Simply put, rhetoric is the art of using language, visuals, and other palpable forms of influence to “help people narrow their choices among specifiable, if not specified, policy options.” (Daughton) In short, rhetoric is the art of persuasion. In order to understand how television and social media rhetorically affect feminist movements, we must first comprehend the meaning of rhetoric – most specifically, rhetoric in media. Rhetoric in visual media is a complicated thing, as it only really came about in the early 1900s. Aristotle’s rhetoric, conversely, has been around since the 4th century BC. Of course, there was no such thing as television or social media back then. So, while media rhetoric is still relatively new, we must still focus on how the verbal frames the visual in policy-relevant ways.
How are visual media sources like television and social media (Twitter, for example) rhetorically effective? Modern Rhetorical Criticism, a comprehensive text about the history of modern rhetoric, identifies a few reasons why:
- Mass media changes people’s mental habits. People learn differently as a result of visual media.
- Visual media holds a certain authority that other forms of media do not.
- Lastly, at least for now, visual media is largely unmediated (Daughton)
Visual media is not static; it is important to the rhetoric of women’s rights because, for so long, women’s rights were a static matter. There was no visible representation of central, empowered females. There was no coming together by use of hashtag. However, with more and more facets of women’s rights being pumped into visual media over time, it’s become normalized. Thus, so have women’s rights.