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Analysis of Hillary Clinton Human Rights Speech For The United Nations - Beijing 1995

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

On September 5, 1995, delegates from more than 180 countries joined together in Beijing China to hear Hillary Clinton's speech concerning women's rights. She addressed problems that every single country faced concerning the freedoms and liberties being taken away from women, and why it was important that they receive these freedoms. Using Burke's Dramatism method, I will analyze Clinton's "Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session." Throughout the analysis, I will cover the Dramatistic Pentad, which includes the Act (what was done due to the speech), Scene (describe where speech took place and the time frame it was set in), Agent (Hillary Clinton), Agency (What techniques were used to perform the Act) and the overall purpose of the act, and why it was performed.
During the time that the speech was delivered, Hillary Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton was serving as President of The United States of America. Clinton, who is the "Agent", was a very outspoken First Lady, thus she expressed her beliefs at the "Scene", which is the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women. The conference was prepared in order to achieve greater equality and opportunity for women around the world, which is the overall purpose of Clinton's act. She addressed problems that needed to be corrected in countries around the world, including the United States.

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The problems that Clinton saw going on throughout the world ranged from the forced silence that oppressive governments laid on women to the forced prostitution that some women are placed into for monetary income. She claims that "The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere…" (Clinton) stressing the main goal of the conference, the overall purpose of the act. She goes on to discuss how everyone attending the conference has the responsibility to speak for those that are silenced and not allowed to state their views, thus giving direction to the characters involved in the scene. After she explains this, she goes on to describe problems amongst American women (who she is speaking for) "raising children on minimum wage, women who can't afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence."
Within her speech, she claims that "No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse, or torture." This means that she is telling governments around the world to respect women's rights and allow their voices to be heard. She goes on to discuss the problems with women within countries that silence them, giving rape used as an instrument of armed conflict, and women and children making up the largest portion of refugees as an example.
Clinton addresses "the silence of women" once again, when she states "For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence." Then offers up an immediate plan to fix the silence by stating "But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loud and clearly." After the statement, she lists several different violation of "human rights" (no longer using the term "Women's Rights") by listing specific problems occurring around the world, such as women and girls being sold into slavery of prostitution, women doused with gasoline and set on fire, women raped in their communities, women dying within their own homes, etc.
One specific example she gives when she lists violations is "When babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls." This was a direct reference to the rumored "female infanticide" that was supposedly taking place in China during the time that the speech was delivered.
Throughout the speech she not only focuses on what had been done in the past, but what will be done in the future if women are given true equality. She discusses how without equality, "The potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized." meaning that the only way that it is attainable, is through equality. This is Agency, a strategy used to allow the figures of the audience to see all possible advantages. By showing everyone, male and female, specific things that would benefit everyone, this creates purpose for some people who might have opposed, a reason to agree with her. She also states that women must be able to participate in society and politics if freedom and democracy is able to thrive and endure. Another point made, is that "Women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe." Once again, using agency, stating that females will progress economics and politics, giving reason to everyone.
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The agent (Clinton) used many different strategies in order fulfill the purpose of the act. From the very beginning of the speech, she implements a form of agency, by listing several contributions to the world that women make, from working at home, having jobs, being mothers, to being leaders. The list of several different responsibilities that women uphold, used in the very beginning, immediately stresses the broad range of what women are capable of doing. This allows people to know instantly where the agent (Clinton) stands.
Clinton explains how it can all be done peacefully, which is a part of the act, as well as a way to accomplish the overall purpose. giving a nod to the United States Women's Suffrage movement (that had recently celebrated its 75th anniversary before the speech was delivered). She explains how it took 72 years of struggle before it was achieved, yet due to the courageous acts of women and men, it was accomplished "Without a shot being fired." This statement suggests that equality can be approached, and problems concerning the rights and voices of women can be solved in every country, peacefully. That it may take a large portion of time, and that men will be completely helpful in solving the issues. She goes on to explain that action needs to take place now, that they need to move beyond simply planning, and start acting upon what they all initially assembled to do.
A shared approval seemed to envelope both political parties in the United States and the majority of the delegates that attended Clinton's speech showed approval by applause and cheers. This proved that the purpose of the act was somewhat successful. The viewpoint of China was uncertain though, due to a strained relationship between Beijing and Washington, caused by a visit to the United States from the president of Taiwan the previous summer. (Tyler, Patrick)
Pat Tuab, A small newspaper columnist in America, stated that the White House was uncomfortable sending Hilary Clinton as an agent to the seminar. Apparently, China was against the entire conference in the first place, and the United States didn't want to make relations even more damaged with the Chinese during the time. They were afraid that she would be too outspoken about her opinions.
Clinton was late to the scene due to flight delays, and other speakers came to express their similar ideas (majority of audience shared unity on the subject of women's rights) in order to stall the crowd. When word got out that Clinton was actually going to appear at the conference, the place flooded with people. The auditorium in Beijing (scene) only held "a few thousand people" and was completely packed.
When Clinton finally arrived on the stage at the conference, she was "memorizing" to the audience. She immediately expressed her disgust by throwing out her arms, and stated "This is humiliating. This is all they offered the women of the world? I am disgusted." (Clinton). The crowd applauded at her remark of disapproval for the scene, and she went right into delivering her speech. (Lowen)
Though the initial purpose of the speech (act), was for Clinton (agent) to show her disapproval for the treatment of women around the entire world, she stated later that a different purpose for the act was to stand up against the Chinese government (specifically) for their lack of "Human rights, [and] women's rights."
Specific accusations were made against the Chinese government (two-thirds into the speech). The infanticide and forced abortions that China had been accused of were brought up, however they were placed at the end of a long list of different countries problems with women, an agency strategy used to not sound as direct when making accusations towards China, a way for Clinton to pseudo-soften the blow a little and not sound quite as direct and forceful.
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Clinton used the Act of the "U.N. 4th World Conference On Women Plenary Session" during her run for the 2008 presidential election, in order to boost voter's opinions of her, as she claimed "I went to Beijing in 1995 and stood up to the Chinese government." This wasn't the initial goal of her speaking at the conference, however she used the act to her advantage and added more purpose to it, in order to show that she had experience with standing up to China, which was a hot topic of debate during the election. (Adam)
The speech is recognized for fulfilling a partial portion of its purpose, by opening up more eyes about the problems women face around the world. Obviously, human rights and women's rights alike are still violated on an everyday basis around the globe, yet one of the purposes of the speech was to inform exactly what had been going on around the country, and she met that goal, reaching quite a large audience, in the scene of the auditorium itself as well as different media outlets. Her speech illuminated what women went through, how they were being silenced as human beings, and how their human rights were violated. The awareness was hindered in some places, some sources state that the broadcast of the speech was pulled from Beijing broadcasts. Success still came through, due to the impact the act had on everyone, and Clinton's speech on women's rights proved a success, laying foundation to give a voice to the women who were forced to remain silent.


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