By Jewell Boyd
The creation of my senior thesis project that you see here was not simply the culmination of what I learned in my major (Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication), but also the culmination of the important takeaways I learned from a liberal arts education: to make connections across classes, and to question everything. The idea for this project came to me in a literal lightbulb-going-off-in-my-head moment in the middle of a Feminist Rhetorics class session. We had just read Brittney C. Cooper’s prologue and introduction to Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, and were discussing her idea of embodied discourse, which states that a person and the knowledge they create are inherently tied. During the discussion, it was like something clicked in my head—in true liberal arts fashion, I made a connection from a logical fallacy, Argumentum Ad Hominem, that I had learned about in a prior course (Introduction to Classical Rhetoric) to Cooper’s idea of embodied discourse. How could it be logically fallacious to involve a person and their character in an
argument about knowledge and ideas, I asked, if Brittney C. Cooper states that a person and their knowledge and ideas are inherently tied?
From there, what started as a connection between one logical fallacy and one feminist rhetorical theory became a connection between fallacy theory as a whole and the broader ideas of feminist rhetoric, which then involved into an 18-page paper, and eventually the website you see here. In fact, creating a website allowed the project to be expanded in a really interesting way, in that it allowed me to represent the ideas of feminist rhetoric not just in the content of my project, but also in the mode I chose to physically manifest my project in. A large part of my argument and research involved bell hooks’s “Theory as Liberatory Practice,” in which she discusses who has previously decided what “theory” can mean, the way traditional “theory” is alienating, and the importance of combining theory and practice. Fallacy theory, feminist theory, and even rhetorical theory generally can all be pretty jargon-filled, are usually found in lengthy paper-based formats, and can feel alienating to those who haven’t studied them or who don’t have a college education. Thus, I wanted the theoretical ideas of others as well as my own to be available to as many people as possible, and since the internet is readily available to a large majority of people, I felt that a website was perfect. In creating my website, I also did my best to ensure to honor bell hooks’s ideas, as well as the ideas of other feminist rhetors, by connecting theory to daily life through things like blog posts, and by paying careful attention to the language I used and the amount of jargon present on my site.
While I was always excited about the creation of this website from the beginning, it certainly didn’t come without its challenges. I spent about a month simply trying to figure out how to use Wix, and trying to decide what I wanted the site to look like and how I wanted it to function. I also became frustrated at times with how thorough I had to be to ensure every part of the website functioned and was published exactly the way I wanted it, and sometimes forgot that I also had to edit my website to look good on phones and multiple browsers. Additionally, I ran into smaller obstacles, such as wanting to make sub-subpages, which Wix does not allow, or not being able to find pictures for each of the contributors to fallacy theory that I wanted to discuss. But as a whole, I am so proud of this project and grateful for all that I learned about fallacy theory, feminist rhetoric, rhetorical theory, and website design in the process. I hope that those who view my website will also be inspired to challenge themselves, and to question the knowledge they have always thought to be true and absolute.