CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

The Role of Feminine Rhetoric in Male Presidential Discourse: Achieving Speech Purpose

Lindsay R. Larner, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Richard Johnston

Date of this Version: 01 May 2009

This document has been peer reviewed.



Scholars have defined two gender-associated language styles as rhetorical tools that are used by men and women to achieve certain objectives. Masculine language is commanding and instrumental; it is considered conducive to politics. Feminine language is intimate and unifying; it is considered too passive for politics. However, women introduced feminine rhetoric into politics in the United States in 1920 when they were granted the right to participate. But since then, has feminine-style rhetoric played any role in men politicians’ discourse? Specifically, do they use more feminine speech to establish unity and maintain relationships? By comparison, do they use less of it when displaying superiority? To answer these questions, I analyzed two Presidential speeches genres: Inaugural Addresses, which unify the citizenry and foster speaker-audience collaboration – goals feminine language accomplishes -, and Nomination Acceptance Speeches, which display the speaker as leader, expert, and agent – goals masculine language accomplishes. I hypothesize that feminine rhetoric is useful for achieving the Inaugural’s speech purposes, so male politicians should use more feminine speech in Inaugurals than Acceptances.


American Politics | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Mass Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication | Speech and Rhetorical Studies

Suggested Citation

Larner, Lindsay R., "The Role of Feminine Rhetoric in Male Presidential Discourse: Achieving Speech Purpose" 01 May 2009. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 26 May 2009

This document has been peer reviewed.

Lindsay Larner BIBLIOGRAPHY.doc (81 kB)



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