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Gender Bias and Seeking Equality in Speech and Debate, Panel Discussion, Part 2

Season Four of One Clap Speech and Debate continues with a series of episodes dedicated to discussions exploring equality in our life-changing activity - the Seeking Equality in Speech and Debate Series. Today we bring you part two 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 two of our discussion. We definitely need to listen to these voices in our coaching and competitive community and consider the best routes of action and advocacy to strive for true equality in the Speech and Debate world. If you missed part one, be sure to check it out here:

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 2

Lyle Wiley: Do we think we're ready to, to maybe move on to another question. Faith, this one's directed at you. We've touched on it a little bit, but to what extent do you think that clothing should play a role in judges decisions? And then how much do you think it actually does play a role in the average round difficult question?

Faith Duncan: All right. So my opinion on this one is like it's slightly controversial, but I think that clothing definitely should play a role in the judge's decisions, just because the point of speech and debate is to educate people on being successful in the professional community and clothing. Like while we love to express ourselves, I just, I feel like the speech and debate community is not necessarily like the place to wear these inappropriate clothing, and it definitely, it should play a bit of a role in judges' decisions, but not as much as it does right now. Cause it definitely, it definitely plays way too much of a role in judges' decisions right now, especially just regarding like. The different clothing styles between men versus women, you know, like women's suits, they're, they're so hard to, oh gosh, they're so hard to find. And, I don't know. You guys were all probably shopping for nationals too. And it was so hard to find ones that fit me. And I remember I took my suit to a tailor and told her to take in the waist and she literally took in the chest and nothing else. And I was like that. It just shows that the feminine here and like just feminine clothing is not appreciated as much as it should be in speech. And it's not, it's not recognized as seriously. So I think it plays way too much of a role now, but it should still play a slight role.

Dani Schulz: I totally agree with faith. I think that it's important to be. And look professional. Like if you see the people on the national final stage, they all look put together in nice and professional. I do think there's a line, um, to where it gets sexist. Like my example, like, uh, I, I think it's a little bit inappropriate, like as a judge, like if I'm judging, I will never comment on appearance just cuz it makes me feel really uncomfortable and to read too as a competitor. So I think it does play a role, but I think women especially just get the, get the worst of it just in general because women's appearance just in society is so picked on and it is really hard to find suits for women. I'm glad you agree with me. It's so hard. And for men, like there's so many.

Camila Rivera: Think, I just want to add like a personal story that I had recently happened with clothing and it was at nationals. So I also went shopping for nationals and like tried to find suits, obviously didn't come across any like really nice ones. So I just, you know, went to my own style. I usually, I don't like wearing skirts and speak debate. I don't know why, but I just, I feel more powerful and more confident in like a pan suit or et cetera. But I remember I broke, it was my very first break, like at nationals, it was an expository and. It all of a sudden, like it stopped being so much about my speech and what I was gonna be presenting. And it all became like surrounded by what I was going to wear the next day. And I don't think I've ever felt more uncomfortable in like the community of speech and debate. And usually I'm always very comfortable around the people I'm at and what's happening. But I think especially it's unfortunately so true that for women specifically, judges do tend to judge our character. Sometimes even our performances based on how we wear what we wear, how well put together we look like Danny and faith are saying, and I don't think it should play the entire role, but I, you know, obviously like, look the best you can. And I think that's all that matters, but I think like the way it's become too much of a focus cuz you see the people on the national stage and they all have a certain look to them and it's quite obvious that they have, especially in with women like you, they have a certain look and I think it's something that we should steer away from.

Cuz I feel like to the point where you try to strive for a look that might not be yours, it starts to get more uncomfortable and then you don't feel as confident doing your piece or debate or whatever it is that you're doing on that national stage. You know, if you have the opportunity to get that far or even just competing at the national tournament. So I just, I really wanted to agree with what they were saying, cuz. I'd never experienced it before nationals. And then when I did, I just felt horrible seeing cuz like I had no control over that. Like I packed the clothes that I packed and I was planning on wearing all of those outfits and then seeing that it was like unacceptable for me to wear them.

Cuz it wasn't the look that national judges were looking for. It just felt really invalidating dating cuz it's like, why are you not looking at what I'm presenting to you and what I wanna share rather than what I'm wearing or how I appear to you. So I just wanted to add that. Cause my experience was quite recent.

Faith Duncan: Yeah. And adding on like what Camilla said, there definitely is a look for like women that are doing successfully and especially women that are on the national stage. A lot of them just look a lot more masculine as women and stuff and adding onto my own personal experience too. Just being taken seriously, having to change your appearance in order to do that. I'm not sure if you guys have seen me at tournaments, but I always wear glasses and they're not even real. I just, I used to wear blue light glasses and I noticed that my scores started going up.

So I started wearing glasses more. And just the fact that something is trivial as glasses that I don't even need improved my ranking so much or wearing a suit that hides my chest more and stuff and wearing a suit that makes me look like thinner. It just affects your appearance and like your results so much.

Dani Schulz: I'm glad you talked about glasses, cuz I've heard like my coaches, well, not specifically my coaches, but just people talk about how, like I remember like someone realized I had glasses and I was doing oratory at the time and they were like, oh, you should wear those. It makes you look smarter. And I, I just think that's, that's kind of uncomfortable. I don't know. Um, I just feel like it's, it's not, it's not valid. It's not real. Um, and I don't, I think it especially happens with women just because women, like we've said a billion times, people don't take seriously. And I think the, the glasses example is really valid and it happens. It happens to a lot of people.

Camila Rivera: that's just so true at nationals. It happened too with one of our own teammates, Danny. She was in world schools and she said, oh, these glasses, I don't need them, but I'm gonna wear them. Cuz it adds credibility to me, to myself. But the way that just something so minimal as glasses can increase a woman's credibility during round is I, it just so sounds sensical. I guess it doesn't make any sense. Cause like I don't understand how my blindness or my lack of seeing can actually help you, um, to my credibility in any way. I truly need my glasses. But I don't understand how me not seeing adds credibility to anything. Like it's kind of ridiculous and really think about it.

Zoey Pickett: You know, my personal experience with, professionalism and debate, I find that I feel more empowered when I dress in a more feminine way. I dress way more feminine tournaments than I do actually in real life. I love to wear a lot of makeup and have my hair down and curled and wear, you know, I'll always wear heels. I never bought a pair of flats for tournaments and wear skirts and stuff. And I think that that's kind of like a different take than a lot of like other women in speech and debate have.

Just because I think it's really powerful to embrace your femininity and still be good at what you do because often, you know, this whole conversation, we're just been talking about trying to fit within debate when masculinity is rewarded. But I think it's so, I don't know, empowering to. Be feminine and be feminine presenting and still do well and still have, you know, like a reputation and stuff. So I spend a lot of time on the way that I look at tournaments, you know, like I said, I curl my hair, do my makeup. I make sure that my earrings match my blazer, whatever, you know, because I think that I find my power in looking more feminine at tournaments.

Dani Schulz: I totally agree. Zoe, I think that experience is so valid and I think it might be a little bit different in interp than debate. I feel like in general, like interp, uh, females, uh, dress a little bit more feminine. Like I remember talking to like people from my team during nationals and them thinking that they had to wear a skirt to have the nationals look, um, as an interpret, which I think is it's really harmful.

I don't, I don't think you have to wear a skirt to do that, but like, I totally agree with your experience. I, during tournaments, I, I usually wear skirts and I, uh, I do my hair all nice and do makeup and I don't, I don't ever wear skirts in real life. Like, um, so I just, I feel like, uh, there's an. Of, um, what you have to wear, especially when you get more to the national level. Cuz if you see those, uh, females on the final stage, they all have their nice layer hair on nice and stuff and, and wearing makeup. So I think it might be a little bit different, at least in my experience other than debate, uh, just cuz there's a lot of expectations, uh, to look more feminine and interp especially.

Carly Benn-Thornton: I completely agree with what all of you are saying. And like, I mean, I can take that first hand as well, because I remember getting ready for my semifinal round and taking into account what the expectation for what a finalist in nationals look like. I woke up at 4:00 AM when I didn't have to. And I, I like spent so long on my hair, like drowning myself and hairspray and like and just making sure that everything was so perfect when that really should not be the reality, because, and it's weird to see that, duality of like, you have to have a more masculine voice, but in the end, a more feminine appearances awarded. And I don't know, it should be in our power to dress. However we would like, and however, makes us feel powerful. Cuz Zoe, you were talking about how femininity makes you feel more powerful. And in my case, like what Camille was saying, it's just like wearing pants suits makes me feel way more powerful and there shouldn't be any expectation that I have to dress more feminine than what I'm doing.

Faith Duncan: Yeah. Like just on the humor side, uh, like there were, there were, I think two pieces in nationals finals that were specifically on beauty pageants for humorous and then one on beauty pageants in duo. Like , how did that feel as like an IE I guess?

Dani Schulz: I, I feel like it's, I feel like, I don't know, you probably would agree with me, Carly. It's something that you see a lot. You see a lot of beauty pageant pieces just in general, especially, well, always done by women.

So it, it's really interesting to see that and see it go so far, you know, um, and just see that judges really reward that. It just, it makes you think about things, especially in humor when it's, when it's women doing humor and they have to talk about beauty and appearance, it just, it's a little, it's weird.

Carly Benn-Thornton: I completely agree with you Danny. It's just, it's, it's weird to see like that standard of woman beauty and just like how that gets so far and just like, why those topics need to like, be heard in which they very much do. And it's a sad reality that those beauty pageants, like the woman who won first, she was her performance was so beautiful, but it's just unfortunate that that has to be brought to the surface in order for us to be heard.

Dani Schulz: um, I think it, I think it just sucks a little bit that women are not taken seriously, unless they're talking about. Beauty and appearance. I just feel like that seems very weird, especially at the national level when we're supposed to be inclusive and stuff. It just, it, it kind of sucks. Um, just thinking about it, cuz I really haven't thought about it that deeply, but it totally, it's a reflection of society and um, how women are supposed to talk about appearance and makeup and blah, blah, blah, you know, and how they're taken very like people like hearing that. So yeah, it's just interesting to think about.

Camila Rivera: What I was gonna say was I obviously don't do humor, but I, I genuinely admire anybody who does interp because what you guys do is just phenomenal. But I think what's insane when you just pointed out that out of those six humors, two of them were about beauty and pageants and whatnot, but I think it's kind of crazy to think that they made it in humor. Cuz I watched all the other interp ones, but I didn't really see like a serious piece on it. And the way that they only made it far is me because we were making fun of it. Or maybe not, obviously it's a serious topic, but like the way they were kind of taking more of a comical way. Like the fact that when we do talk about that, you know, and the, the stereotypical topic of whatnot that we wanna be seen talking about it is that it only.

to get seriously when it's comical. It's like, oh, it's a problem, but ha ha ha. You know what I mean? Like, I don't know. I just think it's kind of, kind of crazy that I made it in just that event. Cause I'm, there was 100% topics on that in other events, maybe like drama PO cetera. But the fact that it only made it in humor, I just think like why, why did we have to make fun of the situation for us to actually be heard? Cause I think it goes back to like her whole point of advocacy where, you know, sometimes it's okay to laugh about like, you know, what happens to us, our, our own suffering, but I don't think it should only be taken seriously when we wanna make light of it. It's just sometimes it's like the only way we can actually like address it at the time or whatnot, but I think those topics should make it further in other events too, where it's, you know, very serious, like the main point of the topic and not just when we're making light fun of it or whatnot.

Dani Schulz: just kind of adding onto that. I kind of have an experience, uh, similar to that. Well, sort of, um, it's just like my experience as a woman in humor, the humor I did this year was kind of. It was funny, but it was a little bit more serious and about like social issues in the world. And, and a lot of times I felt like I wasn't taken seriously because I was being serious. And that might just be a problem with the, uh, entire event as a whole. But, um, just, I feel like as a woman, just in general, you're not taken seriously. Uh, especially when you're trying to do that, when there's like, um, men in the event being super loud and like running around and doing crazy stuff. You're just not E especially in my experience, especially in Wyoming, uh, where you have more conservative judges who think very specific things about, um, how events should be run and what you should talk about. I just feel like I wasn't taken seriously in pieces, uh, that didn't really have like, uh, have the importance behind them would do like way better than me. Um, not saying that they shouldn't, but just, um, just in general, there's a trend of that in Wyoming.

Faith Duncan: Yeah, I feel like Camilla's, point like just completely drives in like this discussion, how like in humor and drama, like more emotional events where it's like less about, like, there's definitely a lot of discussion about political issues in it, but it's less, it's less prominent and more just on the emotions and stuff.

Like, there's a expectation to dress more feminine, but meanwhile, like in events like exte and debate, how there's just this expectation to dress masculine and how, you know, masculine competitors do significantly better. That just shows, I think that just shows societies, like how seriously you really do take these issues that bring that like women are bringing up.

Lyle Wiley: All right. I'm gonna direct a question to Carly first and then I'll have one for Dani, but I feel like Carly's really specifically in a situation where she can answer this question really well. So girls have made the final stage before at nationals. Does that just mean that everything is fair?

Carly Benn-Thornton: Well, I mean, absolutely not. because I mean, speaking from my personal stories, it was so inspiring this year to see so many women in my humor, prelims and my quarters and my semis. And Octas because I remember like sitting next to a woman from apple valley and she was talking about how just in encouraging it is to see a room full of women. And we were all like, so happy about that because what Danny was talking about earlier, it's like humor is a very male dominated, event because women aren't seen as funny in our society, which is so unfortunate. And it, it really encouraged me because I thought that we were getting past that we were, we were doing really good.

And then we got to semis and it was still female dominated. And then we got to finals and then was half and half. And I guess just like the per capita, didn't really add up in that sense, because there were so many women, in semis that just didn't advance. And I mean, my humor this year was space girl and there was a male doing space girl and he advanced to finals. And honestly, it, it wasn't disheartening because I mean, it was disheartening, but the fact that it wasn't disheartening was because he was very talented and, and he took a very good interpretation of the piece, but it was disheartening in the fact that we had the same piece, but the male advanced and I didn't, and I mean, I'm not bitter about it, of course, but it's just, it's, it makes me wonder, like, if, if the judges took into account the fact that he was a male and if that it, benefited him in any sense. So yeah. To answer your question, I honestly don't think it's fair for females because you see these male dominated events, but males advancing more often than females do.

Dani Schulz: I think, especially with interp, that's really true. Just because, especially with events like that, I do like, uh, drama and poetry. Like they're pretty female dominated, but when you get to the final rounds, men break, um, it's not just usually the round is not just, uh, full of women. I feel like that's such a valid point because, um, just because something is female dominated doesn't mean they're breaking and doesn't mean there isn't internalized bias just in general in the activity and kind of, uh, kind of, um, going away from that point. I, I totally just like the, uh, the extent final round, the us extent, final round, like it just really shows like, just because one woman got up there doesn't mean that there isn't sexism and misogyny just. There wasn't many women that broke at all, and I'm sure there was women that deserved to be there.

Camila Rivera: I think kind of what you were saying of being in a female dominated event yet seeing a lot of males break. I think that just kind of shows like the inherent sexism that we experience in NSDA as a whole like tournament wise or competing wise, like the fact that technically we have the advantage by just pure numbers, but the fact that we still don't dominate that final stage or that semifinal stage.

Just kind of insane to like, even realize that that just shows like, just proof that it's an inherent problem within the system itself, or just the biases that we carry that many times may not have a malicious intent behind them, but just happen. And I think what you guys, both of you were talking about Carly and Danny, that just, it shows that. And I, I think that's just proof, right? They're handed to us on a platter that it's, it happens. And it's like just part of our system and something does need to be done about it. Cause even when we have this set advantage, we still don't actually benefit from it.

Lyle Wiley: I want to address this one to Danny, and this is a really important question. Hopefully everyone can chime in, but how can male coaches and competitors best be an ally to women in speech and debate?

Dani Schulz: I think there's a lot of really important elements to it. I think one super important one that we've touched on a lot is listening to the female experience and not, um, not suppressing, uh, her voice. Just, it it's so important to be heard just in general in life, like as a human, just, um, Getting validation O of your feelings in each circumstance.

I feel like that's super important. Um, another thing is education about, um, internalized biases you could have, um, that's obviously super important, especially cuz a lot of us don't even realize that we have biases. Um, even as women like women have biases against other women, it's just internalized misogyny that is in just in our society, just super ingrained in us as children. Another one is really encouraging and giving women extra support in debate. Cause I know a lot of teams like just from like the Wyoming and like Wyoming, South Dakota plus circuit there's that teams just debate teams are all men and it, it just sucks. Um, just encouraging women to come in and, and do what they wanna do and be strong and advocate for yourself.

It's just so important and women need that extra push and that extra, um, just. Just extra support in general, um, on the team, just because we experience so much misogyny just in rounds and just having that support and having someone to listen and try to educate your team and the people around you is just so important. And I think my coaches do a really awesome job at it for the most part. Um, but I think every coach needs to have that in their mind, especially coaching women, um, just in general. So yeah,

Carly Benn-Thornton: And yes, to piggyback off of what Danny was saying, it's just like the first step into becoming better is becoming aware of the internalized biases that you might have. And it's a really hard line to see because it it's so difficult to understand what's internalized and what's subconscious because our conscious mind isn't as powerful as we think it is.

But as long as we're aware, then we have the capacity to become better. And also there's another point of not overcompensating. So I don't wanna see a male try to like over listen or like over talk to me about how, like I need to be heard or I need all of these, these requirements to, I don't know, like have equality and like, I, I see that a lot too. It's just like that overprotection or, or over talking or overcompensating for, for things that I already have.

Faith Duncan: And like another way, I think that like male competitors, it can just help, you know, be an ally towards women and like female competitors in their events is just especially the way that they like view and portray women is just, I feel like in speech we're like women are sexualized significantly more than our male competitors. And especially looking at the interpret events, like how many guys have we seen twerk in a piece or like pieces where, when a, guy's find a pet portrayal woman, he just pet portrays are in an overly sexual manner, or just using a lot of jokes with content about the female anatomy and just sexualized women.

I feel like it's, it's a significant problem in the speech world. And just especially how our male competitors treat us, it just, it feels like less than human and objectify. So I feel like male competitors should be like an allied to women by, you know, checking these biases and just thinking would I treat a man like this or portray a man like this, you know, like women have other and just like looking towards other personality traits or traits that women have other than just their bodies or just sexualized births of themselves.

Camila Rivera: I think what all you guys have said is super important of like that first step is kind of like self realization of realize. What's wrong with you first, but I think it's not only important to do that, but I think it's also important to call out other people when you see it.

Cause I don't think it's only like males that need to be allies it's females as well. Like faith mentioned earlier, there's with females who are successful in this speech, in the big community, there tends to be a lot of jealousy. And I have heard many a time, unfortunately, when I see someone break or, you know, we're all hovering around postings and you know, everybody's like strategizing people who broke how I would win or, or, and it's against a female competitor. It's typically, oh, they're not that good. Don't worry about it here. They always try to downplay that success. And I think, especially when we hear that, it's usually the way I've always heard it from it typically comes from males when you hear that. And I think a really important way to do that is if you're aware that this is happening, call them out on it.

I think that's probably the most important way. And you think that's a debater, I'd love confrontation and I know it's difficult, but like I kind of don't, I don't really like creating, unnecessary tension, but I think it's really important for us to have these tough conversations. Cuz part of the reason we don't really speak about is cuz this certain stigma of like, oh, I don't really wanna create tension, drama, et cetera. But if someone needs to start and what better people to start than us like in the community where our main thing to do is to advocate for what we believe in. And so I think the way like the males can end females alike can be a better ally to us during speech and debate season or. You not during the season, just in general.

It's just besides that self realization, the second step is to try to fix that. Maybe if you have friends that say those things that you realize are wrong, like call them out on it, tell them that's not right. Obviously like not like a rude way, but be like, Hey, here's what I learned. You should learn it too. So I think that's also a second part of how they can be better allies.

Carly Benn-Thornton: Yeah. And Camila, I like completely agree with that. Understanding and then taking action, because like I have a personal experience involves Danny because, I remember my sophomore year when I saw you performing your freshman year, my immediate response was that I felt threatened and I immediately felt jealous of everything that you were doing.

And it took me some understanding of myself to realize that that you're not a threat at all. You're a friend and you're a competitor and we both have the same capacity to do whatever we wanna do. And it's, and it's so encouraging and so enlightening and so inspiring when you have that realization. So I mean, to any men listening right now, if you have that understanding and you pursue it and you have, and you take action in that, it can be so inspiring for yourself and you don't feel as threatened.

Dani Schulz: No, I totally understand what you're saying. I feel like, um, just in general, in, in like my team and EV, and just in the, uh, speech and debate community in general, it's really easy to create rivalries between, uh, people, especially to women, just because it it's, it really happens. And like it's perpetuated by people, um, around you.

And I just think just learning from people and watching people and not having that, oh, sh like, like the defense mechanism against people and not, um, having the super jealousy, it just is really important. And I think rivalries are super easy to build up especi. With people around you, just in general, in my experience and just watching them. And I, I think in society like females are totally, uh, are taught to be super tough. And just to like, almost be mean to other, other females. I, I, I think really educating against that is really important.

Faith Duncan: Yeah. And just like another thing that I feel like, like women can also be allies to themselves is just like talking to other women that are inspiring us. Cuz I remember like my eighth grade year I watched saga McAllister. You probably remember her ever at least part of her, but she was, she was an excellent humorist from east and I watched her piece and that was like, that was the whole reason I did humor or basically speech in a first place.

Cause I just saw it and it was amazing. It was my first part. I saw her in the hallway. She didn't even know who I was. And I told her that, you know, she was the one that inspired me to do this and stuff, and like inspired me to do humor and just like seeing the smile on her faces and like seeing that smile when you encourage other women and, you know, hype them up, it just, it shows that we can really work as women to like empower each other. And over this misogyny that's internalized in our society. So I feel like female competitors should encourage each other more and should compliment each other more.

Lyle Wiley: This question is gonna be for Zoey and I, if you knew for a fact that speech and debate was irreversibly sexist, would you still participate and still encourage others to participate? Why or why not?

Zoey Pickett: Absolutely. I, I would still participate. I don't really do it because I think it's a, you know, community for equality. I do it because I love it. And you know, at the end of the day, even if I have a horrible experience and a around, or just a round, that I'm annoyed because I feel like I wasn't treated the way I was supposed to be treated. I still probably had, you know, The rest of the rounds, that tournament I loved. Right. And I think that, you know, not only do I just have like a passion for debate, but also seeing other people do it, you know, and like being able to like, see all of you, do your events and like, see what your get out is just really empowering and really inspiring by itself.

And I think it's a really good place to find your voice and be able to advocate for yourself. I think that now I can call out things that I see like inequalities better. I think that it's, it's really like shaped the person that I am. And even though I had to face adversity on the way I overall have loved debate and I've loved my experience in it. And I wouldn't exchange that for the world. I think that I would encourage anyone else to do it because it is the climate around debate is, you know, it's a little more, like aggressive and, you know, people in debate kind of have like in speech and debate, kind of have like a reputation, you know, for being a certain way.

But I think that despite that it's one of the best things you can do for yourself. And you see people who. Are become like famous or are at the top of their field who did speech and debate in high school. And they say that everything that they've done has been attributed to high school debate like Katja brown Jackson before she was sworn in. She said that doing Congress in high school was the only reason that she got there. And so even though there's sexism, I think it's still totally worth it. And I would recommend it to.

Dani Schulz: I totally agree. I think the only way to combat sexism and misogyny is to keep showing up, keep representing yourself, even if it's super sexist. Um, I think just fighting against that is so important just in general, in our society, learning to fight back, learning to step up when something's wrong. And speech has totally taught me how to do that.

I'm sure you all can agree. Just recognizing things in our society. Like Zoe said, like inequalities and learning about them and education, education is so important. And just especially like with women, learn, having a space where you can express your opinions and use your voice and learn how to use your voice is just like irreplaceable. Just having that. Especially like an interp and platform where someone's, uh, forced to listen to you for 10 minute story is just so empowering and it, it teaches you how to speak with confidence and how to learn and listen to people. And I, I just think it's one of the best things you can do for yourself, for your confidence, for your, uh, just knowledge about the world and also to stand up for what's right. And what you wanna talk about.

Camila Rivera: Yeah, I think we all agree that if we knew for a fact that speech and debate was irreversibly sexist, I'm pretty sure every single one of us would still do it. And for me, the main reason would be. And I knew that. And if it OB like, believed that I think that's even more reason for us to do speech and debate.

It's more important for us to show up and show them that, you know, we, we, this is who we are. And like, we are actually talented individuals that should be valued the same way that males are. And it's even more important for them to hear our message and to hear this talk right now that we're all having, if that were true, I think that's even more reason for us to participate And for me, it just gives me more power and more, want to participate in speech and debate because if that were true, I like Zoe was saying, I just love doing speech and debate, debating, doing extent. Like I just have a deep passion and love for it that truly, I don't care if I wasn't successful in it. If I just loved and thoroughly enjoyed what I did, I would still do it.

And I think that's even more important. So I think that just shows like, even through all this diversity, like Zoe was saying, it's, it's still worth it. It's such a valuable trade off. I for, especially for what we're gonna experience in the world, this point of where we feel a little bit, let down disappointed, or, maybe I really know how to say it, but feel discriminated against because of who we are and how we present ourselves. It's, it's just valuable from what we've learned throughout this entire activity. Cause I know maybe if you're hearing this, you're probably been. Is it really worth it for me to do speech in debate, if is what I'm gonna go through 100%, cuz this is just a small step in the road and you're 100% gonna experience this out in the real world where you're out of high school in college, outta college, in like a business place. And what you learn here is a better way for you to defend yourself, communicate with others, what you're feeling and just being to present yourself in a more professional manner. So I, I just think it's 100% worth it to do it. And even more reason to do it.

Carly Benn-Thornton: I, yeah. I, 100% agree with you. And not only that is speech and debate such a unique platform to get your voice heard, because I feel like we're surrounded by social media all the time. And we constantly have these like social justices shown to us to point where a lot of us become desensitized to what's on our social media and what's spread across news.

But when we step into the speech and debate world, it's like, people are performing what's important in our world. Like, it's so inspiring to just, talk about climate change, but in a way that's interpretation and it's so cool to have like people laugh and cry with you and debate, especially too, because it's just like, you get to see all sides of the matter. And that's, what's important as well, because a lot of us are biased and a lot of us have social media or like news that, that favor one side. So it's really good to see both sides presented to us. And it's so valuable and beneficial to our community as well.

Faith Duncan: Yeah. And I just, I, I agree with, with basically what everyone's said so far, and just like, especially with what Camilla said about how, like the more and more we get exposed to it, the more, the more sexism it there is, there's like more and more reason to get ourselves more involved in it and like have these important call conversations like Carly. And just, yeah, like I feel like the more and more sexism that we get, I get exposed to in speech and debate, it just inspires me to keep doing it and keep fighting back against it. And just like women absolutely should be doing this significantly more because it will just it'll keep us fighting.

Dani Schulz: I, I totally agree. I think, um, just for everyone listening, the reason, like we're talking about this and critiquing speech and debate as a whole is because we love it so much and we want it to be better for, um, other generations. And it's so important to us. Um, not because we hate it, not because, um, this sexism and misogyny will stop us from doing it. Just cuz we want it to be, we want it to be better. And if you love something so much, you will try to make it better just in general.

Lyle Wiley: So, this is a question that we'll start with Camila and we'll build on our last question a little bit. Is there anything girls gain from speech and debate that boys don't?

Camila Rivera: That's a hard question to answer. I, the first thing I thought of when I was reading over that question, and now that you asked. Was probably maybe reality. , it's kind of like a hit at that. Well I think what we experience in all the trials that we go through during speech and debate, it's kind of preparing us and maybe making our skin a little bit thicker to when we enter the real world where maybe we're not as protected or shielded from such things. And the way, the reason I'm saying this is, I don't think boys get this as much because it's more, maybe a little bit more pampered for them. I wanna say it's more cushioned it's yes. It's reality. And obviously there's real people judging us, but I think in the way that it happens, it's just so obviously advantageous for them.

And I'm not saying that in the real world advantage, like they don't have an advantage, but I think they don't realize it. And I think the way they're gonna actually like get that hit of reality is when they come outta high school, maybe come out of college debate or whatever it' that they plan on doing. And so I think something that we might gain is that reality and that tolerance, for sure towards it, we learn better ways to fight against it, how to actually deal with it. And maybe the way we react to certain things that I, I don't think men in speech and debates gain as much preparation in that sense, cuz the way we're prepared and the fact that we've experienced it so many times, it just helps. In the future when we are inevitably and unfortunately going to face it again.

Faith Duncan: And honestly, just adding on to what Camila said. I think the speech and to girls definitely do gain a lot more from speech than boys do. And just talking about that figure skin, cause I'm like I'm in the unique position, my best friend and I we're, we're very similar and we both do basically the exact same events.

We run the same paces in debate, but he he's a boy and I'm a girl. And I feel like, you know, as we do it and just like caring how we've changed, like since doing speech, I feel like it's just, it's made me so much more passionate about issues and passionate about speech and it's definitely made me, a lot more aggressive person and a lot more willing to stand up for myself. And I haven't seen the same changes in him, so I just, I think it definitely does make, you know, it makes more girl bossy girls.

Dani Schulz: I totally agree so much. And I kind of touched on this before. I think that why men don't gain as much is because, um, men from a young age are listened to their opinion. They can express their opinion, uh, clearly and women don't get that because we're expected to be quiet and listen. And, you know, and I think speech gives a perfect opportunity to women, for women to express their opinions and also express like their experiences that they go through.

Like sexism and misogyny, like the POY I did, uh, my PO that I did, uh, my sophomore year was about women in politics and how, um, just the experience of women in politics and why there's not as many women who are in our government and just expressing that, um, that experience of a woman is so, is so powerful in just amplifying those voices through speech and debate is awesome. Especially cuz women don't always get that in the real world and we need to be, uh, we need to be taught how to, uh, push ourselves into these conversations and how to advocate for ourselves and others. So I think women totally get, um, I think men still get a really like, really good things out of speech, but women get, um, so such like so much powerful things. So I, I think it's totally like women. It's just such an important activity for women to be in.

Lyle Wiley: All right. So I have a question for, for Dani. So what are some things that you would tell a younger girl considering going into speech and debate?

Dani Schulz: So I would tell them, I would tell them to be strong and don't, uh, don't make yourself smaller to make someone else comfortable be who you are, do what you do. If you get ranked lower. Because of that. So be it you're being who you are and speaking your truth, especially like with topics I've experienced this so much, just talking about certain things you can get scored, like so much lower, uh, just cuz of judge's preference and it, and it sucks and you should be true to yourself and speak what you wanna speak and just be strong and listen to others and express your opinion. And just overall, just don't minimize yourself for someone else, be strong, um, advocate for yourself and just do what you wanna do.

Lyle Wiley: So, I have a question for Carly too, should this is a tough one. Should the, NSDA do more to address concerns about inequality and speech and debate, and like, what about Wyoming? What should Wyoming do? Is there more that they can do as.

Carly Benn-Thornton: You know, I feel like, NSDA has done a lot to promote diversity within our community. And that's something I love about speech is that when you go to the final stages, you see a lot of like of people of color and people in the LGBT community being accepted. And that's very encouraging to see, but then again, you see things like the Extemp stage , there was only one woman out of 13, like 14 people and that's discouraging. And I feel like we need to incentivize, more to our coaches and more to our competitors that bias that exists. And we've talked about this earlier.

It's just a matter of educating yourself. And I know that there's books and there's lessons taught to coaches before they go into this field about what they can do and how they can improve their, competitors. And it starts with them and it starts with the people that they encourage to judge. It's how you can educate and how you can incentivize more of a neutral stance. When you, when you look at a woman and a man and how their interpretations primarily are, because it, it's not about gender it's about how they deliver their pieces. And it's about what interpretation they got from this and how they're expressing their voice.

Lyle Wiley: I have one more question for faith and then I'm gonna have like a lightning round and just gonna have a wrap up. But faith, what are some ideas that you have for making the activity a little bit more inclusive, a little bit more equal?

Faith Duncan: Honestly, there's quite a few ideas that I like would have for this. And one of the main ones is making sure we have more female representation, especially in our judging pool. And especially when we see finals rounds, when there's like three judges in them, I feel like a lot of my finals rounds are almost exclusively male judges. And I find that when I have female judges, whether I'm debating a male or a female, I almost always do better. So I feel like diversifying our judging pool more. I know it's far since we're in small communities, but reaching out to more women and encouraging them to judge and like, you know, learn more will not only improve like the speech and debate community, but it'll also improve the community around us by educating more women on these issues.

And then just other ideas is just being willing to call out men on their biases or call out men on when they're being discriminatory and calling out other competitors. I feel like as coaches, we need to like coaches need to recognize that, you know, maybe like maybe she's justified and she calls out a man and like, seems inappropriate. I think we need to just. You know, empower women more and recognize their struggles more and listen to them more as, you know, a community.

Dani Schulz: I think amplifying women's voices are so important and letting women speak. Cause I think, I think Carly mentioned this before just having, uh, male males, like over explain your problems to you or over listen, I think it's just really important to listen to females and, and just in our society, it's just. People don't do that. so I think just listening is like the first step to truly understanding and educating. And I think another really important thing, I think Zoe brought this up like, um, earlier, like educating judges saying, Hey, this is a problem. Make sure you, you, um, you recognize your own biases and try to, um, not judge because of that.

Camila Rivera: I just wanna quickly add on to that. I think if not only with like, representation, but I think if by we actually like taking some sort of action, I'm not exactly sure what that action would be by. I think representation's a great first step. I think would also encourage people from diverse backgrounds where they don't feel like they're at an inherent disadvantage when they enter, but also increase the amount of inclusivity we have as it is. Not only that, but I think when we advertise speech and debate, we always advertise a very. Very diverse, but I think maybe our target audience should maybe switch sometimes. I'm not exactly, I'm obviously not part of the marketing community at NSDA, but I think when we promote speech and debate, we should promote it to several backgrounds.

Just go out there and like promote speech and debate just to every single person, you know? And I feel like if we get us like the members of speech and debate more diverse and we become ourselves more inclusive, even within our own teams and the way we promote it, it would 100% make our advocacy stronger, our representation stronger, and therefore making our call to change and action a lot stronger as well.

Zoey Pickett: Just to piggyback on that, I think that something that's really hard about debate is it so based in community, right? You only recruit some people like certain people, you only, like your judges are community judges. And so I think it's kind of hard to say overall, just a blanket statement of what everyone should do, but I totally agree that I think that recruitment or not recruitment, but just like promoting, your team to everyone is really important because on my team for a little bit, I was like literally the only girl on the team. With, I don't know how many other people, probably like 10 other men. And so I think just putting the name out there, because I think a lot of girls are already conditioned from such a young age that their voice doesn't matter and that they would be bad at that. You know, they're too stupid, stuff like that.

And so just promoting it and being like, this is for everyone. If you have any interest in it, if you think you could benefit from it, you should join and it will benefit you. I think that just that preconditioned that every girl kind of has, makes them a little less eager to join. And I think it's really important that they understand that this is a community for them too.

Faith Duncan: Yeah. And adding on to like what Zoe and Camila said about encouraging people to join. I, I don't know why I just barely thought of this, but, something that another, cause we have, we have two girl captains again on our team now, and I'm so excited, but something that, the other girl, captain and I have been working on to implement on our own team is a closet for speech clothes, because we we're both very weird sided.

So we've been collecting all of the clothes that like we buy and don't fit us and then just putting them into a closet and we're going to advertise this next year. To just get more and more, especially women into the speech community and showing that, you know, your appearance doesn't necessarily have to be a barrier. Like you can borrow clothes from the team, cuz I feel like appearance and just, socioeconomic class are huge barriers for showing the speech and debate. So something that I would definitely recommend implementing on teams and stuff and implementing in the community in general is closets to that. You know, women and people of like, lower central economic backgrounds can access this clothing and access these events.

Camila Rivera: I, 100% support that, Danny can support me on this. Our own team has that. And I remember joining and it started my freshman, our freshman year. And I remember just like thinking it was such a great thing and like project to start. And I think you guys doing that and starting that is so great for people and just all members of the debate because you'd be surprised how much that affects how many people join. Cuz many people are like, oh, I don't have, you know, the nice slacks to go with this. Or I don't, can't really, I don't see myself as a speech debater and whatnot. And so I think that is such a great idea and it 100% works.

Carolyn Benn-Thornton: I 100% agree with what all of you are saying. What I can gather from this is that physical representations of what we're feeling is a very good way to incentivize equality within our community, like the closet. You know, it could be cool to see movements within our speech and debate community. People come together and silently protest by wearing a certain set of clothing or a certain color. Maybe we could incentivize that in our own community for one meet wearing a certain color for one meet to show that women don't necessarily need to have all these expectations put upon them, like wearing their hair down. Or being inclusive to men and saying that you could wear this certain color and we could come together and spread awareness about this.

Lyle Wiley: So this has been a really fabulous discussion. I just wanna give you all a chance to sort of put in just one last statement from your perspective, just kind of a lightning round kind of question. So we'll just kind of round Robin it and let everyone have a chance to speak. But what's one thing that you hope that the audience is gonna take away from our discussion today.

Zoey Pickett: I think just, it's important for people to understand that you are seen and you are heard and you are valid within the community. I hadn't really talked to anyone before, about this issue, anyone on this like, panel about this issue, but just coming together and understanding that we've all had very similar experiences shows that you are not alone in your experiences. And it's important to reach out to people that you trust. If you think that something is, you know, is something is unfair because that's the only way that we can make the community better.

Camila Rivera: My main piece of advice would be listen, just if you came into this podcast at all, or wanted to hear this episode, it would be just listen to what we have to say, and then just actually hear our concerns. Cause I think that's probably the most important part of all of this, that the main complaint we all have is that people don't actually take us seriously. So if you're gonna take anything away from anything that we've talked about is just listen to your teammates, listening to your female competitors. Cause what they're saying is true. And even though you may not experience it, it is 100% real. All we want is to be heard. Yeah.

Dani Schulz: what I would say, I think is the best way to combat sexism and misogyny in speech and debate is listen. And reevaluating, um, just listening to the female experience and, and what biases occur in debate, and then reevaluating and thinking about how, what your thought process is while judging out and trying to get rid of all the biases that you have personally. I just think reevaluation and just holding yourself accountable is so important and everyone needs to do that. Male, female, whatever you, everyone needs to hold themselves accountable to be unbiased.

Carolyn Benn-Thornton: I think that accountability is one of the most important things that you can do. To the audience listening to this I hope whatever competitor, coach, or just listener becomes aware of their internalized biases, and that delivery should not rely on dominance of your voice or how aggressive you are, but should rely on the performer's interpretation, their piece, and what messages they are offering to you.

Faith Duncan: If I were to just wrap this entire discussion up into one thing, it would just be like to the women listening, like be, be willing to speak up and be willing to fight for, you know, this equality and fight for getting equal representation and actually being listened to, and just like, know that even if you're just like, even if you're just continuing to do a piece, even if you don't like it, or even if you're just debating in general, you're doing something for women and you should be proud of yourself because you're fighting an uphill battle. And especially towards women that are being successful, like just know that you should be proud of yourself and to keep fighting no matter what,

Lyle Wiley: I just want to thank you all so much for your involvement in this, this really important discussion, your choice to share your experiences and your thoughts on equality and speech and debate is courageous and it's necessary. And I, I just hope that our discussion can help, you know, spark some more discussion and help people speak out and advocate for changes in our community that are gonna amplify all the voices in the speech and debate world.


Our next episode features an interview with acclaimed director, Lucia Small, who came on the podcast to discuss her new documentary - “Girl Talk” - a film 8 years in the making that follows the high school careers of girl debaters. This is an excellent film that you are not going to want to miss… and my interview with Lucia was enlightening and fun - don’t miss it!

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”... 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 Extemporaneous Speaking and female leadership… and more!

This Year, maybe consider supporting One Clap Speech and Debate by checking out our patreon page (linked below). You can partner with me on this journey for as little as 1 dollar a month and stop patronage at any time! Special thanks to our patrons: Terry, Tina, Brenda, Aaron T., Melissa, Marcus, Laura, Londe, Ashley S, Joel, Matt, Allen, Ashley M., Aaron L., Izzy, and Rick.

Thank you all for your support!


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Oct 26, 2022

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