Training Bodies: Performances of Ethos in 21st Century Sportswomen
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This study reveals the ways in which previous cultural narratives about race, class, and gender may influence how one performs ethos and how that performance of ethos is received by an audience. Through a rhetorical analysis of the performances of ethos by elite female athletes such as Brandi Chastain, Serena Williams, and Michelle Wie, this study demonstrates the dynamic interplay between these facets of identity, suggesting not only the inter-relatedness of these elements and ethos, but also that a contemporary account of ethos must acknowledge identities as fluid, and must account for race, class, gender, and embodiment as parts of an interlocking system of representation. A consideration of how ethos is performed in women's sports is particularly important because elite female athletes represent a bit of a tension in feminist scholarship: by caring for and developing their bodies through athletic training, they are able to assert their presence in a traditionally male-dominated sphere, while on the other hand, the very structures of sport - one of the few social institutions where an ontological difference based on sex is not only reinforced but actually upheld as a moral of "fair play" - are situated in discourses that reinforce women's difference from and subordination to men. This study argues that female athletes' ability to shape and invent their physical bodies through athletic training also influences their ability to shape and invent their ethos. However, repeated bodily actions do not just signify one's ethos, but actually work to constitute the individual. In this way, practices such as the care of the self and dedicated athletic training are not so much about the social impositions placed on the subject but on the work that these practices do in shaping the individual. Therefore, in order to understand ethos and the performance of ethos as an embodied practice, rhetorical scholars need an entire conceptualization of the role the body plays in the making of the self, and in particular, a conceptualization in which outward bodily actions are understood as both the potential for transforming and developing the self and the means through which such transformation may take place.
- Doctoral Dissertations