Tag Archives: genderroles

Rhetoric in Advertising & Gender Roles

I could write all day long about communication from the creation of language to digital writing. But today I’m going to talk about rhetoric, its various meanings, and how it affects us all in modern society.

Let’s start with the obvious question, what is rhetoric?

Well from ancient times people used rhetoric to make decisions, resolve disputes, and deliberate publicly about important issues. According to Aristotle, “[the function of rhetoric] is not to persuade but to see the available means of persuasion in each case.” Basically he was saying that rhetoric has the power to find available arguments suited to any given situation and that by persuasion you could actually change a person’s perspective on a particular topic by using rhetoric.

When I look at defining rhetoric in my own terms, I would say that it is something that we use in every day and in any situation. Rhetoric like any other area of study when it comes to language can be bent or changed on its definition. We see this throughout the various definitions and meanings given to the term in the Chapter 1 readings of Ancient Rhetoric.

For example, rhetoric is used in advertising. How you might ask? Well rhetoric is not only used in written language but also unwritten language like body language (nonverbal cues and facial expressions), symbols, logos, colorization, and even design or arrangement of a piece of work.

In June 2014, Pantene (a premium hair care company) launched a ‘Not Sorry’ campaign that illustrated the spoken rhetoric of how women are constantly apologizing.

Pantene, Not Sorry| #ShineStrong YouTube 2014.

The campaign goal is to get women to stop apologizing and be confident in their responses or comments to others whether it be at work, at home, or at school. Pantene sends the message that with great hair comes great confidence. They also use digital rhetoric with their usage of hashtags in their campaign, #ShineStrong.

So how does this advertisement display rhetoric?

A canon is something that is official or well regarded in a specific discourse. In this case, we must take a look at the canons of rhetoric (invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery) to understand the significance of this advertisement. Pantene invents an argument about women not being confident enough to express their real feelings without saying ‘sorry’, arrange it in a campaign, use the brand and company style to promote this concept as well as their product, and deliver it in the form a memorable commercial.

What’s the big deal?

When we take a look at gender and the differences in how men communicate and how women communicate, we come up with a conclusion that women apologize more and don’t always speak with a certain tone of confidence. This could psychologically come from the idea that women are suppose to be subservient to men and therefore, speak softer and/or don’t speak with the same level of firmness as men.

Pantene has several articles written by various magazines as responses to their ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ campaign about why women apologize more and shouldn’t. This article approves an agreement with my argument by saying that we (as women) have reached a tipping point with how much we say sorry to others. The author, Jessica Bennett, even talks about a feminist podcast that she forwarded the link to her friend and when her female friend finally got a chance to read it she replied with, ‘Sorry I didn’t reply sooner.’ Jessica goes on to say that women use the word ‘sorry’ as a crunch to explain themselves or apologize sincerely when they don’t need to.

I agree with situation because whether we are presenting an argument that is meant to appeal to ethos, pathos, or logos, we shouldn’t have to apologize for ourselves. We should just accept whatever is happening at that moment in time and ask our question, make our statement, speak our minds freely without always mistaking ourselves as less important when our words are just as valid and just as important as anyone else. I feel like Pantene has done a great job of bringing up this issue of women apologizing as well as selling their product to us.

This is only exploratory blog post number one for the semester. So stay tuned for more blogs, posted every week on Sunday nights. Share your thoughts with me on rhetoric by replying below.



Crowley, Sharon. Ancient Rhetoric. Massachusetts: A Viacom Company, 1999. Print.

Cause Marketing. “Pantene ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ Commercial” Online video clip. YouTube, 11 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Aug. 2018.

Bennett, Jessica. “I’m Sorry, but Women Really Need to Stop Apologizing.” Living. Time Magazine, 18 Jun. 2014. Web. 22 Aug. 2015.


Other Gender based Commercials/Ad Campaigns: