This manuscript analyzes the public debate over legislation designed to mock and reject regulations of abortion in the United States. The bills, such as one in Texas requiring men to remain abstinent and avoid seminal discharge outside of narrow circumstances, are intentionally unworkable to critique Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws, and laws regulating access to abortion in the US. I argue the bills are a form of Burkean burlesque, a novel strategy of humor and biting critique in the context of the US abortion debate. As that debate is characterized primarily by Burke’s (1984) tragic frame, with a foreclosure of a comic frame, the use of burlesque is a notable break from the previously established rhetorical landscape. The burlesque elements of the bill are contextualized against political humor generally and analyzed, with subsequent discussion unpacking the implications and possible pitfalls of the limited proliferation of burlesque. Ultimately, burlesque is concluded to be situationally appropriate in responding to the rhetorical constraints of the abortion debate, but pragmatically dangerous by offering legislation that can further polarize both rhetorics of abortion and individual rhetors.
Original Publication Information
Coker, C. R. "Absurdity in the Statehouse: Burlesque Legislation and the Politics of Rejection." 2020. Communication Quarterly 68(1): 94-113.
Coker, Calvin, "Absurdity in the Statehouse: Burlesque Legislation and the Politics of Rejection" (2020). Faculty Scholarship. 767.