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Uncategorized Views

Director of Debate Aaron Timmons responds to The Evergreen’s “Sexism in Debate” story

To read the “Sexism in Debate” story referenced in the editorial, click here: http://evergreengreenhill.org/sexism-is-a-problem-in-debate-female-debaters-say/ 

The word that best describes my thoughts on the recent Evergreen article on sexism in debate is disappointment.

The disappointment results not from the subject matter discussed. My disappointment emanates from the missing context and myopic framing evident in the article. Individuals on the team (and even the broader community), have observed that the quotations utilized were in some cases a “snapshot” rather than a “panorama” of the entirety of the interviews/conversations that occurred. Several of the people interviewed came to me unsolicited saying they felt their statements were taken out of context.  In one case, the person interviewed indicated they asked that the quotation/framing of their comments NOT be used in the paper based on the emailed fact check, yet the quotations were printed anyway. While the intent of the story was to cover an important issue, that intent seems a tad sullied when some of the young women quoted believe a framing of their words was used to prove a different point than they intended. Some chosen for interviews seemed to be selected for their desired views rather than their involvement in the program; others with radically different views (and currently active) were never contacted or interviewed.

When asked why Debate receives so little coverage despite local, regional, national, and even international accolades, the editor answered, “We rarely write about major awards from any program – whether it be video production, 2D Art, or Debate.” This too is disappointing and seems like a classic “is/ought fallacy” or perhaps a discussion of what is as opposed to what ought to be. Debate students have won five national championships in a twelve-month period alone, success that the school should be celebrating. Not covering theses successes as compared to other parts of the Greenhill triangle is troubling from an equity perspective.

Sweeping generalizations were used to prove another point. It was noted, “despite the success of Greenhill Debate, female debaters often leave the program,” as though sexism was the only reason for not continuing. Perhaps the students had other interests they wanted to pursue.   Greenhill has a lot to offer; debate isn’t for everyone.

Bottom line, society writ large is sexist. Debate is a microcosm of broader society and as such, the good and bad things of society exist in debate. However, debate uniquely gives young women the skills to recognize and confront sexism. Are we perfect as a program in identifying issues related to gender inequities? We are not. That said, as professional educators committed to social justice and to bringing our expertise in this area to our students, we work tirelessly as a program to give all people a voice. The issues that we discuss in debate, be it sexism, racism, ableism, hetero normativity, etc., provide skills unavailable in other activities.

We do not tell young women to hold their tongues. We teach young women to be knowledgeable, to be fierce, to speak their truth, and to speak from their social location.

Aaron Timmons

Graphic by Grace Doyle and Areeba Amer


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