We Can Handle It

by Dori Schurr

Warning: explicit language in the text to follow.

My lovely partner, Oliver Stern, is enjoying the end of his senior year.  Unfortunately for me and the speech and debate community, he will not be my partner next year.  As sad as I am about that, I can only look forward to what next year has to offer. My coach has planned a series of practice debates for our team, each with our possible partners, in order to determine who is truly the best option for each of us.  Thus, I have been spending my afternoons in the speech and debate room, trying to answer that ever encroaching question about my future partner.

Last week, I had a practice debate with people on the team who I have come to know and love.  They have quality personalities, and are truly good people. Unfortunately, by the end of that round, it felt like the community I have nurtured and developed turned its back on me, and I left the room feeling hopeless and worthless.  After grand cross, one of my opponents screamed at me, “Dori you were being such a bitch!”.

More embarrassed than I have ever felt, I laughed awkwardly and tried to move on with the debate.  My coach was not judging, only a senior on the team, and she told him not to use such profane language in that setting.  Not to mention, the round was being recorded for coaching purposes. What I thought was a stress-induced outburst was just the tip of the iceberg.  After being told not to utilize such language, he proceeded to claim that “the words he used perfectly exemplified my behavior”.

As soon as those words slipped from his mouth, my enthusiasm was crushed.  Being a woman in debate, I have become so accustomed to the disgusting language used on the circuit that hearing someone curse and lash out at me did nothing.  It was the fact that he meant it that destroyed me.  I did not know what to do at that point.  I have never been addressed like that in a debate round, and surely not in front of people that I have gone to school with for most of my life.

I was struck with pure disbelief and disappointment when I realized that people on my team felt that way about me.  I participate in community service, teaching underprivileged students the value of this activity. I spend my weeknights pouring my heart and soul into articles to share with the community in order to truly improve it.  I take hours to review the cases of my teammates and judge their practice debates when the supposedly ‘responsible’ seniors – *cough* Oliver *cough* – are unavailable. I would take a bullet for this team, yet the only ones coming my way are from the team itself.

This unfortunate situation provided me with the opportunity to stand up, dust myself off, and keep pushing forward.  Cases like these teach us that there is work to be done in the speech and debate community, and Beyond Resolved is a needed organization to end the toxicity once and for all.  Whenever someone tries to put us down or strip us of our love for debate and all that we learn from it, we cannot let them. I know it is a common critique that women like me ‘allow’ ourselves to be hurt, but hear me out.  I don’t think we, by some passionate acceptance and lack of prohibition otherwise, allow others to walk all over us. I do think, however, that we allow these issues to detach us from the community we grow to love. Rather than taking this as the opportunity to mope and fall into an ‘i hate debate’ slump, we should use these unfortunate situations to grow thicker skin, and show individuals that choose to disrespect others in debate that their behavior will not be tolerated.  I know it may be easier said than done, but going into debate with the mindset that you are destined to succeed makes it much more difficult for immature dissenters to tear you down.  As leaders in the community, we must display to those who are not yet strong enough to even comprehend how to, that ignorant, disrespectful comments are not enough to destroy us. We are resilient, and stand up in the face of challenge, choosing to fight when it is hardest to do so.

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