The Evergreen would like to apologize for the misspelling of Cindi Timmons’ name in our April issue as well as failing to address her by her proper titles. It should also be noted that Mrs. Timmons was not contacted for an interview as a part of the “Sexism in Debate” story.
To read the “Sexism in Debate” story referenced in the letter, click here:
To read Director of Debate Aaron Timmons’ response to the “Sexism in Debate” story, click here:
As someone who has been part of the Greenhill community since 1996, I was glad to see the national award-winning debate team in the Evergreen. However, I was dismayed at the missed opportunity to fully explore and discuss a vital subject dear to my heart. As a recognized leader in the field of debate at the local, state, national, and international level, with three published articles and two speaking engagements this year alone on the topic of Women in Debate, I was surprised that I was not contacted despite my name being offered as a resource. Instead, I was described as “the wife,” ironically, a display of the sexist mindset the article indicts.
This reductionist designation, though unintentional, demonstrates how pervasive sexism is in society; it is that societal sexism that debate skills can address. There is nothing inherently sexist about competitive debate, rather, it mirrors society – the same sexism we saw so prominently displayed in the 2016 presidential campaign and debates, for example. Young women in debate can face similar situations as they engage in competitive speech acts where opponents seek to best each other using the power of rhetoric and research, “academic sport.”
The Greenhill “bubble,” where diversity and tolerance are valued, is more protective than these real world settings where sexism, racism, and classism are rampant. However, debate offers the training and the skills necessary to learn to respond to society’s ills and to grow through those encounters with personal advocacy skills intact.
Women who fully engage in debate have access to the support and training that helps them thrive in the world after graduation, where the workplace seeks to dominate or even silence the female voice. The well-trained Greenhill debate graduate has the tools necessary to stand up for herself and to articulate her views with confidence and experience. Many of these women are now leaders in their fields and attribute much of their success to their debate training on the Hill.
It is understandable that a young woman, possibly experiencing the first real challenge to her self-advocacy in a competitive setting, would be caught off guard (this happens to the males too, but sexist attitudes tend to benefit them more). In preparation for that first experience, advice is often shared about what might be encountered and how to best meet those challenges. This functions as more than debate coaching; it is life coaching. Women are NEVER told to “hold their tongues.”
In order to provide more Greenhill students with these vital life skills, I began offering speech and debate activities to LS and MS students five years ago through the Extended Day program. I am proud to note that the last three years has seen female enrollment grow to the point where the girls are a slight majority. I am hopeful that this early training and experience will help them counter the sexism they will undoubtedly face later in life.
I write from a lifetime of experience with societal sexism. At one point earlier in my life, sexist attitudes and behavior conspired to silence my voice. It was my training in debate that ultimately gave it back.
Board Member – World Schools Debating Championship
Team Manager and Coach – USA Debate Team
Member of the National and State Halls of Fame
Texas Junior Speech and Debate Association – Founding Member
Greenhill LS/MS Founder and Instructor – Speech and Debate Club
Graphic by Grace Doyle and Areeba Amer