Comment, Feminism

A Debate From the 1950s

Has someone inadvertently transported the world back in time? Did we eradicate the history of feminism accidently? It’s 3am in the morning and I’m drinking an espresso out of bowl because I don’t have any mugs left?

These are all questions that sprung to mind when reflecting upon the repulsive incident of sexism that occurred this weekend at a debating competition in Glasgow. Last weekend, two female debaters were heckled (by members of the union attending the debate) – not because they disagreed with their arguments, but because they were women.

They were abused for their clothes, their hair, and most importantly, the fact that they were arguing about women’s marginalization in the debate ‘This House Regrets the Centralisation of Religion’. Apparently, the hecklers thought ‘well, the debate doesn’t say ‘women’ so they’re probably just speaking about it because, well, silly women? It does say house, and a house has a kitchen, so, they’re probs confused?’ Unsurprisingly, when a male team further down the table made arguments also about women, they didn’t received any comments from the floor.

This seems quite self-evidently wrong, yes? Well apparently not. Apparently someone who must have recently emerged from an archaic time bubble decided to take to keyboard (what is this funny looking contraption!?) and write this article for the Spectator. To give a snap shot into the brain of this guy, let me pick some important quotes so you don’t have to subject yourself to scrawling through the page utter crap. He claims that ‘the booing was directed at the girls for going off-topic to indulge in feminist rhetoric’, ‘Photographs of the two finalists do not suggest they have anything to fear from assessment of their looks’ and ‘with politics, fewer women want to debate. The rough and tumble of a dialectical free-for-all is not for them.’

It’s political correctness gone mad! Quick, shield the delicate women from this male rough and tumble!

I’m not sure who thinks women can’t argue, that the speakers gave a shit what the audience thought of their looks, or who the fuck uses the phrase ‘rough and tumble’ in 2013, but the straight up sexism is this article is appalling. The fact that it so unashamedly buys into an argument that stopped having any weight about 30 years ago is just simply incorrect. As if it tries to argue that it was the fault of the debaters for not getting into the spirit of the sexism (we all know how fun a spot of misogyny is!), as opposed to the morons themselves.

They article makes the same mistake that many people make: Sexism isn’t sexism, it’s just banter. Don’t be such a sensitive girl and deal with it.  To dismiss female objectification, public heckling and straight-up misogyny as just something to just get used to because it’s part of the ‘real world’ is to perpetuate a myth that seeks to oppress women to an insulting extent. It’s accepting something as absolute when, quite clearly, it’s very wrong. These debaters are some of the best speakers in the world; to think that they couldn’t have taken these hecklers in an instance is to discredit them. They were probably too busy delivering a shit-hot speech.

As president of my debating union, and someone, who, for some reason, finds it fun to get up at 6 in the morning to travel across the country to spend 8 hours arguing publicly, I can safely say this incident is not indicative of the debating community. When I first began debating it was quite male dominated, but the gender imbalance is quickly being solved and the debating circuit is one of the most intelligent, Feminist, forward-thinking groups of people I have ever met. I have never seen a higher demographic of Feminists, both male and female, and the responses to these events have been wonderful. There been over 100 comments on the Spectator article, and they’re all funny, sharp and superbly destructive.

The problem is not the debating circuit, or that women aren’t suited for it, it’s the culture of forgetting that sexism is sexism. The sexists are the ones who need to suck it up, because this is 21st Century, my espresso bowl-cup was fucking awesome, and no ones needs your sexist bullshit anymore.

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written March 2013

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