three examples of reverse rhetoric

For some reason, I’m fascinated with how effective reverse rhetoric is — when one group takes something racist or sexist or homophobic that another group says and turns it back on them.

The first one — at least the first one that made me start to think about the phenomenon — was when Petra and I (at the Writing Center a few years ago) took a sexist paper that an English 101 student had written and re-wrote it so that it was sexist toward men, not women. That process revealed levels of sexism that even I hadn’t noticed before. If I can find a copy of it, I’ll post it here. Petra and I used it during our 10-minute classrooms presentations, in which we demonstrated a writing consultation. Sometimes she played the student, sometimes I did. But we always used this paper.

Another example is The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths. A very well-done parody of James Dobson-style rhetoric.

One I just found this weekend: A group is trying to get an initiative on the ballot which, as this editorial puts it, would “require heterosexual couples to have children within three years of marriage or have their marriages annulled. Marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. Couples would be required to prove they can have kids to get a marriage license.”

This editorial, from The (Vancouver) Columbian, from Feb 12th, says this “stunt” hurts the initiative process. I don’t think so. I think it is a stunt, but I think it could be effective. It would take a lot of stunts like this one before they would begin to actually hurt the initiative process. And this stunt could wake up many of those who hear about it to the absurdity of a lot of anti-gay arguments. Or, at least, it could plant the seed.

This “stunt,” this form of reverse rhetoric, probably won’t work well on those people who don’t consciously use procreative-ability as a characteristic of marriage. But, for those who do… or for those who have heard that argument but are not so sure about it… for them it might be effective.

This editorial quotes this same-sex marriage alliance as saying this initiative forces social conservatives to “choke on their own rhetoric.” That’s the idea! Or, if not choke on it, at least, wake up and see how weak the original rhetoric was in the first place.


erring on the side of inclusivity (“Church takes stand against straight marriage”)

Pamela Miller, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writes about a couple of churches that have decided to treat their hetero- and homo- sexual couples equally — by no longer offering civil weddings. Great title: Church takes stand against straight marriage. It appears to have been published April 16, 2006, but the article’s no longer on the Star Tribune website.

Anyway, besides the great title, I wanted to quote the article quoting one of the pastors:

The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a member of Lyndale United, acknowledged that people of faith cite scriptures for both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

The arc of the gospel always moves toward circles of inclusivity, and in earlier debates about human rights, people who err on the side of inclusivity have been proven right,” she said. “Very few passages in the Bible deal with homosexuality, but many can be lifted up in arguments for justice and equal treatment.”

Yes, yes, yes!