The US's War on Women: rhetoric, politics, and discrimination

Co-presented with the Writing Hub, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

As momentum builds in a US Presidential election year, women's issues are emerging as a key campaign agenda in response to resurfacing debates over reproductive rights, equality, and general wellbeing. Recent legislation in conservative states points to an attack on women that goes well beyond the usual issues of abortion and birth control to call into question basic freedoms, such as access to health care, the right to equal pay for equal work, and protection from domestic violence.

Leola Reis has been at the fore of these debates in her role as Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood Southeast and has witnessed firsthand the power of language to effect legislative decisions. She joins George Pullman, Professor of Rhetoric at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA; and University of Sydney academics interested in gender, rhetoric and politics: Dr Rebecca Sheehan, Dr Susan Thomas, and Dr Benjamin Miller for an another informative and thought-provoking Sydney Ideas forum.


Leola Reis

Leola Reis is Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood, a US based health care provider, educator, and passionate advocate for vital reproductive health care and sex education. Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning. Leola supervises health education programs and sexual health trainings as well as being a spokesperson for the organisation.

Professor George Pullman

George Pullman is Professor of Rhetoric in the Department of English at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and the director of the University’s Center for Instructional Innovation. His fields of inquiry are the history of rhetoric, web-based learning environments, and faculty development. He is currently completing a textbook in the history, theory, and practice of persuasion.

Rebecca Sheehan

Rebecca Sheehan is Lecturer in US History at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Her research on gender and sexuality links the present-day status of women to the 1970s when the interactions of feminism, rock music, evangelical religion, and market forces forged a paradoxical sexual order in which an increasingly permissive sexual culture inspired an evangelical awakening, women were more sexually liberated but also less free, and homosexuals gained greater visibility but were denied civil rights.

Benjamin Miller

Benjamin Miller is Associate Director of the Writing Hub, and his teaching and research focus on the way preconceived notions of self and other shape cross-cultural communication. His work considers how rhetorical studies can illuminate who we are and how we see each other to reveal the intricate processes of cross-cultural communication.

Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas is Founding Director of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Writing Hub and Writing Program. Her teaching and research have focused primarily on theories and practices of rhetoric and writing, and she has published on American political rhetoric and Presidential oratory.