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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

At a debate tournament sophomore year my gender was made a very big issue by other women, this is a reaction.


Recently at a debate tournament my Parliamentary debate partner and I tried to be strategic in the allocation of our speeches. Theoretically, I should speak twice, and he once. However, since Scott has been participating for much longer than I, and we were about to compete against the top team on the circuit, I decided that seeing as there was no official rule against it, we would try doing “ins-and-outs” which is a speech distribution that favors the stronger team member, and is allowed by the National Parliamentary Debate Association, but rarely deployed. Essentially, to benefit our win/loss record, I gave Scott my speech.

However, it soon became quite obvious that rules weren’t the issue with this strategy, other competitors and coaches found it problematic for two reasons, one more vocal than the other. The first reason was that our strategy allowed us to essential crush the other team. By allocating time to the stronger speaker we use an advantage outside of the norm to achieve victory.

The later, more vocal reason that our strategy was abusive, is that as a bi-gendered team we had an obligation to compete within the realms of an equal partnership. The view of the community was that Scott was actually speaking for me, oppressing me because of my gender. And my allowing Scott to give my speech wasn’t my idea, but an idea he planted in my head so that I would be a willing participant in my own oppression. Furthermore, this was problematic to women in an activity that is highly dominated by men.

My view of the first issue is that everyone in the round has the ability to access this advantage. In every team there is a strong player, and every team can benefit from utilizing that person fully. As long as Scott and I aren’t breaking any rules, we should not be penalized.

On the second issue, I feel that it is even more problematic and sexist to view all male female relationships (be they romantic, friendly, or professional) through the lens of sexual power play. Why must my relationship with my partner and friend Scott be one of dominance and submission defined by our different genders? Even moreso, why must my entire being be defined by my gender, there is no reason to hold me up as a poster child of women. I would prefer to be defined as a liberal, a student, someone fighting up from poverty, a fan of rock music. One hundred different things define me, why must my gender be the only one seen by what is a usually very progressive community?

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