In the middle of all the intricate ornamentation, beautiful frescoes and mosaics that filled the baptistry, the thing that interested me the most was the viewing galleries high up above the floor. According to our guide, Isabella, men and women were not allowed to be near each other within the baptistry, and women were sent to sit up there by themselves. It struck me as remarkable that for a religion (especially so in Italy) that puts so much adoration on the Virgin Mary, could so openly segregate and take away rights of women.
This corresponds to the treatment of women in rhetoric up to that time as well. According to the passage regarding the life of Aspasia, married women were expected to take care of all duties related to running the home, and to help her husband host guests; however, it was also expected that pretty much the wife’s socializing would be limited to her husband, and wives of the other guests.
These were societal norms that severely restricted the ability of women to speak out and be active on the political scene. Speaking out and taking a hard stance on a matter of public opinion was an easy way to put yourself in danger in those times. These restrictions led to the rise of invitational rhetoric; a very passive way of persuading an audience, in which the rhetor could persuade the audience without conflict, or drawing attention to themselves.
I feel that although women have the civil liberties and legal rights to practice traditional rhetoric, women tend to practice invitational rhetoric more frequently due to restrictions of societal norms. In our culture today women are often portrayed as elegant, and more importantly fragile. The confrontational nature of traditional rhetoric is most definitely not considered feminine. I feel this is the reason why women primarily use invitational rhetoric today when promoting their message on a large scale, so as to effectively persuade their audience, while not shocking their audience by going against cultural standards. In this way although they are legally protected, women are still restricted in what they’re able to say in the public eye.