Welcome to the first episode of Season Four of One Clap Speech and Debate. We're kicking things off with a series of episodes dedicated to discussions about equality in our beloved activity - the Seeking Equality in Speech and Debate Series. Our first episode will be part one of an open discussion on Gender Bias and Seeking Equality in Speech and Debate between five women leaders in our Wyoming Speech and Debate competitive community: Zoey Pickett, Carly Benn-Thornton, Camila Rivera, Dani Schulz, and Faith Duncan.
Thank you so much to our panel members for their thoughts in part one of our discussion. There truly is a lot for all of us in the coaching and competitive community to thoughtfully consider as we strive for equality in the Speech and Debate world. In the next episode of One Clap, we will air the second half of the discussion.
Transcript of Panel Discussion
(there are some errors in the auto-transcript, & I will edit as I have time):
Gender Bias and Equality in S&D Panel, Part 1
Lyle Wiley: I'm so very excited to meet and hear from all of our panel members on the open discussion for gender bias and seeking equality and speech and debate panel that we're gonna have this evening. I wanna especially thank tonight, Zoey, for, coming to me and asking for this to happen, and then helping me put together some of these questions, but thank you to all of you for, coming out and talking to me tonight.
You're all superstars in our Wyoming speech and debate community, and we need to have these conversations both in our community and in the national community. So thank you for your courage to come here and speak out about the importance of equality and speech and debate. Before we start the discussion, I wanna give you each a chance to talk, and introduce yourself just in a real simple format.
So if you could tell me your name, your school, your grade, and your primary competitive events in speech and debate. That'd be awesome. And then we'll get started with our discussion
Zoey Pickett: hi, I'm Zoey I was a senior this past year, so I'm going into college., I was a senior at Natrona county high school and my main events were Extemp and LD.
Camila Rivera: My name is Camila Rivera. I go to Cheyenne East I just finished my junior year and I'm going to be going into my senior year and my main events are public forum debate and extemporaneous.
Dani Schulz: Yes, I'm Dani Schulz. I go to Cheyenne East high school also, and I just was a junior. So I'm an upcoming senior, and I primarily do the interp events. I dabble a little bit in platform, so yeah.
Carly Benn-Thornton: Hello. I am Carolyn Benn-Thornton, also known as Carly. I just graduated from Riverton high school and my primary events are humor, duo, drama, POI, and poetry.
Faith Duncan: I'm Faith Duncan. I go to Green River high school and my primary events are Lincoln Douglas Debate and Extemporaneous Speaking. Oh, and I'm an incoming senior.
Lyle Wiley: We have a couple of graduates, but we have some folks that are gonna be back in our community next year. So I am going to do my best to try to stay out of this conversation completely. I'm just hoping to facilitate and transition between questions and statements, and we've just kind of assigned out places to start for everyone. So I'll just direct some questions, and then you can take the conversation wherever it goes. And then when things naturally end, I'll try to move to the next statement or question.
So, the first statement that I wanna run by you, that you can speak about comes from Noel Lambert and Jessica Liu and the Rostrum in February, March, 2019 issue, they wrote an article and they suggested some statements that, you could approach with students that they could then have discussions about. And Zoey I wanna start with you, this statement, how much do you think it's true? How much do you agree with it and why? My gender affects how my judge evaluates me as a competitor?
Zoey Pickett: We're doing it on the one to five scale, right?
Lyle Wiley: Yes.
Zoey Pickett: Probably like, three or four.
I think a lot of it is subconscious. I think that not many judges actually go into around thinking that they are going to, judge the competitors based on their gender. But I think a lot of it is subconscious, so like, for example, if you're in the middle of a cross examination and your male opponent is speaking over you and interrupting you and being really aggressive, and then you decide to do that back. They could be seen as taking dominance in the round while you're seen as being bossy. And so I think, it's mostly stuff like that, that, you know, men have stronger voices, more commanding voices, women have smaller voices, more high pitch voices. And I think that, yeah, so it's mostly true. I think everyone has that inherent misogyny a little bit. And so I think it's implemented into every round, at least a little bit. But I don't think that any judge intends to do that.
Dani Schulz: Okay. so I think, I think I agree with this statement. I think probably a 4.5. I totally agree with Zoey. I don't think anyone intends to be biased, but I think in our society, um, there's internalized bias that we don't quite realize that we need to work on working through. As judges and competitors. Um, and totally like in society, women are taught to be quiet and not take up space and not share opinions. And a lot of judges still have that in their brains, men or women. Um, so if women are aggressive, they're seen as rude in mean while men are seen as taking initiative and being aggressive, you know? So I totally, I, I think that it's not always realized, but it happens quite frequently.
Camila Rivera: I was pretty much just gonna say what Dani was saying., I think, for me, I would say a five, to be honest, I think it definitely does affect, like Zoey was saying it's definitely not subconscious, but I think it 100% affects how people judge me, especially being a debater again, with that tone, tone is everything. When it comes to debate and especially during cross examination, I get this on my ballots on. A weekly basis, especially during cross examination when we compete, , I tend to take dominance. I that's the person I am during CX. And when I did LD, that used to be, a lot easier. But now I'm public forum. It's a lot harder seeing is that we share that cross examination time. So sharing it, I tend to be a little bit more dominant and I know that in my ballots, I have gotten several times from judges that I need to maybe slow down, be less aggressive, talk in a lower voice, et cetera. So I, I do think it 100% affects, especially the feedback I get. I'm not sure if it affects the results of my round, but it 100% affects the feedback I get in certain ballots in certain rounds.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. I definitely agree with Camila and just something to add. I also feel like judges don't quite take what we're saying as seriously as they do with the men. Just because it doesn't seem like people are really treating women as, as credible speakers as they do with men. Just especially just leftover from like how close we are from when we finally were granted suffrage and education. Like we're just now starting to see more and more women in education and getting political platforms. So just the trustworthiness. I don't think as a society, we really recognize that what a woman says should be taken more seriously.
Lyle Wiley: I wanna direct this next statement. Same sort of criteria. Think about judging this on a scale of one to five, how much you agree with this? This is directed to Camila. So it's important to monitor my tone when speaking in around so that I don't come across as too aggressive or shrill.
Camila Rivera: I give this, if I could give this a 10, I would, this happens to me so much during round, I'm not only told this by judges, but many times by my coaches as well that I do need to watch my tone during round. And it's not, I, I definitely don't mean it in a rude way, because obviously like it's a competition. Like we're all there to be respectful, but I do find myself sometimes even though by my own debate partner telling me, I need to maybe like tone it down a bit, by the way I'm being. But truly it's not, I'm not being rude in any way. I'm just, I would say being assertive when I speak. And I think that's definitely necessary to do when you're in debate, but when it comes to my gender, I think that affects it. Like when I need to watch my tone, because I know., sometimes it's kind of funny when I see my Judges faces, cuz I think they I'm being like assertive and being like really confident in what I'm saying. But some of my judges look at me like really scared and I don't know if you've ever seen me around, but I'm not really rude whatsoever. I'm just really confident when I'm debate. Cuz I'm so passionate about what I'm debating, but I I've definitely had time and time again, like in the back of my head, oh, slow down because with speed, it's also the same thing with speed or maybe like tone it down a bit. Talk quieter, not as loud cuz I have gotten that so many times. So I, I do agree that it's important for me to monitor my tone at sometimes, but I do like to defy it because you know, it shouldn't determine certain things. So, but I it's always in the back of my head 100%.
Zoey Pickett: I totally agree. I think that, especially in debate, you know, it's a fine line in debate to being super aggressive in bossy and then just kind of having dominance in the round. And I think that for women that fine line does exist, for men, it might not. I'm not sure. But I can say that during my time through debate, I feel like I've tried to find. A way to go through around without getting the comments that I need to watch my tone. And that's, I always try to start off super nice. Right. Like I never interrupt them. I always I'm like, okay, well, thank you so much. You know, like I'm very, I try to be very nice and then I just kind of try to match their energy. Right. Like I won't let them interrupt me. If they're interrupting me, I'll interrupt them. Right. Like, I'll start getting louder if they're getting louder. And I found that that's kind of the best way to do it, but even then still you get comments that you need to watch your tone, even though your opponent might not get those comments. And it's the same way for me that I've gotten comments from my teammates too, telling me that, oh, I'm so scared to mock you because you're so aggressive, but I don't really think I'm that much more of an aggressive debater than your average debater. I just think the passion comes through a lot differently if you're a woman debating. So it sucks.
Carly Benn-Thornton: I agree with Zoey on the factor of just like matching energy with your male counterparts and like, you experience that a lot in interp because it's not necessarily monitoring yourself to come across as like, you don't wanna come across as too aggressive, but it's more like you want to be more allowed and you wanna be more dominant. So you feel this space around you. And so you're kind of competing with, with the tonality and the, the vocal range of your male counterparts in speech a lot more. And so it, it's, it's very hard because like women don't have the, the vocal range as men do, because theirs is like physically bigger than ours. And so it's, it's hard to like find a, a middle ground of like reaching what is filling a room and what is overpowering. And you don't like be too loud or, or too aggressive your, your characters and everything. But again, you reach that, that male counterpart expectation of their vocal range.
Dani Schulz: I totally agree with Carly. I've gotten comments in my ballots. Like, why are you yelling so much? You're yelling. You're overacting and it's. Annoying when there's, uh, male competitors in your room, like doing the same thing, but they don't get that. So I, I just have gotten so many of those comments and it sucks cuz you're like, I'm doing what they're doing and just it's different. And I think it's, it's totally societal. And what society thinks of women and how they perceive their voices or them speaking aggressively it's yeah. Pretty horrible.
Lyle Wiley: So I'll move to the next question. This is gonna be directed to Dani. And this is an important one, on a scale of one to five, how do you, how much do you agree with this statement? I can be honest about how I feel to my teammates and my coaches.
Dani Schulz: I think sometimes you can about certain things, but I think sometimes it's hard for male competitors to understand what female, uh, competitors go through. They don't really understand the struggle and sometimes certain people will shut down your struggles and make you feel like they don't matter. Um, not everyone, but I just feel like sometimes since they don't experience what female. Uh, competitors in speech and debate go through. I think it's easier to shut down and not listen and not amplify their voices, especially if they're in the minority.
Camila Rivera: I agree with that so much. But for me, it's not as much like coaches, I, 100% trust my coaches. I can be honest with them. 100%. Like some of them are actually my best friends, so I, 100% agree with that. But when it comes to teammates, it's the real problem. Cuz I feel like. I with experiences that I've had. And I, I get really heated when I get out of my round. And I think it's very obvious sometimes with like my own teammates, but when I express that it's often downplayed, by many, many times, and by a lot of people too, it's just not seen as like, oh, I bet it wasn't that bad.
Or maybe it's like, you're telling 'em about the experience. Like, oh, you're over exaggerating or you're being just overly dramatic about what actually happened in the round. But it's so with my teammate I feel like I can't be fully honest to what happened because I know they're either gonna have like, she, what she's saying really true, or she's just exaggerating, you know? So I feel like people need to be more aware of what we actually go through during rounds. Cuz if you're not there or maybe the one actually experiencing it, you [00:10:30] do downplay that a lot. Like what Dani was saying, like people tend to shut that out and it's like, Hmm, not that bad, but I think it's really important for people to realize that we do experience this.
And just because maybe as a male, you don't experience that. It doesn't mean it's not happening. So I feel like being more accepting of our feelings when we express them. And especially when we're telling them what the problem is, don't try to downplay it. Just be like, I hear you. And just like, just hear us like really, that's all we want.
It's for you to hear us not to contradict us and tell us that it's not that bad.
Zoey Pickett: With my own personal experience, I've found that, you know, after you get your postings, you look at postings and you say like, oh, I hit this person. Do you know anything about 'em right with your other people in that event? I've found that I've pretty much only had like, not women in the events that I do. And so I'll go up to them. I'll be like, oh, do you know this person? And, or like, oh no, they're super mean and round. Right. And then the other people in my events are like, what are you talking about? They're so nice. And I'm like, okay. I think they're probably a little meaner to me, a little more aggressive because they take advantage of the fact that, you know, I'm a woman and they're kind of expecting to be able to step on me when they respect you more in the round.
Right. And so, I think that their own experiences with certain people and my experiences with certain people are different just based on our gender, so that's not good. I also think that for a lot of the male interpers that I've talked to about this, kind of say that, well, it's not the same for interp because it's female dominated. And though I don't really have much interp experience. I still think that, I mean, just based on what you guys have said so far in this, I think that just because interp is more female dominated does not mean that sexism can't happen in it. And so I think that it's not only in my own personal experiences, but also just looking from an outsider's perspective that it seems like women aren't really trusted when they're talking about the misogyny that they've experienced.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. And I feel like just another thing on being honest with our teammates and such, like, I feel like success with women and men is viewed differently. We almost have like an outside form of imposter syndrome towards women. Like if somebody's being successful and doing well, it's viewed as, you know, the woman's like either, you know, the B word or she's trying too hard or just there there's always like some excuse for the woman winning.
But when a man does it, he's like automatically congratulated. And I feel like just among teammates and stuff, like you see a lot of jealousy when there are a lot of women, women winning in events. And I know just like for myself personally, with some teammates, cuz my best friend also does LD and when he breaks, there's no issues with it. But when I break, there's almost always some somebody having some sort of jealousy issue where saying something about like not disturbing it and. I feel like as a community, we need to recognize that female and male success both like neither is discredited or neither is really different.
Lyle Wiley: I have a question next or a statement, same sort of situation. I'd like you to rank this on a scale of one to five, Carly, this one's for you. So if I had a concern about an interaction with another competitor, it would be taken seriously. And you could think about this in the context of your, your coaches, but also in the context of like the tournament director and the people in the speech and debate community.
Carly Benn-Thornton: So I would probably give this like a 4.5 or five, honestly, because I feel like in this realm, I'm very blessed to have two female, female coaches that are very, very supportive of everything that I have to say. And they always listen to every word that, that I I have, but I know that in this community, there has been, some backlash of women coming across as too emotional or, or like, like what faith was saying, like a B word whatever. And it's very disheartening, I guess, to understand that whatever concerns that we might have, it might be translated into us just being too over emotional, which. I feel like isn't fair.
Faith Duncan: Yeah, I agree. I think we're definitely just perceived as way too emotional when we're addressing these concerns. Cuz I had an like issue with another female competitor in an online debate and emailed her coach about it and like my coach to it took it completely seriously. Like he helped me write the email and everything and when the coach emailed me back, it was just, the whole thing was just that I made it up and he talked to the judge and just all this stuff about how it's not that big of a deal when like it, it really was a big deal. And it showed a lot about the integrity of how we are treating women's concerns in speech debate.
Lyle Wiley: So the next question I have is kind of a big one. I have a quote that I wanna read, and then I'm gonna have Faith respond to this to start, but this is from a study by Alan George Abbott. And it reads: "these results indicate that when counting only the ballots containing criticisms, males are told to be more aggressive or are praised for their dominance. On 57% of the ballots, they were critiqued for their demeanor on only 43% of the ballots when evaluating the amount of times aggressive or dominant were written by the judges and on the whole males were encouraged to be more aggressive. Conversely females were told to be less aggressive on 94% of the ballots and were told to be more dominant on 6% of the ballots that were analyzed."
So Faith, what, what are your thoughts on these study results? And have you experienced anything similar on your ballots or your experience as a female debater or a speech and debate competitor for all of you?
Faith Duncan: So I absolutely agree with the results of this study and just like talking about my experience as a female debater, the study was on, yeah, it was on PF debate data. And I, I used to do that with my sister and she and I definitely have like very different debating styles. She's a lot more chill than I am and a lot less aggressive. And I'm, I'm a pretty aggressive debater. And I just remember like with more male judges or just a lot of judges in the more conservative communities, you just saw a lot more comments towards me and a lot lower rankings with me speaker wise, and just telling me to be a lot less aggressive and, you know, stop interrupting during questioning and stop asking all of these botting questions. And it was, it was definitely really difficult. Just seeing the contrast on the comments on our ballots specifically, like how the, like, nothing nothing's wrong with being a more chill debater, but like just seeing how we're treating women when they have different debating styles. And especially when I would like clash with male competitors, it would just be so much more of an issue on my ballots than there would be on my sister's ballots. Even if the male competitor would just be like, just as aggressive towards my sister. We, we didn't see the same thing on our ballots. So I think we're definitely, there's definitely a preference in debating styles for women and we're not giving the more aggressive female debaters a chance.
Camila Rivera: I would hundred percent agree with what faith said.
That's currently my situation with my PF partner. My PF partner, I would say she is, she can be aggressive for sure, but she's way less intense than I am. Especially during cross examination. Like faith was saying, when people, when you get interrupted, that happens all the time. I experienced this recently at nationals. I was getting interrupted question after question after question during my cross examination time. And no matter if it was grant cross or my personal, one with my, it was, I was constantly getting interrupted and even laughed at during round, which just put really put me on edge. So I simply responded with the same way. I obviously wasn't disrespectful. I would never laugh at another competitor, but I, if they weren't answering my questions and they kept interrupting me, I interrupted them when they were giving non-responsive answers. And I just, when I read those ballots, I was just shocked. When I read the personal comments, I was, they didn't say anything of like, I needed to be less aggressive, but in the general comments, nothing was said about how they kept interrupting me or like anyway, how the, this was being like addressed. But if not, I remember reading the ballot and they just like tried to avoid situation. Like completely because it was a really intense round because they were being just so rude and disrespectful. And these were two male debaters against both females. And I just, I know that during like the lady that when I was talking about earlier, she was the one looking at me was kind of like a scared face.
And when her ballot they could kind of like, see the tone in, it was kind of, maybe, maybe try like speaking slower, me being polite, or, but like, how can I truly do that? When my opponents aren't like reciprocating without politeness, that same amount of respect that I intended to give them at the beginning of the round.
So I, 100% agree with this ballot. And it happened to me in LD too especially when, like sometimes we tend to go over in our CX time or maybe like intru it in the other persons. And when you're like, this is my CX time, not yours. If you let me have this question, I have gotten so much feedback when I used that just twice. And I remember it was like, why were you being so rude? Your competitor doesn't deserve this, et cetera, et cetera, when it was truly just a matter of respect. So I, 100% agree with everything faith just said.
Zoey Pickett: I think something that I've experienced, just in my own personal experience, I think that, like female aggression and debate is really different from male aggression and debate. Because like, for example, if I were like, Debating Faith versus someone who had the reputation for being just as aggressive as Faith. Not saying that you're too aggressive, but you know, I think that I would go into the round expecting that the like aggressive woman, I would still be treated with respect in the round.
And you know, my points would still get across, but I think that a lot of times when men are more aggressive, then it's really condescending. And you can just tell that they don't believe what you're saying, and they just like, don't take your evidence seriously. They don't take your argument seriously. But I think that with women, a lot of times aggression can be more of a defense mechanism than anything. And so I think that the results of this are totally true, but I think honestly it should be on the contrary because a lot of times when men are aggressive, it's condescending, but when women are aggressive, it's just about like the passion of the round. Cuz I can get kind of aggressive too, but I don't, I, I would never try to be condescending it around or make my opponent feel worse. So. It's bad. , being seen as aggressive in a round or too aggressive or having that reputation. But unfortunately if you're a woman in debate, you're most likely going to have that reputation, especially like Faith was saying, if you, like do better and if you break and, you start to build up a reputation, it's probably gonna be kind of a negative reputation.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. And just going back to like what Zoey and Camila said, like a lot of the times when we see male aggression and debate, it does come off of this as the condescending aggression and, you know, men do laugh when you state a point and it doesn't seem that they're taking it seriously. And just as a female competitor, it's, it's so hard to combat that because the second, like they start laughing and being condescending, you're just immediately discredited. And it just, it it's an uphill battle because it makes you more nervous and just, it, it definitely doesn't help. And then when you're more nervous and don't feel like you're being heard, you get more aggressive and I feel like it's definitely a vicious cycle when you have, you know, an aggressive male versus the aggressive female and debate.
Zoey Pickett: Just to add on, this isn't even only the case in debate, but also in extent I could see this as well., because I know that for a fact People take male, just voices more seriously, and an extent, you know, there's no head on conflict and you know, it's just different speeches. And so there really isn't an opportunity for there to be like direct sexism, especially because you don't even see each other's speeches. But I think that a lot of times women don't do as well in things like exte because they aren't seen as passionate or as clear of speakers. So like for example, in one of my, I went to nationals in exte in us exte, and one of my ballots said that I need to be a stronger speaker. And in this specific case, I knew that I am pretty confident. I'm pretty loud when I give my stem speeches. And so in this specific instance, I'm pretty sure that it was attributed to just naturally having kind of a more high pitched voice, you know, being a little bit quiet or naturally. And I think that if I were just a man doing the exact same thing, I probably wouldn't have got that comment. So this isn't only true in debate of being aggressive, but also just being like passionate and loud and, being able to command a room with your voice in basically all events.
Dani Schulz: I totally agree with all of you who have already spoken. I think. Going into a round as a woman, either in speech or debate. In any event, you have to think about different things than men. Do you have to, you, you have to monitor like your, your volume, your, uh, how aggressive you are. And it, I feel like that's really stressful. Um, having to think about more things than just doing your best and having to adjust yourself to fit, um, like a mold of what the judges wanna hear, someone who is like put together and stuff. And it, I just think there's such a difference on what men. Men competitors think before the round and how they monitor themselves than women. And I think it sucks. Um, how Zoe, you said that you have to like, kind of match the energy of another person. I think that's horrible, but uh, we have to think about that in a round and, um, men don't.
Faith Duncan: Just extent it nationals. Cause like Zoey brought it up and yeah, I definitely feel like an extent. There's definitely an expectation for women to be like more confident and like more aggressive in it. And I think I saw Camilla at finals and Zoey also mentioned she watched it, but the one woman out of 14 other finalists was, she was probably one of the most aggressive speakers I've ever seen. Like she was if there video ever surfaces, like you should go back and watch it. Like it's, she's very aggressive and very passionate about what she's saying and like the political jokes she's making. They're, they're very cutthroat and it just. It shows that like there's almost a flipped expectation, like innovate, it's less aggressive, but when we see extemporaneous speakers, it's just, she had to be so aggressive in order to get on that final stage.
Camila Rivera: I think the worst part about that is that out of all of those finalists, there's just a single woman. And I think the fact that all the judges could throughout that entire tournament could collectively only agree that there was one aggressive woman that could possibly match that energy of their male competitors. I just, I think that's kind of embarrassing for us to see of like the competitors that we are and the type of people that we are and what we advocate for and truly all that we stand for in the community and see that final stage end up that way. I just remembered, I was like thinking in the back of my head, how did we end up at this place? Cause for people who advocate for equality, constantly the shirts that they had there with equity and et cetera. And then here we are Extemp finals, both and combined, but there was only a single woman in that final stage. So I just, I honestly just wanted to add that to what faith was saying, cuz it's just truly embarrassing to even think about, but it just shows that we need to fix it.
Zoey Pickett: Yeah. Just, I mean, Extemp being the event, the only event that I've done all four years being the event that I've only ever gone to nationals in. Right. Whenever I have a choice between like LD or Extemp I choose extent. Just seeing the final stage of us extent, the event that I competed in, be all men, and then watching this semifinalist go on stage. And those also being all men was so disheartening. I know for a fact there was at least one girl that was as good as them. And I think that faith is exactly right with, you're expected to be more of like a bombshell in Extemp you have to make edge your jokes. You have to, you know, be able to command the room more. And you have to actively think about that when your male counterparts don't really have to think about that. And so I loved the, IX, Extempers speech. I think that it was a fantastic speech and she totally deserved to be up there. And I think that there was plenty of other women that also deserved to be up there Don't get me wrong. The male competitors, they blew me away too. They were fantastic, but I know that there was another girl that probably deserved to be on that stage, but she wasn't on that stage because she wasn't seen as having a strong enough voice, like the comment that I got.
Lyle Wiley: Are we ready to move on to a, a new line of questioning? So I have another quote that I wanna read, and then I'm gonna have Zoey start this discussion. So this is from a victory briefs, blog entry, about perspectives on women and debate. And this was a sort of a history column that was written by Cynthia Timmons, who was a debater and a coach for many years. And she wrote, "I believe that real change resides in the opening of shared dialogue and the use of social media to let women know they do not have to suffer in silence, nor are they isolated. I believe that there's now more awareness, more publicity and higher expectation of appropriate behavior toward all participants in the activity."
This was actually written in 2014. So I just was wondering your thoughts on this Zoe and how can a community of support be built for female speech and debate competitors. And do you think that that community is being built now?
Zoey Pickett: I think that one of the best ways to address this issue is to just spread awareness of it. Like, you know, have conversations like we are. I think it's really important for coaches. We all said that we trust our coaches. We love our coaches. We could go with them with any concern that we have. But I think it's really important that coaches feel comfortable taking the next step and not only being there for us when we need them, but also. Being there to kind of educate the team entirely because we pretty much all also said, not only do we love our coaches, but also that our other teammates just don't understand. And so I think if everyone just went into tournaments and just went into the circuit with the knowledge that, you know, women are often seen as less than their male competitors, I think that that's really the, one of the only things we can do right now, but, maybe even just mentioning it in judges training, I know that at our tournament we have judges training,, just mentioning like, Hey, just so you know, this has been a problem. And so maybe just have that in the back of your mind as you're judging rounds. I think just educating people and spreading awareness is really the only way that we can fix it.
Carly Benn-Thornton: Yes. I agree with you way completely on that. And it's also a matter of like having those open conversations and not being necessarily scared of them because you find that so many people, when you have these conversations, people get in this defense mechanism because they feel like it's a, a personal attack on them, but we just need to have like more, welcoming conversations in a sense, like understanding that their, their defensiveness and really like taking it and, and translating it and making sure that they're okay. And that they're okay to have this conversation because that's, what's needed. Yeah.
Dani Schulz: I think another really important part of, um, of getting like. Educating people on this is, um, representation, encouraging women to debate and do speech, even though, um, it's male dominated, especially in debate. I think representation really matters. And in addition with education, because, um, if you're a woman and for example, you see The extemp final stage, you might feel really uncomfortable. And like, you feel like you can't, you can't control, um, your gender and you can't be up there. I think having encouraging women to, um, pursue what they wanna do and how they wanna do it is so important. And, and also talking to them about their experiences. Experiences and, and not disregarding how they feel. I think it's super important, uh, to get women into forensics.
Faith Duncan: And another thing I think we can do as women is like, we're advocating for ourselves too, especially like talking about their representation, because the post specifically mention is like appropriate behavior towards women in this activity. And I just, I feel like there's not enough self advocacy when we're defending ourselves against this inappropriate behavior and stuff. Like not, not victim blaming, but like. , you know, I feel like as women, we need to like recognize that, you know, we have the power to advocate for ourselves more. And as women, we should work harder to just, you know, when people are being inappropriate towards us and stuff, just, work harder to just call that behavior out and start more. And more of these conversations, just like how, you know, Zoe talked to Lyle about starting this podcast. You know, I think just as a community, we can really work to fight for more of our equality.
Camila Rivera: I, 100% agree with that. And I think that goes really goes along really well with what Danny was saying of like increasing that representation. Cause I think the problem now especially is that with that lack of representation, there's a fear behind pursuing said advocacy, which again, it was incredibly brave of Zoey to bring this up to Lyle and wanting to have this open conversation about what's going on. Cause especially like what we talked about earlier, it's when we advocate, when we call out this problem, there's a certain defense mechanism that ignites in people saying like, oh, I would never do that. How dare they call me out on that? Or maybe it's all up in their head. How, how horrible it is for them to assume that someone's going to do this. But again, many people don't act people who -aren't women in debate or women in speech or just in this community at all. Don't actually experience that. So I think when it comes to advocacy that representation 100% needs to increase for us.
Fear be less fearful when we want to advocate for certain problems, because I know that certain times when I wanna call out something, I'm kind of scared. Like in the back of my mind, like maybe people aren't gonna believe me or people are gonna think I'm over exaggerating or making a situation out of something that's really isn't there. So I think if we increase that representation along with that advocacy, it, our, the problem would be the problem, like would be made more aware to people to the point where we can actually come together and see to look for resolution. So lot. I think that's 100%, the first step that we need to take is the education and then advocacy, and then actually taking a step forward and trying to fix it.
Carly Benn-Thornton: Yes. And you see a trend in gender biases and opposition to women that the, the people have a very strong sense of entitlement to their opinion, even if they don't realize that they have a gender bias, they don't realize it. And so yes, bringing these advocacy and making your word and having a strong opinion and getting that across to people in a manner that they're willing to accept is very important to break those walls of entitlement.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. Just like on what Carly said. I think a lot of people don't recognize that, like, what they're saying is not, you know, it's not kind, and it's like hurting these women in these activities and they just, they don't recognize their bias. So like, I think as women, we just, we need to empower ourselves and realize that we can call people out for. I remember outside of a round, a male competitor, he said that I was super timid outside of Browns, but really aggressive in them. And I don't know why it just, it stuck with me a lot. Cause I did not like being called timid and just like the fact that cuz I feel like my personality is the same in versus out of round and just the fact that like he didn't even recognize that what he was saying was not like true or accurate. It was just the result of bias. Just I wish I had called him out on it and just, I feel like as women in this activity, we need to be more aggressive for, you know, advocating for this equality and calling out these biases.
Dani Schulz: I think something that's really important is not minimizing ourselves. Um, and like not speaking out about things and like letting the patriarchy control, like what we can and can't say, or how we act. Cuz if we, if we let the patriarchy and misogyny control us, then that's. It's adding to the problem. And I think it's really easy to do that because totally like Camila said, like, you're worried if someone's not gonna believe you or they gonna, or they're gonna call you dramatic. I just think just in just putting it into young. Debaters and speech competitors' heads that, um, they need to advocate for themselves. Especially women is really important just to fight back against the patriarchy and not making ourselves smaller. So other people are comfortable.
Lyle Wiley: So I think we can move on to another question. Uh, this one's gonna be directed towards Camila. So, how were you specifically as a female taught to be a competitor, a debater, a communicator. When like specifically as a female, what were some things that you were taught that were different?
Camila Rivera: Something that I was pondering on this question right before we started. And I, the main thing that popped out to me wasn't as much as aggression or the things we were talking about before, but for me it was speed. And I didn't realize that until right now. I had another male debater. He was a teammate and he was phenomenal and his speed was quite fast and it was a lot faster than I've ever spoken during round. But I remember growing, like growing as a debater, going from novice to varsity and doing that entire transition, there was a lot more pressure on me as a female debater to slow down. And especially during my judges, cuz I feel like, I mean, in debate you only have so much time. And even in like interp, whatever event you do, you only have such a limited amount of time that speeding up sometimes is necessary.
But like you're obviously like I'm not telling you to spread, please don't spread. But you know, I, there was a lot more pressure I felt for me as like, if you wanna win, you need to slow down. And like there was, that's it like there's no in between, there's no medium. You need to slow down or you're gonna lose, like, it's kinda like an ultimatum, but then my male debater, he was never told to slow down. In fact, like I remember seeing some ballots or hearing from himself. Sometimes it was even praised for said speed, or maybe even saying, I don't mind speed. You spoke incredibly. And even though we had the same argument, my ballots were filled with, please slow down and his word, even though he at a much faster rate than I ever did.
So I think being taught how to communicate in debate, it was about speed and obviously aggression. But I feel like we've touched that topic so many times, but I, but then with Extemp the way it's always been for me, it's confidence as well. And like in the back of my head, I'm pretty confident in what I'm saying and Extemp. Cause I that's the way you can get far and Extemp, you have to believe what you're saying in order to actually get far. And I, I will admit, like I tend to be not super confident in exempt cuz it's like, oh my gosh, what if they like catch me in something? Or I said like a date wrong or something like that. But I know my ballots, like the way I was taught to do it, it's very different. I feel like some of my other male competitors are taught. I know it was more of like the substance of what we were talking about. So for example, mine, I was really encouraged to bring a lot of evidence. Don't be don't hook on too much to your hook, like, you know, bring actual substance to the table. But then I heard one of my other male competitors speaking and it was, it wasn't as much like content, like actual, real, substance behind it, but it was more like funny light and he obviously made it a lot farther than I did at the time, but then again, I was learning. But I think that was like the difference.
So in debate it was speed. And then I, an Extemp was a lot more content. Like you need to say more things that are gonna make you sound more reliable. Male, just take it light, take it easy, do more jokes, et cetera. But I, on the other hand it was, it was really different. So I think that's the way I was. I see that difference as I pondered this question, but I hadn't realized it till today that I was told to think about it.
Zoey Pickett: I think something specific that I, I remember when I got this talk and now as the captain of my team, I have to give this talk. I gave this talk this year of, what to wear to a tournament, I think is a lot more specific for women than it is for men. I remember my captain, my freshman year was Lauren Blackwelder. Love her - shout out Lauren. She always said she was like, you're pretty much guaranteed to get a comment on what you wear no matter what, But, make sure that your skirt is long enough, especially if you do interp events, make sure you can move around and nothing will slip make sure I remember, especially like, if you have like a larger chest, maybe you shouldn't wear button up shirts. Right. And so like all of these things that women have to think about not only in round, but also just while they're packing for the tournament that, you know, men don't have to think about. And I think that, you know, what women wear versus what men wear, and how it's deemed professional. Isn't only in debate that it's just in the world in general. And honestly, I think it's good training for probably what we're gonna experience in the workplace of having to monitor what we wear. But I know that that's something that I, I just remember getting that talk when I first joined debate of, you know, they're gonna comment on what you wear.
Dani Schulz: I totally agree. I've gotten comments like, uh, I remember vividly, I got a comment that was like, you need to wear nylons would be more professional or I've gotten comments on jewelry, like that's too much. Um, and it just really sucks cuz you don't, you don't wanna be, it's really uncomfortable to be commented on your appearance. It's super uncomfortable. It makes you feel so. Ugh. I just hate it. It makes me feel so uncomfortable because that's not your appearance. Matter. Um, To your performance. So I think totally. And, uh, I've also like heard that women have to wear lipstick when they're performing, especially in interp. And it just sucks that we have to think about all those different things when, um, men don't really have to in the same way that we do. So I totally think, especially like with appearance, it's like super important for women just in general in society too. It's just a reflection of society onto speech and debate for women.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. And back to what Camilla was saying, I know this is a weird circle, but, just regarding speed and how we're taught to communicate. I feel like Camilla and I are very similar debaters. I've never debated her, but I feel like we are. But yeah, I also get all of these comments about speed and I feel like a lot of the reason why we're getting these comments is, first off, our voice frequencies are obviously higher pitched and like higher pitches are associated more with speed and especially just being taken seriously. Cause you know, when a man's talking, you just, you get the gist of it. I feel like a lot of the time judges are just listening to the taglines and like the main. Thesis of the, your attacks, but like when a women, when a woman's speaking, they're not taking her as seriously. And they're listening to all of like the things that she's saying and just sort of second guessing them. So I feel like that's a lot of the reason why we're getting these comments about speed is either the judge isn't listening at all, or they're constantly second guessing things. You need time to consider what we're saying. So, yeah, I feel like just, I'm also being like coached on how to slow down and how to talk better.
Carly Benn-Thornton: Yes. And adding on that, like communication factor in interp, Dani I'm sure you could agree with me that like you have to lower your voice in order to be heard, because Lyle, I read one of the articles that you sent and it said that, a more masculine voice translates to strength and dominance. And so therefore women try to match that and you see that in performances a lot, because, just recently at nationals, I would talk to a lot of my competitors and they would have these, high pitch voices. And then I would see them in the, in the round and they would lower them like quite a lot.
And , it's just like crazy to see. And even my mom has said that before, like you kind of sound like very masculine during your introduction and you also see that in your stance and your physicality, because like when you hold your hold, your poetry or POI binder, it's like a shield of protection.
So the judges don't see any femininity in you, you know, you have to square your shoulders back and open up and show that that you are strong. And so you lower your voice. And it's just an unfortunate reality that we have to face, I guess, because it's about adjustment because if you had a high pitched voice, maybe a judge wouldn't listen to you as much as they would, if you had a lower pitched voice.
Zoey Pickett: Have you guys seen the POI, debate, like a girl. Yeah. So, in that POI I love it so much, but, she does an impression of debaters and I think something that's kind of funny is you see the stereotype of women in speech and debate lowering their voice. You see that in the POI, because when she does her in impression of a debater, she lowers, she's like naturally lowers her voice. And I do that too. I'm like resolved, you know, like a, and so, I think that all women kind of subconsciously do that. I know that a lot of female politicians have done that too. There's been studies on like Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher's voice and how they've like lowered over time. And so I think that that's kind of like a natural thing that we've just kind of gone into because we know that it'll help us out and it'll be taken more seriously.
Faith Duncan: Yeah. And like voice frequency wise, like I think we see more success when we have lower voices too, because I used it. I had actually worked to lower my voice when speaking, cause I would use my customer high pitched customer service voice when I debated initially my freshman year. And I remember just everybody telling me like, don't, don't like lower your voice, use a more like use your more natural speaking tone in keep it low. And I saw more competitive success when I wasn't using the customer service voice. And when I was using the lower pitch.
Dani Schulz: Um, I totally agree. Sorry. I cut out for a second, but, um, just like me personally, when I'm in, around especially drama, uh, dramatic interpretation as a female, I watched like men go before me and I'm like, okay, like I'm preparing myself to be loud and to, um, fill up the room to command the room, just cuz I don't wanna lose points on that and I wanna get a good rank. And um, that's just something I really focus on just in general. Um, when I'm speaking is, uh, filling up a room, especially because, um, for women it's, it's more difficult to be heard in general.
Camila Rivera: I just wanted to add on before it got lost to what, faith was saying about, especially the frequency of the voice, which I think is kind of funny. Cause we are very similar to debaters. Now, everything I'm hearing her say my freshman year, I also spoke in a very high customer service. Cause I thought that was like the polite thing to do. Like the way that would get me kind of a, like, I don't know the same level as my judges. I kind of wanna say like, just get them to like me. Um, but then subconsciously over the years, my voice has like lowered a lot and I just kind of realized. Through old videos or old audios that I have of myself and just hearing myself was like, I have a really high pitched voice. And then now going into like debate and sometimes like hearing my own Extemp rounds where I was like, you know, for practice recording them, hearing yourself or debate as well. You just incredible to see how like that lower frequency like that lower voice actually helps you be successful. Cuz my freshman year I, I was partly successful.
I wasn't, you know, as successful as I am now or consider myself to be. And I, I, 100% would attribute that to partly to how like I carry my voice throughout round. So I just wanted to add that.
Carly Benn-Thornton: I just wanted to touch on how it needs to be brought more awareness to our judges because, um, like we were all talking about our freshman self and who we were a lot more like higher pitched than we are now. And I mean, I have a story about that. My first ever humor around, I had, uh, five competitors and I remember vividly this judge. He was talking about what he looks for is vocal distinction and vocal range. And so he was talking about how, if you can go up really high and if you can go up really low and have that distinction between characters, that's really impressive to him. And so, I took that and then I tried to have all the dialect and all of my, my tonality and my, my frequencies be so different for every character. And what was a nine minute piece turned into a six minute piece because I was trying to equate everything to my male counterparts, what they could do for their vocal range, rather what I could do. And obviously that's not a fair fight. And I see that it's not a gender bias that males have more of a vocal range than women do. And their. They have an easier time pushing their voices than women do, but it is an advantage and judges should understand that and they shouldn't take, um, our vocal range as a sign of distinction between characters, but rather our interpretation and how we, how we exude our characters.
And just to add on to Carly a little bit just about humor specifically, I'm sure Carly can agree with me. Humor is really male dominated and it's hard sometimes cuz you go into rounds of all men just cuz just in general, like in society, women aren't seen as funny, uh, which sucks, but also like the voice thing is so it's so prevalent because if you think about singing, men can sing almost everything and women can't. So, uh, it just, the vocal range is so it's so prevalent and especially in humor, it just, um, and it judges don't always think about who's interpretation and who's acting is inherently better. They think of who's more flashy and who can do more things. And it it's just, I think humor is really sexist. I, I really do just being a, a woman in humor. It just, you get into rounds full of all men. I'm sure. I mean, I don't really know. So don't quote me on this. If you look at like national champions of humor, the majority of them are men
Faith Duncan: Yeah. And talking about humor specifically, cuz I, I used to dabble in it, but I quit after my second year. Yeah. Vocal frequency definitely plays a lot, like a massive role in it. And like for respect to you, Carly for making 11th congratulations, cuz that, that, that was definitely a challenge. And but yeah, my sophomore year I had a piece, it had 12 different characters, like all with Boston accent. So I had to, I had to really diversify the frequencies and almost all of the comments I got on it. I had like a specific vocal coach, tell me and stuff about how my main character who had like the highest pitch voice out of them. All. It sounded like my voice heard and I couldn't keep doing that cuz I was gonna hurt my voice even though I had no problem with that character. Like the problem I had the worst one time with was the lower voice character, cuz like my, my voice, like physically heard after that one. And so just recognizing that maybe women can't really speak that low and you know, we really shouldn't have to.
To be continued....
Be on the lookout for these upcoming episodes too: Ella Schnake talks about women in Speech and Debate and her 2019 NSDA championship POI, “Debate Like a Girl”... Director Lucia Small discusses her new documentary - “Girl Talk” - a film 8 years in the making that follows the journeys of girl debaters through high school… Riverton competitor Carolyn Benn-Thornton talks about the importance of Humor and her semifinalist run at NSDA Nationals… Our second panel made up of YuYu Yuan, Haley Lauze-Reyes, and Leila Sandlin consider Being a Racial Minority and a Woman in Speech and Debate… Natrona County HS superstar and 2022 WHSFA Ambassador, Zoey Pickett stops by to discuss Extemp and female leadership… and more!
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