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The Speeches “Is it a Crime to Vote?” by Anthony and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Adichie

Introduction

As individuals who advocate for particular views and approaches about pertinent issues, politicians and activists use speeches to reach their target audiences. The primary goal of any political speech is to construct a compelling argument to persuade people to think or act in a certain manner or believe the ideas that a speaker is delivering (Dylgjeri, 2017). However, regardless of the clarity of the goal of political speeches, its complexity depends on the context, setting, personality of a speaker, and an abundance of additional factors. This complexity requires identifying specific elements that make a good political speech.

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According to Charteris-Black (2018), there are two essential political speeches, namely policymaking, and consensus-building. Depending on the type of political speech, a speaker either pursues a goal of implementing a particular policy or engages with the audience to enhance trusting relationships. This paper aims to analyze Susan B Anthony’s speech “Is it a crime to vote?” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We should all be feminists” to identify how the authors integrate the elements of a political speech to make their arguments compelling.

Context and Audience

Susan B. Anthony performed her speech after being accused of committing the crime of having voted at the Presidential election. Her overall speech is constructed according to the context where women’s voting rights were under constraint. The audience included the general public, decision-makers, and the general public who were unacknowledged or opposed to the right of women to vote. The speaker addresses this audience, justifying her decision to vote and the need to redesign the legislature in an equality-directed way by making a persuasive argument. In such a manner, Anthony’s speech is an argument supporting her and any other woman’s right to vote as the one provided by the Constitution.

As for the context of the speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it was informed by the continuous observed and experienced gender inequality in various spheres. This speech was created and performed in the time of the MeToo movement that enhanced feminist activism against harassment and gender inequality (Torres, 2019). The speech was delivered at a TED Talks conference, the audience of which included individuals interested in the topic of gender equality. Moreover, since the speech has been publically available through online means, its audience is larger than the physical listeners of the TED Talks but includes educators, policy-makers, and the general public across the world. Thus, Adichie spoke about tentative social issues by reflecting on the injustice based on gender that persisted in society.

Key Arguments, Evidence, and Appeals to Authority

The argument is the core of a good political speech; a well-constructed claim that appeals to the audience and reflects the context is the one that is most likely to bring a positive change. According to Menini et al. (2018), an argument in a political speech consists of evidence and claims intertwined in a linguistically formulated text that is delivered to the audience with the aim of persuasion. Indeed, Susan B. Anthony makes a strong argument that is implied in the opening statement and reinforced explicitly throughout the speech. She argues that women’s voting is not a crime but a human right granted to all citizens by the Constitution (Anthony, 2021). The evidence that she uses is rooted in the comprehensive analysis of the injustice that persisted in the courts against female voters like herself and provided her own experience as an example.

In her speech, Susan Anthony appeals to the authoritative sources of information by referring to the Constitution as the document that proclaims human rights. The speaker uses the articles of the US Constitution by directly quoting from their multiple sections to pursue goals. Firstly, Susan Anthony appeals to the Constitution’s authority to support her argument for equal voting rights; secondly, she cites the articles for the rebuttal of the opponents’ claims. For example, the speaker refers to the Constitution that implies the whole people’s participation in elections. Such a two-fold usage of the authoritative text helps the speaker enhance the logic and reasonability of her claims, thus reaching the audience and facilitating its support.

Anthony’s (2021) speech is constructed as a continuous and robust current of meaningful and evidence-based statements and proofs that validate her argument. Instantaneously, she opens her speech with the words “friends and fellow citizens,” thus engaging in an amicable conversation with the audience that needs to be persuaded that the deprivation of women of their right to the ballot is anti-constitutional and anti-democratic (Anthony, 2021, para. 1). To emphasize this opinion, Anthony (2021) addresses her audiences by directly referring to them as “you,” thus involving the listeners and emphasizing that they are the members of the society that is impaired with inequality (para. 43).

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The speaker quotes such activists and political thinkers as Luther Martin, James Madison, Thaddeus Stevens, B. Gratz Brown, and others. All of them were devoted supporters of women’s liberation and emphasized the irrelevance of gender in the right to express one’s political position. Further, Susan B. Anthony exemplifies several illustrative cases when women suffered from the drawbacks in the laws’ articulation of gender which led to the denial of women’s liberties and rights. Stating exact names and dates, the speaker increases the evidential strength of her argument, thus making her argument persuasive.

As for the speech by Adichie, the speaker makes an argument that social beliefs about the roles assigned to people according to their genders are wrong and cause biased attitudes. Thus, it is necessary to change how society perceives men and women and ensure their equality by recognizing the problem and understanding its harms. To make this argument appealing and resonating to the audience, the speaker vividly describes multiple episodes from her own life and the lives of her acquaintances with the explanation of how stereotyped perception of women in society is traumatizing. However, as Adichie (2012) puts in the title of her speech, all people should be feminists because it is a movement that does not discourage men but makes it possible for men and women to live in an equality-driven society.

The argument is delivered and supported through deliberate and accurately selected stories from personal life and references to larger socially relevant problems experienced by many. In a sense, Adichie tells a story about her journey of understanding what feminism is through the common misunderstanding of the term by society. Therefore, the goal of the speech is to explain what feminism is to deprive it of negative connotations. Thus, when appealing to authority, the primary element to which the speaker refers is common sense. The persistence of gender inequality is illustrated through repetitive use of the pronoun “we” when referring to society to emphasize the unity of all society members in this problem (Adichie, 2014, pp. 10-11). Although there are few references to credible sources, and the majority of the speech is the delivery of Adichie’s belief through the lens of her experience, there are appeals to authoritative sources such as dictionaries. Overall, Adichie (2012) uses simple words to explain complex issues to emphasize the essential importance of feminism as a social construct that is powerful in reinforcing gender equality.

Rhetorical Style and Personal Experience

The authors of both analyzed speeches build their narrative based on their personal experiences to provide a detailed example reflective of larger social issues affecting many people, including the audience. The rich and traumatizing personal experience with advocacy for women’s rights and the accusations of crimes of voting at the Presidential elections served as a solid background for Susan B. Anthony’s appealing speech (Barry, 2020). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s personal journey to the understanding of the true meaning of feminism is used to connect with the audience and demonstrate that their experiences might be caused by larger social implications. However, the rhetorical styles used by the two speakers differ depending on the contexts in which they make their arguments.

Indeed, Susan B. Anthony performed her speech under the circumstances of imposed criminal accusations, which necessitated introducing the legal background and proper language use. Hence, Anthony (2021) repeatedly cites articles from the Constitution and other legal documents, making her argument credible and defensive of women’s rights. Adichie’s (2012) speech context was not influenced by a particular event but by an ongoing social issue rooted in misunderstandings and misconceptions. Therefore, her style is characterized by the appeal to the general public through a story-like delivery of the manifestations of gender inequality.

The repetition of direct quotes and insistent utterances denoting the lack of proper addressing of women in the legislature serves as a tool for intensifying the argument, which ultimately culminates in urging the change. According to Styer (2017), “Susan B. Anthony’s speeches demonstrate best practices from both preaching and professional approaches to the invention in extemporaneous speaking” (p. 405). Such a style helps the audience relate to the speaker and change their beliefs on the issue. Therefore, since the “speech grows out of the social milieu of the rhetor’s life and builds from the content of the speaker’s previous discourses,” it is illustrative of larger constructs, emphasizing the scope of the issue at hand (Styer, 2017, p. 405).

On the other hand, as it is observed in the video recording of Adichie’s speech on the stage of TED Talks, the continuous references to her childhood and adulthood experiences triggered emotional attributes in the eye contact with the audience, intonation, and changes in the voice pitch (Adichie, 2012). Thus, by openly sharing her encounters with gender inequality and its witnessing, Adichie creates a feeling of a sincere conversation with the audience, which is enhanced through words and body language.

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Silences and Absences

In political speeches, the public’s attention to the words being said is an indicator of the choice of language and topics. Therefore, biased or provocative opinions might be avoided to maintain political correctness. However, the analysis of Susan B. Anthony’s speech did not unveil a particular absence of a topic that might have been relevant but was avoided. Indeed, the speaker bravely mentions all the manifestations of legislative failures to include women in the decision-making process with direct claims about men’s superiority in society. On the other hand, Adichie does not directly address publicly known allegations within the MeToo movement that might accuse any person on trial for their discriminatory or harassing behavior. Instead, the speaker refers to the general manifestations of inequality and sexual harassment, implying its persistence without mentioning specific public figures.

What is to be Done

A political speech is given to make a change or serve a purpose that drives a speaker’s intention to address his or her audience. Through the choice of practical communicative tools and proper engagement with the audience, the speech is likely to trigger a change in people’s beliefs or opinions. According to Irimies and Irimies (2017), the goal of a communication process is not to reiterate already stated facts to disseminate the information. Instead, “its essence is to create genuine and significant meanings and therefore to enrich the existing reality and help a new one emerge” (Irimies and Irimies, 2017, p. 123).

Susan B. Anthony’s program was specifically targeting an immediate inclusion of female citizens as lawful actors of the political life of the country. She envisioned such a change to be possible by eliminating gender from the political discourse to avoid the opposition between men and women. Thus, the practical application of the speech is the change in the legislation that would allow women to vote without challenges. As for Adichie’s (2012) speech, it did not aim at inducing specific legislative change. However, the long-term change in society’s perception of the problem and the shift in the way children are brought up is particularly emphasized to ensure that future generations live in a gender-equal society. The closing statement made by Adichie (2012) demonstrates the actions that are encouraged: “if it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture” (p. 16). Thus, the impact of both speeches is far-reaching and aimed at restructuring society’s beliefs.

Conclusion

Conclusively, a good political speech is one that coherently and purposefully integrates style, vocabulary, emotional appeal, argumentation, evidence, and authoritative support depending on the ultimate goal. Both speeches demonstrated adequate and effective use of language and style to deliver the arguments in a comprehensive manner. An appealing and persuasive political speech must be created on the basis of the context and audience analysis to ensure the choice of proper style, structure, and language to achieve a speaker’s goals. Thus, the ultimate change and actions targeted by the speakers are best achieved through the masterful use of language, style, and structure.

References

Adichie, C. N. (2012) We should all be feminists. Web.

Adichie, C. N. (2014) We should all be feminists. London: Fourth Estate.

Anthony, S. B. (2021) Is it a crime to vote? Web.

Barry, K., (2020) Susan B. Anthony. New York: New York University Press.

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Charteris-Black, J., 2018. Analysing political speeches. London: Macmillan International Higher Education.

Dylgjeri, A. (2017) ‘Analysis of speech acts in political speeches’, European Journal of Social Sciences Studies, 2(2), pp.19-26.

Irimies, L. and Irimies, C. (2017) Effective communication in politics. Barack Obama’s inspirational speeches. Journal of Media Research, 10(3), pp.122-129.

Menini, S. et al. (2018) ‘Never retreat, never retract: argumentation analysis for political speeches’, Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 32(1), pp. 4889-4896.

Styer, M., 2017. Susan B. Anthony’s extemporaneous speaking for woman suffrage. Women’s Studies in Communication, 40(4), pp.401-418.

Torres, C. (2019) We should all be feminists connection paper. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "The Speeches “Is it a Crime to Vote?” by Anthony and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Adichie." November 12, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-speeches-is-it-a-crime-to-vote-by-anthony-and-we-should-all-be-feminists-by-adichie/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Speeches “Is it a Crime to Vote?” by Anthony and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Adichie." November 12, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-speeches-is-it-a-crime-to-vote-by-anthony-and-we-should-all-be-feminists-by-adichie/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Speeches “Is it a Crime to Vote?” by Anthony and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Adichie'. 12 November.

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