpose of giving my claim ethos, as well as a more immediate way some of my representations can be checked by anyone who reads the paper. The other application of this source will be in using it to supplement how social media sites have allowed false information to spread on their platforms, though they claim to fight against it. This is important also in relating to the overall point of truth.

García Martínez, Alejandro Néstor, et al. Natural Law: Historical, Systematic and Juridical Approaches. Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2008.

This source is probably also one that will not be used in any notable way either. I have simply used it to put more context around a concept I have already had in my head. In relation to the topic, however, I am using it to support the long-held notion that humans— particularly those of us in the West who have already negotiated such outcomes on the outset of our republic— have natural rights that transcend impositions of arbitrary rules. These lateral rights, given by a natural and universal law, are therefore unable to be infringed upon, without an undue burden being placed upon an individual’s own rights and ability to freely express themselves. I may or may not take the paper in this direction, but it seems an interesting path to take, rhetorically. Especially in figuring how it would work into this topic.

“Federalist Papers No. 10.” Federalist Papers No. 10, Bill of Rights Institute, billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/primary-source-documents/the-federalist-papers/federalist-papers-no-10/. 1787

The Federalist Papers No. 10, written by James Madison could be used to further support the notion of natural rights –if the paper goes in this direction—especially to that of free speech and expression. This timeless document could be fairly integral, or rather immensely supportive in my view, to the setup of the importance the paper would place on uninhibited discourse. Madison speaks in No. 10 of the tendency of man toward baseness and carnality, and toward seeking his own ends, which connects directly to many of Plato’s statements. His comments on factions is also integral to connecting directly to Jack Dorsey’s underlying comments on making Twitter a “safer” environment, as Dorsey mentions the prevalence of echo chambers and of “coordinated group attacks”. I believe Madison’s comments on factions add support to my paper that I would not have otherwise found, had I not decided to look up Federalist No. 10.

 “The Twitter Rules.” Twitter, Twitter, 2018, help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/twitter-rules.

This source is purely to give context to Jack Dorsey’s comments from the U.S. House Committee hearing on Energy and Commerce. His comments on “abusive behavior” cannot be adequately analyzed and reasoned without looking into the source material from whence this rhetorical selection came. Using the twitter terms source page, I am able to understand my own argument better, as well as see the ambiguity of the guidelines, and how they have led to the very public banning of many public figures.

“United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce.” 2018. https://d3i6fh83elv35t.cloudfront.net/static/2018/09/Dorsey.pdf

This source is the full transcript from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony in front of the House of representatives, last year. It was the foundation for my rhetorical analysis of his own comments. This is the primary source from which the oppositions within my argument could come from. In it, he speaks of making Twitter safe from the same “abusive behavior” that was aforementioned. It is also here where he refutes any bias due to political ideology, but also admits that “unintentional” bias can indeed happen with the behavioral algorithms they employ. The transcript is instrumental in allowing me to analyze, itemize, and refute. It is also the source that has caused me to completely shift the original focus of my paper.

Reflections: Ethical Footprints in the Digital Space

 

When we think about ethics, it seems that we generally think the concept is relegated to realms involving shuffled papers and brokered back-room deals. We sometimes think of ethic as merely an ideal that we may pick up or may not, instead of having it as a sort of guiding force behind everything we choose to put into the world, whether written or otherwise. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon the perspective, our world has expanded what is seen as “written” and with the rapid accessibility of information, so too has the weight of what it means to be ethical. As our rhetorical stages have expanded into the digital, it is imperative that our ethicality be reflective of rhetoricians who seek truth at all costs. Truth, and I believe there is such a thing, must be preeminent. At the very least, the willingness to seek after it, must be. Truth, in the larger sense of the word, has no “side”. It has no ideology, no affiliation, and no banners. It simply is and our imperative, as reasoning rhetorical people, is to use that ethic toward a worthy advantage.

Part of how we accomplish the goal of reaching worthwhile outcomes, within our growing digital society, is in analyzing how we interact with our various audiences, in any given rhetorical situation in which we find ourselves. On any given moment there is invariably someone who is reading or listening to the words we use, the cadence with which we convey them, and the attitude that portrays them. There is an old adage, that has become a sort of colloquial cliché, that says, “you catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar”. While I know of no one who wants to spend their time catching flies, the phrase holds true. The part of our rhetorical identities in the digital space that I believe will have the most lasting impact on giving any audience the agency to step toward truth, is in how we communicate our various ideals and goals to those audiences, or to those individuals, that view our work. The loudest voices do not win over ethical audiences. They may encourage the news cycle of the day, but they do not guide people toward truth. The calm and collected are the ones who are in the best position to use their rhetorical strategies to guide, rather than prod, to better rhetorical situations and to truer outcomes for society, as a whole.

This is my own goal for my place in the digital space: to represent a voice that always aims toward truth and seeks it out, regardless of where it leads. In order to truly embody ethic, we must be open to being able to always put forth the truest information we can or, at the very least, be willing to analyze ourselves enough to study our own motives and correct them toward truthful outcomes.

No human being holds within themselves all components of rightness. No human being fully embodies what it means to be ethical, and thus we must also seek to be truthful, honest, and to have motives that are rhetorically sound, or else we can not hope to get close to some semblance of rightness or ethicality. This must be done within ourselves. This will allow for us to be both ethical rhetoricians and members of ethical audiences: on the one hand as disseminators of information, and on the other hand, as receivers of it.  The benefit of learning how to better navigate the digital spaces, through creating blogs and websites, or videos and media, is that it shows us just how lacking we all are and how much further we have to go, to leave an ethical footprint worth walking in, for our posterity.

 

 

 

Conclusions

There are few things that are as important as language. This is a truth that every human being has realized, at some point or other. Language can both be the barrier and the key, depending on how it is wielded and the I tent behind it’s wielding. What we tend to focus on, is the barrier of language, however. We allow the inability to effectively communicate to inhibit us from connecting to those who are foreign to us. Now language does pose quite a real barrier, but this is where the importance of learning language or cultures different from our own, comes into play. Through our own effort to find commonality between ourselves and others, through either learning other languages or learning about other cultures, our positionality in the society of the world’s stage is more aimed toward deeper connection and understanding.
This class has brought a few things to the forefront of our minds, in relation to language and culture. Through my own study, I began looking at the country of Haiti which, for one, has more people living there than I expected. In studying Haiti, the focus was more so on how the history of language influences culture as well as the power language has in orienting people within their own societies and cultures; or even within other societies and cultures. To take that one step further, it seemed a beneficial thought experiment to focus on the idea of “othering” and how that also orient’s individuals within societies.
There are two sides of this thought exercise that I aimed to address, in relation to “othering”:
are we as individuals, or even as a society, responsible for “othering” or do people “other” themselves; does feeling “othered” preclude people from fully, or rather from successfully, experiencing the society they are in? My conclusion is that the phenomenon of “othering” both comes from the naiveté that individuals have when they approach those who are foreign to them—which can lead to stereotypes that create preconceptions about others—as well as the perception, of those who are foreign to a place, that the society sees them as less-than. My belief is that the best remedy for both of these phenomena, is more active participation by all parties involved, in both a willingness to learn to understand, on the one hand, and a willingness to have patience, on the other. Active participation can be in learning a language that is foreign to one’s own, or in merely changing one’s mindsets toward other people and cultures. This is how language can be a key and how it can open the door, through barriers, into understanding and connection.

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Part 3

Outline

A. I will be researching cases of “othering”. I have a book that contains one or two of these cases that I am considering. For example: one of the cases is about a man who was born in Japan, and became a citizen of the U.S. In his letter he discussed his feelings of being an outcast. After becoming an American citizen, his family in Japan looked at him as an American, rather than Japanese. In the states, being Japanese, he felt as if he could never truly be part of American culture, even though he is a citizen and has lived here for 30+ years. My first step will focus on this.

B. My second focus, would be on maybe looking at the psychology behind felling like an “other” even though you are part of society. Perhaps I will also look at how we as individuals cause people to feel this feeling of being on the edges of society.

C. Lastly, putting everything I have compiled together, into a cohesive representation of my topic.

VLOG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1J0iMGwwDUpElluWLhQOZgEmcm4t3E8jj/view?usp=sharing

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