Abby Wambach’s Speech Analytical Essay

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In today’s society, we believe that, over time, women have become equal to men. Yet men still dominate the top positions in the labour market, at the political scene and the sports world. Although men and women make the same sacrifices, sheds the same amount of blood, sweat, and tears, men often still have more in the bank account than women. For this reason, men have something that women do not have; FREEDOM.

However, looking just two decades back, there have been major changes in terms of gender equality. Changes that would never have been possible without strong women who have fought for their voice in society. This particular concept is what the retired American soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medallist Abby Wambach’s focuses on in her speech hold at Barnard College, May 2018. In the speech, Wambach explores the topics of success, unequal pay in the US, and the need for solidarity among women.

One of the most frequently used devices in Wambach’s speech is the direct address to engage her audience.

The use of a direct address is already seen in the first section of the speech: “But they sent me a really expensive fancy stylist. It doesn’t look like you guys got one. Sorry about that” (p. 7, ll. 21-24). By talking directly to her audience, she maintains their attention. Wambach furthermore continues to address the audience by pointing out that “Barnard women, class of 2018, we are the wolves” (p. 8, l. 118-119). This direct address is used to boost women’s self-confidence and make them believe in themselves. Wambach also calls the audience “Wolf Pack” (p. 9, l. 187) to grab their attention and to emphasize her idea of unity. Other rhetorical devices used to engage the audience in the speech are forms of appeals and metaphors.

Wambach uses all three forms in her speech, but she especially appeals to the audience’s emotions by using personal stories: “Experts call these times of life, ‘transitions’. I call them terrifying. I went through a terrifying transition recently when I retired from soccer” (p. 7, ll. 10-14). Wambach’s use of a personal story is likely to appeal to the audience on an emotional level since they can probably relate to her story. Making herself relatable helps strengthens her credibility as well as her position as a skilled and experienced character having the authority to speak about topics such as success, failure and so on.

Finally, Wambach’s use of metaphors is also relevant for her intention with the speech. The most important metaphor is the one seen on page 8 line 140: “Make failure your fuel”. The metaphor challenges the usual way of perceiving failure. Wambach addresses a typical gender stereotype, suggesting women are told never to make mistakes and challenge this idea by emphasizing that failure is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s something to be powered by: “Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You got to learn to make failure your fuel” (p. 9, ll. 150-152). Wambach encourages her audience not to perceive failure as a negative thing and instead turn it into a resource and a motivation to keep on fighting when it feels like life’s benched you.

In the speech, Wambach focuses on four criteria for success: “Rule No. 1: Make failure your fuel”, “Rule No. 2: Lead from the bench”, “Rule No. 3: Champion each other”, and “Rule No. 4: Demand the ball”.

It can be argued that all four criteria are inspired by her experiences on the football pitch. In the first criterion, she emphasizes that success consists of accepting failure and turn it into a resource to fight harder when life gets hard. In the second criterion for success, she points out the importance of not always being the leader in the spotlight but also having a supportive role for one’s team in the background. In the third criterion Wambach, she focuses on the importance of recognizing and celebrating the success of other people. Finally, in the fourth criterion, Wambach explores the rule of knowing when to be in the spotlight as the leader and when to take charge.

The inequality between men and women is a reality. Although gender relationships in many societies are changing and inequalities between men and women are questioned at work, in the home, and in public affairs, the cold facts are, that gender gaps and inequalities persist, despite the social and economic transformations. It is hard to answer why, but perhaps a look back at the story may provide an answer. Historically, there has always been a hierarchy in the home with the man at the top, the woman in the middle and the children at the bottom. But in public, too, the woman has been subordinated to the man. Men have always been the major decision-makers in society while women’s space was at home.

So maybe the previous generations’ conservative views on gender and their role in society are to blame for the fact that, in today’s society, we still do not have equality between men and women. Of course, some of these differences between men and women arise from distinctions in biology, psychology, and cultural norms, but others appear to be socially constructed. We put men and women in boxes and set standards for how a woman and a man should behave. For that reason, there is no gender equality.

To summarize, the commencement address “Make Failure Your Fuel”, focuses on the topics of success, the gender pay gap, and the need for solidarity among women. Wambach emphasizes in particular how we must embrace failure as our fuel instead of accepting it as our destruction. Furthermore, she also informs the audience about the gender pay gap and tries to convince the audience to come together and fight against the gender pay gap in the US and fight for gender equality. She encourages her audience to fight for their rights when they enter the labour market.


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Abby Wambach’s Speech Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/make-failure-your-fuel/



What did Abby Wambach say?
Abby Wambach Says USWNT Equal Pay Victory Is a 'Huge Deal' for 'Women Everywhere' The two-time Olympic gold medalist spoke to PEOPLE about what the win means for gender equality in — and outside of — sports.
What does Abby Wambach do now?
Abby Wambach is a retired American soccer player. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a FIFA Women's World Cup champion.
When you are the one at the table with the least privilege speak up?
If you are the person at the table with the least amount of privilege, it is important that you speak up. This way, you can help to create a more inclusive environment for everyone involved.
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