Women in Debate:
The Summer Experience by Cindi Timmons
Author’s Note: Throughout this article, for the ease of communication and clarity, we use terms and labels like “girl” and “woman.” This article is inclusive of our trans, gender non-binary, femme-presenting, and/or identifying members and their experiences as women in speech and debate.
ur exploration of the issues faced by women in debate began with looking at overall participation, the classroom, and then competition.1 Now we are going to examine women pursuing debate opportunities in the summer: the camp/ institute/seminar/workshop experience. Summer offers unique opportunities for speech and debate students. While some students go to summer camp as a way to spend time away from home, other students understand that the key to success in the upcoming tournament season often requires extra work during the summer months. Away from home, often staying in college residential settings, students face different challenges, both academic and personal. There is the challenge of new material, sometimes in a competitive atmosphere, with different rules in place. There are new people to meet, both students and instructors. These unique experiences culminate in a setting where behavioral consequences can be far more serious.
ROSTRUM | SPRING 2017
than at home or in their local school.
“We have passed the time to merely ‘add women and stir’ to the formula comprising the debate workshop experience. We must recognize that gender is not something which accessorizes an identity but rather constitutes a fundamental lens through which an individual experiences the world.” — Bekah Boyer, former debater and an assistant coach from Texas
For the purpose of our exploration, we will use the terms debate camp, institute, seminar, and workshop interchangeably to mean those summer training experiences that are outside the school year and offer instruction from someone other than the student’s school coach. While exact enrollment numbers are difficult to determine, it is clear that tens of thousands of students attend summer speech and debate programs in the United States. Some are in large settings, with hundreds of students in attendance, while other programs serve smaller groups. Most are for-profit and charge fees to cover expenses, such as paying for staff and facilities. A few are registered as non-profits and exist on donations and sponsorships. While there are also online opportunities for summer instruction, this article is most concerned with residential options, focusing on those programs teaching competitive debate as opposed to summer courses that teach academic debate for course credit. While there are countless types
Volume 91 Issue 4