Even though debaters often get roasted for doing math in round, debate and math are surprisingly similar—both require individuals to analyze problems through logical lenses. I’ve always found this approach to issues surprisingly comforting.
So here we go.
1) I am on a phone call with one of my good friends. For fun, he starts adding people to the call—people that we both know in the debate community. 25 additions to the chat later, I am still the only femxle. And as the conversation circles around me, it’s like I was never on the call to begin with.
2) I am crying after an octos round. We’ve dropped but, frankly, I don’t care, because the events of the round have made me feel belittled and inferior. When the person who was being a jerk gets called out by a judge, he apologizes to the judge. He walks out of the round without saying a word to me.
3) I am forgotten. As individual members of my team are thanked, names of specific men are read. My partner is named, other guys are named—but I am not, even though I have been close to this team since the beginning. The only people who receive recognition are my male team members.
4) I am name-called. I am staring at a ballot where a judge has given me a 24 for being “too aggressive”, “too bitchy”. I have never interacted with this judge in my life. I feel sick.
1) I do not speak up. I do not comment on the occasional jab, at the jokes, at the fact that I am uncomfortable, at the fact that I have been excluded from a conversation that I started.
2) I do not confront him. I watch him strut with his partner down the hallway and never say a word. Instead, I turn to a friend who I know will understand and begin to cry, thankful that she is there, but frustrated that I did not speak up.
3) I do not accept an apology. Instead, I walk out of the round feeling uncomfortable and out of place, neglecting to mention how being the one person who was excluded from the recognition and also the one femxle on our team that has long been their friend is upsetting.
4) I do not speak up. Instead, this ballot becomes another weapon in my arsenal of stories about the “toxicity of debate”, another reason that this community has failed me, or that I am “so done”.
There are so many moments when I feel like I have been wronged in debate. When I feel like, because of my gender, I have been pushed away from the activity or marginalized in ways that hurt.
But what obligation do I have to myself, to other womxn? In these situations, what should I have done?
To be honest, these questions are impossible to answer. I wish I could write about a solution. But I don’t have one.
But I have realized this:
It’s way too easy for me to name all of the times when I’ve felt excluded, when I’ve experienced sexism. But with those moments come instances when I should have stood up for myself, when I should have stood up for other womxn. And, to be honest, by letting these moments slip by, I’ve allowed myself to become part of the problem.*
The most important thing to understand is that awareness is nothing without action. And that means that I have the biggest obligation to myself and to other womxn to speak up and stand strong. Action is never easy, but that’s what makes it so important. In the end, passivity never achieves anything.
Sexism sucks. Sometimes, being part of the debate community is hard. So do something about it. Don’t let the bad moments become the entire narrative. Instead, speak up. Spark change. Make a difference.
*Note: Not speaking up doesn’t mean that these incidents are my fault. But letting offhand sexism slip by allows bigger, systemic problems to continue to circulate through the community without repercussions. In reality, every single person has an obligation to step up.