The influence of gender roles has been an influential componet of contemporary society virtually since the beginning of human civilization. The gender roles and rules which dictate their function have been a fundamental aspect in the determation of available opportunities for men and women, as they have been seen throughout history to be applied with the rigid inflexability of law. The role of gender is not inherent, however, and has no form of biological composition or any other form of absolute truth by which to justify it's structure. Therefore, the development and evolution of feminist rhetorical practices can be viewed as a revolutionary element which was fundamental to the evolution of the epistime to encourage a greater sense of equality between men and women.
The roles given to dictate the lives of women historically frame the character of the woman as being delicate, soft spoken, and feminine character who lacks the decisivness, conviction, and overall ability to effect the world in a fundamental positive way.Women were forbade from participating in political discussions, or even engaging in dialogue in a public forum, as these practices were viewed as being masculine, as Cambell describes " Women encountered profound resistance to their efforts of moral reform, because any form of rhetorical activity was seen as being masculine. "(cambell10). Therefore, the great female minds of the period resolved to alter the form of rhetorical dialogue itself in order to allow them the opportunity to engage in dialogue with their male counterparts on a more equalateral basis. " women speakers sometimes searched for ways to legitimize "unwomanly" behavior and for ways to incorporate feminity into rhetorical practices."(cambell10)Early woman speakers and those who engaged in rhetorical dialogue with their male counterparts made modifications to both the way in which they spoke, and the manner in which they engaged their audience, in order to compensate for gender based discrimination.
The methods and practices employed by early women asserting their influence within the fabric of rhetorical theory are commonly classified as elements of feminist rhetoric by current critics and analyist of rhetorical practice. The development of feminist rhetoric can be seen as a fundamental opposition to the rigid constraints of the gender roles proposed by society to define the nature of men and women, and arose as a rejection of the epistime which governed this perception. The development of feminist rhetoric might be viewed by Foucault as being a natural link in the evolution of the epistime, of which fundamental diversions from popular belief structures give way for new and drastically different forms of thought to take place. In the instance of feminist rhetoric, it is the rebirth of the pursuit of individuality as opposite of any previously conceived restraints brought from a society dominated by males. It is not necessarily the great speeches that were provided thoughout history to appeal to millions of oppressed and belittled women, but rather the outlet of which these revolutionary thinkers and speakers provided for the subsequent development of dialogue concerning the fundamental issues women face within society.