by Dori Schurr
Since my start in PF my sophomore year, I noticed I was one of few. PF is a boy’s club, and it always has been. Girls leave debate programs early, dissuaded to continue because of the implicit biases that poison the event. Boys have a “commanding presence” and are entitled to “raise their voices”, whereas girls are called “sassy” or “too aggressive” and are expected to silence themselves in order to debate properly.
These biases continue to develop, with comments getting more and more invasive, some men growing their God complexes (debate = “The Ego Enlarger 5000”), all of this continuing to distance the stranded island that is the population of women in debate. We are few, but we have a large influence on the debate-sphere. It is sometimes hard for males in the community to understand because we are such a small minority, but we are a powerful one, and one that needs to be addressed.
The personas we attach to ‘god-like’ debaters create the system which we so despise, allowing men to be idolized while us women never receive recognition. As outstanding female debaters like Eden Medina stand on the finals stage at the national tournament, there are still many in the crowd who doubt that her success is based off of her intellectual prowess, or claim that Chris Sheerer “carries her,” (check out Sara’s post on backpacking !!) or that her debate style is “annoying,” most likely a remark upon her female voice and the strength of her character. Women can’t win. From a young age as a debater, I remember thinking that when a woman in debate was successful, it was remarkable. Not as remarkable as the success of a male debater, because that was seen too often. Being exposed to male/male vs. male/male elimination rounds, I figured that not many women are successful in this event.
NEWS FLASH: It is not any more of an accomplishment for a woman to succeed in debate, even if it so rarely occurs.
As successful women, we have the same right to be seen as a ‘good debater’ as our male counterparts do. They are worshipped and revered as the best in the event, and their opponents are trashed for even trying — but the idolizing of debaters is a whole other world of debate weirdness that will have to wait for another day. Women need the recognition they deserve. It’s time for men, especially those who hold a powerful position in the debate community, to stand up and recognize that successful women are truly successful. There are many outstanding members of the debate community who are male. All we ask is that you acknowledge the female ones too.