Jack, Jordynn. “Acts of Institution: Emboding Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies in Space and Time.” Rhetoric Review 28.3 (2009): 285-303.


In this article, Jack is building on previous work from feminist rhetoric scholars that have looked at the importance of issues like the body, dress, and space with regard to gendered rhetorics, and she argues that feminist rhetoric scholars need to find a way of theorizing all of these aspects together, along with time. She turns to Pierre Bourdieau’s concept of “acts of insitution”–acts that instantiate or exacerbate differences to maintain systems of domination–to first suggest and then enact a new methodology for feminist rhetoric, one which involves “investigating rhetorics that contribute to the gendering of the female body in space and time” (288). According to Jack, this new methodology should be focused both on identifying the ways in which rhetoric is used to create or maintain a cultural sense of the difference between men and women and on the ways in which these assumed differences structure our understanding of time and space.

Drawing on this methodology, Jack identifies three “clusters” (delicacy, domesticity, and appearance) wherein bodily practices became linked to practices of time and space in the rhetorical construction of female factory workers during World War II. Examining these three clusters, Jack argues that a discursive framing of the delicate female body was simultaneously used to justify women workers in what were thought of markedly masculine jobs while also bringing about changes in the layout of factories and work hours that were thought to better suit the needs of more fragile workers. Likewise, the language of domesticity was used to liken the skills needed to work in factory jobs while also bringing about changes in how late stores were open, what kinds of childcare were made available, and what kinds of shifts women were expected to work. Lastly, language about women’s “natural” interest in appearance led to the creation of more feminine work uniforms and structural changes like the building of beauty parlors in factories that would appeal to women workers. Jack argues that analyzing the way bodily acts intersect with acts of space and time help us to understand that these three clusters all functioned to maintain differences between men and women in order to minimize any disturbance to traditional gender roles that might occur from women’s war-time presence in the factories.

Quotable Quotes:

“These arrangements of space, time, bodies, and dress were not separate or arbitrary, but part of a social system that produced and exaggerated a system of masculine domination. By paying attention to ‘acts of institution,’ feminist scholars can help to identify and critique the symbolic injunctions of body, dress, space, and time that reproduce and exaggerate gender differnces in other socio-historical contexts.” (289-90)

“It is important for feminist rhetorical histories to account for differences between women, of course, even as they trace dominant trajectories within an historical period. The ‘order of bodies’ worked alongside orders of race and class, as well as gender.” (299)