This week, I read Activism and Rhetoric, an anthology of rhetorician activists and activist rhetoricians expounding on how they embody the intersectionality of rhetoric and activism. I use the word embody purposely because it is imperative to recognize that intersectionality, by its very nature, is not just a rhetorical or ethereal experience; it impacts our very bodies in sometimes a very real way.
For example, in chapter 10 of Activism and Rhetoric, Kathleen Feyh recounts the story of going to Moscow for fieldwork and trying to go to a Pride Parade in 2007. Apparently, several groups, including the police, stopped the Pride Parade because of one reason or another.
In chapter 1, police came and began to beat demonstrators because they were protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Several people were shot with rubber bullets, specifically, one woman who sat on the ground praying and an elderly woman who was trying to get out.
To be an activist is to engage in embodied rhetoric. Every action we take when in an activist situation.
I am reminded of a presentation I attended two years ago at Computers and Writing by Corina Becker when she said, “Simply existing is political when you exist in a marginal group.” So, every action we take, as disabled people, as people of a marginal group, is political. That has really stuck with me and now I find myself thinking that activism is an embodied rhetoric. But simply existing as a marginal group is also an embodied rhetoric, is political, is a resistatory action.
So, what is my definition of embodied rhetoric? It is the idea that you can communicate a message with your body. The body is often thought of as a passive object incapable of rhetoricity, but at the intersection of activism and rhetoric, it more explicitly becomes the embodiment of rhetoricity. Why is this? Why is it most obvious at the intersection of activism and rhetoric?
It is because of the chaotic kairotic moment when life is most unjust to one type of body that simply existing is an act of resisting. As another person said two years ago at the same conference, “self-care is the ultimate act of resistance.”