Emotion, gender and debate

Stacey K. Sowards sowards
Thu Apr 13 20:46:35 CDT 2000

A concern for next year's topic seems to be that emotional pro-choice
topics are bad because it might cause a few tears and opinionated
reactions from judges.

I will go out on a limb here and say that emotion and emotional appeals
are part of persuasion.  Maybe instead of running from issues that evoke
emotional responses we should embrace them.  As painful as that may be, I
would much rather listen to debates that have that kind of impact on me
than the standard political disadvantage.

At CEDA nationals, I judged a debate between Kirk and Jarius (Texas EG)
and Rachel and Sarah (WGA HS).  Kirk and Jarius' affirmative about South
Korean prostitutes and militarization (it's actually more complicated than
that) was so powerful to me that I cried during the 1AC.  I have long been
an advocate of studying third world and intersectional feminisms, so I
feel very strongly about the abuses, oppression, and domination of the
patriarchy for these women.  Rachel and Sarah ran some gendertivity and
development arguments, which I also feel very strongly about.  I cried
during Rachel's 2NC as well.  The reaction that I had in this debate made
it the most memorable, powerful debate that I have ever judged.  In the
end, I think this debate will have more impact on me as a coach and judge
than any other debate.

At the same time, I was really embarrassed that I cried during the 1AC!
There were lots of people watching this debate, and I was so embarrassed
that I had to leave the room during prep time.  After the debate was over,
I thought to myself that I should not be embarrassed about a natural
reaction to an argument.  That emotional response is part of persuasion I
think, and should be embraced rather than shunned.  Emotions are natural
and we shouldn't try to avoid them.

I am not saying this should happen in every debate, but it certainly is
okay to have such reactions.  I think it makes debate more human and

On the subject of gendered language:  well, I think it is very important
to avoid.  Like the layman example, I always use the fireman example. When
I think of a fireMAN, I think of a muscled man in a firesuit with soot on
his face.  However, when I think of a fireperson, I am much more conscious
that this is a career opportunity that is open to women. FireMAN is
exclusionary and hurtful to me.  An apology may start to rectify a
situation, but it ultimately does not change my initial reaction.

In another debate that I judged at CEDA nationals, I believe a team
purposefully used gendered language to bait another team into running a
criticism so that the first team could run their free speech good cards.
This team's arguments AND taglines used more gendered language words than
I can count (probably 100 different words in 6 or 7 cards).  I was very
upset, since I was the only female, and I think maybe the only one in the
room that had such a reaction.  I suddenly felt very excluded from the
entire process of debate.  People like Rachel, Sarah, Kenda, Kate, Jarius,
and Kirk who have worked so hard to get recognition of gender issues and
gendered language, and then someone purposely reads such cards and
taglines.  Incredibly frustrating to those of us trying to make a change.

Stacey Sowards

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