Female Representation Matters: The Identification of Young Women with the Embodied Ecological Ethē of Public Female Role Models

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This research project sought to find out if college-aged women have public female role models (PFRM) and how the former group identified with the latter. Over the last two hundred years, women and men in the U.S. have worked to improve the current standing of women in society. Today, women continue to gain influential power, making a difference in the world, despite the institutional and inter/personal oppressions that still exist. The examination of the words and/or actions of public female figures in a patriarchal society called for the reconceptualization of ethos, traditionally understood as “ethical,” referring to a “rhetor’s character” (Crowley & Hawhee, 2004, p. 20). While Aristotelian ethos was conceived according to the agency of the dominant social group, embodied ecological ethē accounts for the rhetor’s physical body (embodiment) and its location (ecology). In this manner, ethos is pluralized—ethē—and affirms women’s diverse realities based on their identities and their environments. Specifically, this study focused on how public female role models construct their ethē through interruption, advocacy and relation. The first step for revealing how young women identify with these involved determining if they had public female role models. Survey results indicated that the majority of college-aged women have a PFRM, one who likely matches at least one of their racial/ethnic maker(s). Building on these findings, young women spoke about their reasons for admiring their respective PFRM in focus groups. The feminist rhetorical analysis of the focus groups’ transcripts revealed that out of the three types of embodied ecological ethē—interruption, advocacy and relation—female students identified with the first two. What is more, a young woman’s identification with her PFRM’s embodied ecological ethē proved meaningful. Through identification, a college-aged woman enhances her daily life by adopting the ethē of her PFRM.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2028. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

public female role models, female students, identification, ethos, embodiment, ecology