Feminine Style: President Obama

The idea of a feminine style is based in 4 central criteria that a speaker fits throughout the course of their specific rhetorical situation.  The 4 claims are discussed in the article, “A ‘Feminine Style’ in Women’s Political Discourse:  an Exploratory Essay” by Blankenship and Robson are that the speaker puts women’s issues first, uses personal experiences to support their claims, values inclusivity and feelings are used to persuade over action.  To examine a feminine style you do not need to look only at women.  Anyone can fit into these characteristics and, therefore, anyone can have a feminine style.  I would argue that President Obama does not have a feminine style, but Kathleen Parker makes the claim that Obama does have a feminine style. 

In a speech President Obama delivered in 2009 to a joint session of Congress regarding his healthcare initiative, the Affordable Care Act, he makes several claims that show he does not have a feminine style.  This speech was crucial to his passing of the Affordable Care Act and it received more publicity that originally expected because a Republican Representative from South Carolina, Joe Wilson, screamed “You lie!” in the middle of the speech.

The speaker puts women’s issues first.

This speech is about health care reform for every American.  It is important to note that women’s health issues, including reproductive rights, are discussed, but they are not the main focus or even a substantial part of this speech.  The words women or woman are only mentioned once each in the entirety of the 45 minute long speech, so it is a fair claim that women’s issues are not discussed in depth.

The speaker uses personal experiences to support their claims.  

President Obama uses this speech as an opportunity to show why healthcare reform is so crucial to the survival of this nation.  He uses examples of people that have had their health poorly effected by the system, but he never uses a personal example from his own life. His lack of personal example can show not only that he does not have a feminine style, but it may allude to the fact that the current healthcare system has not effected him personally.  This does not mean he is not justified in improving the system, but it can take away from the strength of the testimony given because it is not from personal experiences.

The speaker values inclusivity.

As previously mentioned, this is the famous speech where Representative Wilson (R) screamed “You lie!” in the middle of the speech.  This prompted Obama to react with praise to the people that have helped him push through this bill, but he only mentions people within his own party.  This does show a valuing of inclusivity, but it does not show the inclusivity that he claimed he wanted in the beginning of the speech.  He claimed he wanted to include people on both sides of the aisle in the beginning but after the outburst, he, justifiably,  turned his focus to his supporters rather than pandering to the opposition.

The speaker uses persuasion over action. 

This speech focused specifically on his plan of action to fix the problem with healthcare in the US.  President Obama focuses strictly on the facts of his plan and worked to discredit the rumors and false beliefs about his proposed legislation.  He gave this speech in September of 2009 and the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March of 2010.  This speech was a significant step in his plan of action to move toward the passing of the Affordable Care Act.




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