She the people : personal politics and feminist advocacy as the democratic ideal



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In an American democracy, created by the people and for the people, contemporary political women remain a marginalized voice in policy making and governance. My dissertation celebrates personal politics, and posits a landscape for thinking about democracy and advocacy in terms of political feminism. Specifically, I am concerned with how theorizing feminist interventions in the rhetorical canon operationalize material advancements for women in the political public sphere. To that end, this dissertation will introduce two systemic obstacles for political women, including, first, an ideological problem, where the political infrastructure and the press apparatus exacerbate a patriarchal gendered game; and second, an epistemological problem, where gendered language and gendered journalism are used to discipline political women. In the search for how political women can challenge and thwart political hegemony, I build from feminist rhetorical theory, political theory, and public sphere theory to offer rhetorical care as a vehicle for feminist political advocacy in the American political public sphere. Operationalizing feminist care through the case study chapters of Hillary Clinton and Wendy Davis, respectively, I argue that both political women successfully shifted gendered narratives for women in political leadership.