Patricia Williams, in her thought-provoking chef-d’oeuvre article, Are we worried about storm’s identity—or our own, uses several rhetorical devices; however, the most outstanding ones are story telling and irony. The article opens with a story about the author’s son and a little girl, Jessie. The two kids had the habit of taking lunchboxes from fellow classmates and putting them in a refrigerator (Williams par. 1).
The author uses this story to prepare and provoke the reader of the main issue, which centers on Storm’s unknown or rather concealed sexuality. Jessie’s teacher knowingly or unknowingly assigned gender roles to Jessy and the author’s son in “unconsciously distinct ways” (Williams par. 7). The aspect of story telling fits perfectly in this article as the reader can relate the story to the main argument, which centers on identity.
The article is entirely ironical as the author explores how people are quick to take sides on an issue if only it favors their flawed mindsets. Williams laments that our “anxiety in response to Witterick and Stocker’s decision reveals a tension in our culture between the insistence on pinning down unknown aspects of another’s identity and the assumption that we don’t need to know anything about anyone except that they’re human” (par. 8).
Ironically, when a child is born, we are quick to ask the mother – or the father, if he exists, whether the newborn is a “he” or “she”, a boy or a girl, a female or a male. While we hold to the political premise that all people are equal, and thus we are all human beings, we violate the very claim by making fuss out of non-issues like wanting to the revealing of Storm’s sex.
Why is the revealing of Storm’s sex so important if we are all human beings? By raising this issue, the author seeks to remind people that assigning identity is not a bad thing after all. Instead of living in denial, Williams feels that we should “perhaps we should bring less panic to that moment of liminality and instead hold ourselves open to the wealth of possibilities” (par. 10).
The author has constructed her argument around irony and satire. Right from the beginning, the author seeks to excoriate those living in denial by saying one thing and denying it at the same time. The title of the article makes it clear that those pushing for the revealing of Storm’s sexual identity are unknowingly concerned about their identity.
The very people suggesting that Storm and his/her siblings should be placed under the care of social services, are the same people insisting that we are all Americans – we are all a people. The author constructs her argument along these lines in a bid to bring out her point without sounding harsh to the target audience.
The author is very successful in making her claims. By using irony and satire, she provokes the reader to think critically and probably see the logic behind the arguments. As aforementioned, the author’s motive is to cause the critics of the assignment of identity to rethink their stand concerning the issue.
Therefore, by highlighting the two sides of the argument, Williams allows the critics to question their apparently flawed logic in demonizing assigning of identity to individuals. For instance, she holds that we “must find some way to speak of this child. If we don’t want to call Storm “it”—and really, we don’t—we have to call Storm, well, um, Storm” (Williams par. 9). This observation underscores the view that the assigning of identity is not wrong.
Williams, Patricia. “Are We Worried About Storm’s Identity—or Our Own?” The Nation, 2011.