Brigitte Mral, Örebro University, 2003.
What happens to political communication when women’s public status is no longer “naturally” low? What kind of rhetorical strategies do women politicians choose when the general opinion not only accepts women in positions of power, but when women’s leadership is in explicit demand? These questions have guided my research on modern women politicians in Sweden in recent years. In this article I want to highlight some strategies with which modern women politicians have managed to become so evidently successful in the construction of their role. What rhetorical lines did they follow in order to gain acceptance both as women and as authorities? I will discuss this by starting with certain aspects of current international research on women rhetoricians, then providing some examples of modern Swedish women politicians, and concluding with a look at certain general characteristics of public discourse in Sweden today.
Brigitte Mral (2011) remarks
In the years since my article ‘Rhetoric of resistance. About women’s argumentative strategies’, Rhetorica Scandinavica, nr 27/ 2003, was published, the theme has been further developed to become more relevant to today’s political scene and how women speakers’ rhetorical preferences influence public language and the image of politicians. In the case of contemporary women politicians in Sweden, the emphasis lies more on a ‘womanization’ of the public word rather than a ‘rhetoric of resistance’. How women politicians speak and present themselves has set a pattern for public discourse. The framework of theoretical reflection is thereby opened to comprise issues of ethos, status and doxa more clearly, i.e. that the rhetorical practice is always dependent on the speaker’s position in society’s social and cultural power hierarchy, and answers to society’s doxological preconceptions in relation to public discourse.
About this article
- Part of: Scandinavian Studies in Rhetoric. Rhetorica Scandinavica 1997-2010, Kjeldsen & Grue (eds.), Retorikförlaget Publishers 2011.
- Article pp 350–365
- Original Swedish: “Motståndets retorik. Om kvinnors argumentativa strategier“, Rhetorica Scandinavica 27 (2003).
About Brigitte Mral
Brigitte Mral is Professor of Rhetoric, former Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University/Sweden. She is currently leading a research project on ”Rhetorical aspects of Crisis Communication”.