by Dori Schurr
Having energy in a round can be difficult as a female. No, not because typically the D in BDE is something some women don’t have…Because big debate energy requires much more confidence in every step, every move, every word, and women in debate can sometimes lack that essential confidence.
Since my start as a PF gal, I have lacked some of the confidence I needed. Being a timid freshman girl who tried to dominate in a debate round was not easy, and I didn’t always succeed. I was not confident about the things I was saying, and that made winning and convincing my judges a lot harder than it had to be. Without a certain power in your voice, you lose all persuasion in your arguments. It isn’t uncommon for females in debate to feel less confident with a male voice in the room. Being the one woman in a sea of men can be incredibly intimidating, and can make even the most confident woman feel drowned out. On the local level it can be treacherous, but when you take the leap to national circuit competition, there is a sudden and overwhelming fear that takes over.
At Bronx this year, during one of our prelim rounds, we debated a guy-girl team, girl speaking 1st, guy second. I had debated the girl before, and knew that she was brilliant, and came up with smart responses and frontlines, so I was excited for the round. Once we had gotten into it, though, she seemed to act like she didn’t believe what she was saying. After her summary, which was pretty amazing, she sat down to hear her male partner complaining about it. He told her that she made a bunch of mistakes in her speech, and that she should “let him handle grand cross”. I was shocked, as I have never heard something so blatantly untrue and sexist. Her summary was much more organized and well thought-out than his rebuttal, by a longshot. However, she being a girl lacking confidence, she conceded and allowed him to take over grand. Unsurprisingly, he shouted over Oliver and I the entire time. Our judge had his head in his hands, and couldn’t stand it. At the end of the round he even made a comment about how obviously rude he was being. If only she had the confidence she’d needed, rather than being silenced by her male partner, she would be able to display what a badass genius she is.
Everyone in the debate community has a place here. Sometimes people may not be pleasant, but most of the time, kindness is key. Whether you’re a new novice or a senior who dominates the circuit, everyone is equal in debate. Treating your opponents like they don’t deserve to be there is just outright insulting. Treating the room like you own it, like you’re giving the best speech anyone’s ever heard, as if the entire room revolves around you, and cracking some dad jokes along the way, that is how you push yourself over the edge, and make it through tough rounds. I wish all of my baby novice gals could just understand this. It took me a year or so to finally get that every argument in debate is relatively untrue, and the one thing that guarantees you a ballot is confidence. By believing in and respecting yourself, it helps you recognize your place in the community. Not only do the top-notch seniors deserve respect, but you do as well. When we all recognize that we deserve to be here, not only does the community become a better place for everyone, we all are satisfied with our work, and respect each other even more.