Women and Debate
Thu Oct 23 07:52:03 CDT 1997
While I'm glad this is being discussed, I'm not sure we agree as much as you
think and would like to clarify.
>As to the question of what elements are masculinizing...
>I smile at Jessica's interpretation of how the story is a feminine
>attribute to the activity (as opposed to the line by line). Although, I
>find it dangerous to delineate what attributes are feminine and which are
>masculine, I see a greater female influence in the region. Critiques,
>Topicality arguments and deontology are all unpopular arguments that have
>brought up discussion on the list serve. I do not know if these are feminine
>arguments that have been marginalized by the activity, simply because
>women are different from other women and men are different from other men.
>I love a good nuke war scenario debate, and I love military strategy, I
>love well written critiques that question normal assumptions. However,
>this does not make me an adrogenous debater. The point behind equality is
>to recognize that we all are people that all have different ideologies
>that formulate us. To make delineations of what arguments belong to what
>sex only makes the gap between the sexes more apparent and then forces
>people into their stereotypes now listed for them. The point I am trying
>to make about the masculinizing factors of debate are those that infringe
>upon what we feel convictions on - whether it be the critique or the
>process that the 2NR had undergone in order to go for - debate has made
>some ideas and positions unpopular. I have noticed this particularily
>during crossexamination of an very good woman debater in open division and
>then watching the crossexs of a novice woman debater. The skills we teach
>and have taught ourselves have changed our manorisms. Whether is be for
>the good or for the bad - the women act totally differently. One is
>astute, assertive and lacking the passion (quieter or more professional)
>of the other which is emotional and louder of the other. This is what I
>mean by masculinizing.
Actually, I don't attempt to claim that the "line by line" is masculine and
the story is feminine, in fact I thought I made it clear that I don't have
the background to really make that call, and while some may attempt to do
so, I don't try to delineate feminine and masculine arguments and was just
preempting. I only point out that feminists recognize institutions first,
not individuals, as oppressive to the female, and that those institutions
that are more ordered, more rules based, often are at the expense of
alternative viewpoints. In the context of a post like Jake's, that seemed
like a valid point. If judges decide before a round what is and is not a
valid argument before the round, then that contributes to decreased total
viewpoints. It's not that a critique is a feminine argument, but that more
arguments lead to more diversity.
And I still don't understand what your conception of masculinization (is
that a word?) in debate is after reading each of your posts several times.
What is a feminine debater? If you accept the Brownmiller interpretation,
then sex and gender are separate. Because I am a female does not mean I am
feminine. I don't think that since debating I have become more masculine as
my skills have increased and it is dangerous to claim that women who excel
at this activity have done so at the expense of their femininity. The
example of the two women at different levels in cross-ex- what does that
mean? If a novice, inexperienced, is tempestuous, reckless, even rude in
her enthusiasm, how is that a feminine trait? And if debate is an activity
that uniquely teaches women to be astute and assertive, why is that
masculinizing and bad? I thought your original argument was that women
don't get to be astute and assertive in debate like men do, not that they
lose some emotional perspective.
>There is a loss in the divisions. There are less women in open than are
>in novice. It is this evolution into the more effective debater that is
>unappealing to women. The competitive pushes are stronger in the male -
>they were brought up that way (yes, the GI Joe vs. the Barbie, which
>develops and characterizes gender differences). Along with that is the
>fundamental change a debater must undergo in the process of becoming an
>open debater and for open debaters the process of being better in rounds.
>All of these factors makes debate unattractive to many debaters of both
Actually, I played with both GIJoe and Barbie, but always preferred my
legos. I agree that there are less women in debate at a higher level, but I
doubt it's because "the evolution into the more effective debater" is
uniquely unappealing to women. Again, this is a dangerous assertion that
could be used to justify retreats to slow debate with less research or some
other drastic, damaging change. I think that if women are leaving after 1
or 2 years in the activity, the causes should be studied. If a factor of
this is high school debate domination by males, then hs coaches need to
actively recruit women. If women start in the activity later- say junior
year college, the reason they aren't excelling more is that they just don't
have the time to hang around and the solution is for each program at all
levels to work to retain women and recruit more of them.
Actually, I'd like to know what the female/male breakdown in other debate
formats is as well.
And don't forget, there are always tradeoffs. Sure, women have higher
pitched voices, which can, if too high, get annoying. But that higher pitch
also makes speed easier.
>Finally, Andy mentions that baseing my arguments on a sociological
>framework is defeatous. I think you did prove my point, Andy. That our
>debate world is a microchasm of the world that surrounds us. Women are
>getting fucked in this activity and in our world because as Brownmiller
>has been so eloquently quoted to defend; culture defines gender and we are
>not immune to our surroundings. It is defeatist to assume there is
>nothing to do, or as you have stated "there is no rule, all we can do is
>increase awareness and hope people change." If our institutions contribute
>to our culture which defines our gender than lets not buy into these roles
>that we have placed ourselves in, lets not allow ourselves to be punished
>for not being into these cultural roles, lets do something.
What Brownmiller was quoted for was to point out that sex and gender are
distinct. So I ask this, if assertiveness is masculine, and women are
taught to be more assertive in rounds, why is this bad? Being a woman does
not mean she is automaticly or naturally confined to feminine traits, and
men do not just have masculine traits.
Do judges in the activity really discriminate against women? Maybe some do,
but they're probably a minority with dwindling numbers. If a woman believes
she is being discriminated against, she should act. Talk to that person,
and if that individual is belligerent and the talk unfruitful, tell her
coach, her tournament director, let that person see that sexism is
intolerable. Make sure the school knows one of its judges is wrong. Act to
see that individual changes or does not judge. Maybe this is an argument
for mpj. In any case, individual action to stop sexist behavior and promote
women and diversity will accomplish far more than some discourse on email.
>ps. jess - scott betz was top speaker at west point.
Yeah, whoops, if I remember the schemat correctly, he and Jenny were tied
and the break made by computer. The third place was shared by a man and a
woman, sixth and fifth were women, and then a couple of men. Whatever, my
point's the same. I was on the verge of pneumonia, coughing and hoarse and
probably wholely not too pleasing to the ear, and still got a spot. If some
judge wanted to ding me for being an aggressive woman, they missed the chance.
And, after thinking about this last night, maybe speaker points just aren't
the best way to judge this. As long as judges variance exist, and there are
judges that think a 25 is good, or point fairy 29-30 givers, who one gets as
a judge is still a huge factor- maybe not in the difference between getting
an award or not, but certainly in what place one gets.
Anyway, I'm up way too early for class and need to study.
Jessica Wojtysiak jmw28 at cornell.edu
Within the chest of every cynic beats the heart of a disillusioned
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