Rhetorical Analysis of Femininity

Date (19 March, 2013)

Feminist, Susan Brownmiller, in her essay “Femininity” narrates that how her gender developed with her growing age. Brownmiller’s purpose is to convey the idea that, gender starts to get nourishment in the early age of individuals and with the passage of time we can obverse palpable discrimination between genders. Initially she adopts a nostalgic and a biter tone then it shifts to a sarcastic tone to elucidate femininity in society. She implements tame, offensive and plain diction with different tactics of syntax to depict femininity. These vibrant strategies convey multidimensional roles of female in society to her adult readers

Brownmiller begins her narration by illuminating her past and construction of her gender with the passage of time, while utilizing nostalgic, biter and sarcastic tone. This variable tone acknowledges her chore feelings about gender in society and especially the challenges due to gender discrimination. She appeals her adult readers in sentimental tone that when she was a child, she was “mother’s helper” (154). Here she did not signify any affiliation with her father. She talks about her childhood that, “girls were different from boys” (154) because their dressing, their games, and even their toys were different from each other. For instance, “gifts of pretty dolls, and miniature tea set” (154) she gets from her aunts and uncles. At that time she did not notice gender discrimination rather she “loved being a little girl” (154) with the passage of time she notice gender in society  and challenges due to gender discrimination. Then she adopts biter tone to express her feelings. “Femininity increasingly became an exasperation,” “rigid code,” (155) then her inclination of bitterness is increasing, “femininity was a challenge,” “life in a tremendous confusion” (155). These strong descriptions in a bitter tone explain her hatefulness towards gender. Then she shifts to sarcastic tone to evaluate gender: women will become perfect ladies when they fulfill all the responsibilities of femininity, which are imposed by men, “femininity by accepting restrictions, by limiting one’s sights, by choosing and indirect route” (156). Further she compares masculinity and femininity, “masculine principle… superiority, straightforward,” where as “feminine principle… vulnerability, needs protection,” (156).  Here she analyses the stereotypes about females, from very beginning women is describe due to her physical weaknesses and due to her inabilities, and she is specify only for reproduction (156). She further explains her viewpoint that not only today women are facing problems due to gender but this illness has strong roots in our history which causes problems for women in every era, in every period, and in every century.

Brownmiller creates tame, offensive and plain diction to enlighten gender in society. The purpose of using tame tone is to emphasize on the gender construction within home. Like, she gives the name of her game as “sitting the table” (154) she develops relation between different utensils with gender discrimination, for instance, knife or fork with man and spoon with woman. The purpose of these explanations is to demonstrate the domestication of gender. Then she uses offensive diction to elicit challenges of females, “stormy maturity,” “do’s and don’t- do’s,” “rebellious gain” (155). These diction light up her strong association with femininity and suffering due to gender. Further she exploits plain diction to demonstrate femininity, “insufficiently feminine,” “failure,” “simply unattractive,” “man has defined” (155). In this set of diction she clearly explains that if female is not able to fulfill the limitations imposed by man she is declared as failure, careless, and unsuccessful person. She explains responsibilities of woman that, “relaxation [for men],” “sake of fun [for men],” “dependence [on men]” (156). In plain diction she illuminates femininity as a source to refresh and to entertain men. Finally in very clear diction she illustrate women’s qualities, “femininity,” “niceness,” “thoughtfulness,” and “sensitivity” (157). Then she justifies her argument that women’s qualities are more important, valuable and they are requisites in today’s world.

Brownmiller not only uses variable tone and strong diction, but she also utilizes different tactics of syntax like rhetorical questions, climaxes, long and short sentences to organizes her thoughts in proper way. In this essay we can obverse many rhetorical questions, like “isn’t it remarkable how she manages to retain her femininity?” (155) “why should this be so?” (155) and many other rhetorical questions like these. The purpose behind these questions is to convey her point and create an emotional effect on her reader to stimulate their feelings about femininity rather than to explain the answer. Further, these rhetorical questions provide an opportunity for readers to utilize their own thoughts about gender discrimination in society. She also develops strong climaxes in her essay, “I pored over magazines… I learned to… I saw… I hoarded… I happily followed… I had to stay… I loved being a little girl… I loved being a fairy… who I thought I was” (154). She also uses some other climaxes as well. The purpose of using these climaxes in her writing is to emphasize on her ideas, to create a strong assertion, to grip the readers’ attention, to emotionally motivate her readers about her thoughts, to give flow to her writing, to make her essay beautiful and well organized. Additional, her sentence scheme is also fascinating; she frequently uses long sentences along with few short sentences. The whole paragraph three is compose of only  two very long sentences and likewise paragraph five is compose of two long sentences along with one shout sentence. The purpose of these long sentences is to explain her ideas, describes the problems of females, and gave details related to gender discrimination in society. The purpose of using short sentences is to give her viewpoint straightforwardly, “femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations” (155). In this short sentence she very briefly and precisely defines femininity. And other short sentence does the similar job: which also precisely explain different things.

In conclusion we can validates that she comprehensively combines variable tones, strong diction and different tactics of syntax to make her argument assertive. She also motivate her readers towards her standpoint with well organizes arguments.


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