Monday, April 9, 2012

Analysis of Hilary Clinton's : Women's Rights are Human Rights

Analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Speech: ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’

“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.” On September 5, 1995, 180 countries came together in Beijing China to hear first lady Hillary Clinton's speech about women's rights. This speech was the United Nations Fourth World Conference of Women. The target audience for this speech is governments and other organizations that can help meet the goal of making women's rights human rights.  She addressed problems that every single country faced concerning the liberties of women, and why it was important that they receive these freedoms. The speech was courageous and considered path breaking too many in its demand for action. “The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard.”  Hillary Clinton has become famous for the statement: “Women’s rights are human rights.” She is known as one of the greatest women of our time, combining intelligence, compassion and bravery.  First I am  going to  explain how she strategically used ethos, pathos and logos then I will analyze the speech through Burke’s Dramatism pentad.

 The three key ingredients of a great speech are ethos, pathos and logos. “For Aristotle, the ethos of a speaker is persuasive when the speech demonstrates practical wisdom, moral virtue, and goodwill toward the audience.”(Aristotle’s Rhetoric)  Clinton makes it clear that she understands and is an important person covering the topic.  “Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children, and families. Over the past two and a half years, I've had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world.”  She shows competence with her knowledge and expertise to the audience. “Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think they are credible” (Aristotle's Rhetoric).  Besides the words she is saying, she shows respectable charisma, and she appears to have a high level of confidence during the speech that also helps with her credibility.  Clinton is also a credible speaker because she is a well-known person.  Right around the time of the speech she was recognized as the Arkansas women of the year, received the international living legacy award, and she was the first lady. Also, because Clinton is a woman she proved that women are just as important as men.  For this reason, it was more appropriate for Clinton to present the speech than a man.

 This speech uses pathos to evoke emotions from its listeners. “In Greek, pathe means “emotions” and for Aristotle, pathos is an appeal to those states of mind that have an emotional component.” (Elements of persuasion)” Pathos is essential to have in a speech on a topic that strikes passion in the audience. Not only does Clinton make reference to all the women in our own lives, but she talks about appalling things that women have had to put up with: rape, abortion, burning and honor killings. Clinton uses anaphora to to highlight the different horrifying experiences women are put through.  She starts all eight of the statements with:  “It is a violation of human rights when…” These statements are very graphic and visual and she does a great job of painting a picture for the audience.  All these examples that she uses brings up her use of relevance. She lists how different scenarios were affecting the human rights of thousands of women all over the planet.  She strikes a feeling of sympathy in her audience and has examples that could be relatable to all different types of backgrounds.

Logos are explained as the “text of the speech” by Aristotle.  An important part of persuasion is the enthymeme, which is a “piece of reasoning.”(Aristotle’s Rhetoric).  Aristotle explains an enthymeme as a kind of claim, which initiates a transaction between the speaker and the audience.  The audience fills in unspoken assumptions that will verify the speaker’s claim and make it acceptable.  The enthymeme typically occurs as a conclusion coupled with a reason.  Clinton describes in her speech that “ If the term 'women's rights' were to be interchangeable with the term 'human rights' the world community would be a better place because human rights effect the women who raise the world's children, care for the elderly, run companies, work in hospitals, right for better education and better health care.” Hillary Clinton is trying to make the relation between ‘women rights’ and ‘human rights’ an enthymeme.  She wants those words to be interchangeable and acceptable for the world. Clinton explains that there is a problem in women not having equal rights, and her solution is to create a world in which women are treated with dignity, exempt of discrimination.

I am going to analyze Clinton’s speech through Burke’s Dramatism pentad. “The foundation of dramatism is the concept of motive: the reasons why people do the things they do.” Each event contains: act, scene, agent, agency and purpose. “ Burke believed that all of life was drama, and we may discover the motives of actors (people) by looking for their particular type of motivation in action and discourse.” I am going to analyze the Act (the speech), Scene (Where the speech took place, Beijing), Agent (Hillary Clinton), Agency (Techniques used in the speech) and the overall purpose of the act, and why it was performed.

The agent (Clinton) used many different strategies describing the purpose of the act.  In the beginning, she shows a form of agency by listing contributions to the world that women make.  The list included things from being leaders, working at home, having jobs, and being mothers. The list of responsibilities that women uphold, used in the very beginning, immediately shows what women are capable of doing. This allows the audience to know where the agent (Clinton) stands.  Reports stated Clinton spoke more “forcefully on human rights than any American dignitary has on Chinese soil,  she criticized China for seeking to limit free and open discussion of women's issues here.” (New York Times) "It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights," Clinton told the Fourth World Conference.  (Analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Human rights speech)

Though the initial purpose of the speech (act), was for Clinton (agent) to show her disapproval for the treatment of women around the world, she stated later that a different purpose for the act was to stand up against the Chinese government for their lack of "Human rights, and women's rights." Clinton used the Act of the "U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session" during her run for the 2008 presidential election as she claimed "I went to Beijing in 1995 and stood up to the Chinese government." (Healy) This is a pretty strong claim and it wasn't the initial goal of her speaking at the conference; however she used the act to her advantage and added to it. The speech is recognized for opening up more eyes about the problems women face around the world.  Human rights and women's rights are still violated every day, yet one of the purposes of the speech was to inform exactly what had been going on around the country, and she met that goal. Clinton's speech laid foundation to give a voice to the women who were forced to remain silent. (Analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Human rights speech)

In conclusion, Hillary used ethos, pathos and logos very strategically to make her speech well known.  She was clear on the purpose of the speech and did an excellent job of spreading the word about discrimination on women.   I believe a speech like Hillary Clinton's in 1995 was memorable, but I think this speech shouldn't even have had to be given. It is a disgrace that these cruel events still exist in 2012. When are we going to stop talking about it and see action? Yes, she was perfectly right in every word she spoke. But, this speech was given 17 years ago and nothing much has changed.  When will women’s rights become human rights?

Works Cited

"Analysis of Hillary Clinton Human Rights Speech For The United Nations - Beijing 1995." InfoBarrel. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Aristotle's Rhetoric." American Rhetoric. Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

 "Aristotle's Rhetoric." Grammars of Persuasion. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

“Burke, Kenneth. 1945. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969”

"Burke's Pentad: Dramatism." Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. <>.

 "Elements of Persuasion." Kenneth Burke's Dramatism. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

 Healy, Patrick. "Clinton vs. Obama." The Caucus. New York Times, 20 Nov. 2007. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

The New York Times. The New York Times. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. <>.
Author: Sarah Carlson

1 comment:

  1. this a great analysis. Just out of curiosity why did you write it?