Sally Miller Gearhart's 1979 remark that “any intent to persuade is an act of violence” based in “conversion/conquest” argumentation2, led many feminists, in the eighties and nineties, to describe more cooperative alternative models of academic argument. However, their critiques and suggestions had little field impact, largely due to negative reactions in relevant journals. The polarized reactions, typical of what Deborah Tannen calls our “Argument Culture,” resulted in dismissive and condemnatory rhetoric, and fruitful ideas were lost. This essay suggests that an alternate multivalent or “fuzzy” rhetoric would have proved a more positive environment for the new ideas, and describes how rhetorical studies might use this rhetoric to change the ways we respond to and teach persuasion and argumentation.
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