Gender and Debate II
UWG Debate Team
Thu Apr 13 08:09:52 CDT 2000
just two comments.
the first addresses what i believe is the mistaken assumption that
"crossing out" the BAD words is an act of "rectifying" the problem. and i
say this with the full knowledge that many who do this are sincere in
their attempts to sensitively deal with the concerns of others (or
this is not a solution. having worked with rachel on this one small part
of the overall argument, i can definitely defend the claim that LOTS of
philosphy arguments that were written/spoken with he/man language cannot
simply be purged of offensive terms and still be "valid". when someone
said "all men are created equal"(whether it was 1776 or 1986), they may
have DAMN well meant all MEN.
that's why rachel went back and researched (isn't that one of our goals in
debate?) every author she could (the ones being quoted in response to her
args) to try and learn more about their opinions and claims concerning
feminist ideals. pretending that a philosophers "insignificant" words (and
that is clearly the inference to be drawn- "the IMPORTANT part of the
evidence is the overall claim; the pronouns used are just superfluous
and can be changed by anyone") can be blotted out and exchanged for other
terms without doing violence to the original claim is just not correct.
having said that, i think EYC's arg about historical context is just the
sort of defense that rachel was talking about when she said she'd rather
debaters defend their research. the inclusion of quotes that use gendered
terms can be defended. and rachel's point seems to be "if you're gonna
read it, you better be able to defend it." seems like traditioanl
argumentation to me.
and i'm definitely down with the search to find a non-ballot way of
dealing with such instances. EYC wisely notes that there is
disagreement over how best to deal with this in the round. personally,
i don't think a win/loss should be the impact unless there is no
contrition on the part of the reader. BUT, when a team can show that the
use of sexist language in evidence calls into question the ENTIRE warrant
behind the claim (which, by the way, is what rachel was doing for the
second half of the year after doing research to put the arg together), i
consider that good debate. it doesn't mean a team should lose b/c they
read the card. just that they can't rely on that evidence.
my second point concerns zompetti's "why waste our time on THIS when there
are REAL problems like rape happening" red-herring. it's a non-sequitur
until joe proves that the inclusion of such args in debate actually
REDUCE time spent as an activist mobilizing to increase awareness of other
issues. i'm willing to wager that just the opposite occurs. rachel
certainly hasn't decided that her args about sexist language have "solved"
sexism and she need not worry her pretty little head about bad old
in fact, the rhetorical deployment of "worse harms" as a way to dismiss
the significance of "lesser harms" seems to be a GREAT way to demobilize
efforts. why worry about stranger-rape when acquaintance rape happens much
more often? why worry about upper-level management discrimination when
spousal abuse is so rampant? this is the implication of zompetti's
reasoning, despite claims to the contrary. until there's a LINK between
denouncing he/man laguage in debates and NOT fighting sexism in the "real
world", haphazard references to rape and other manifestations of
oppression only serve the interests to maintain systems of oppression.
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