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BEST PRACTICES directed at those issues; after all, women attend summer programs to learn more about debate. Providing a supportive environment during the summer enhances their experience. Ava reminds us: We cannot put pressure on women in debate to have the world on their shoulders. This pushes us away. At camp, I want to be treated like a student and not as a “femme debater” or however debaters identify each other. Camp has to be a place where women can learn without the stigma that follows them at tournaments. The summer debate experience has become so integral to competitive debate that any real effort in making this important activity more accessible to women must include greater awareness, thoughtful discussion, and careful implementation of the core ideas mentioned above. Accessibility should be the goal in all of the settings we have discussed: in classrooms, in competitions, and in summer camps. Mindy*, 28, closes our conversation with this thought: Seeing more women in the debate space would do wonders for the activity. It’s a very small step, but I think the most readily achievable. I would hope that camps start to realize how critical women are to the debate space in order to cultivate equality.

End Note 1

Previous Rostrum articles in this series include “Women in Forensics” (Fall 2013), “Improving Access for Women in the Debate Classroom” (Fall 2016), and “Women in Competitive Forensics” (Winter 2017).

Cindi Timmons has been involved in debate for more than 40 years. She is a three-diamond coach from Greenhill School in Dallas, Texas.



The Women’s Debate Institute (WDI) mission is to advocate for and facilitate a more genderinclusive environment that advances educational and professional opportunities for marginalized gender identities. The WDI’s flagship program is a five-day institute that will be held August 5-9, 2017, at the Audubon Center for the Northwoods.

Apply online by May 17, 2017:

In 2014, the WDI created “Women in Debate: A Best Practices Manual” as a part of an ongoing effort to communicate the issues that diverse women encounter in debate. To read the complete document, visit For questions or suggestions about the guide, please email Below is a brief excerpt from the manual.

Strategies to Address Sexism 4. Be an “active bystander” Most people in the debate community see sexist behavior happening and are not sure how to respond. It’s useful to develop strategies in advance so we can engage constructively with others. MIT has developed a set of strategies for being an “Active Bystander” when you witness discrimination. Some of these are reproduced below; there is a full list as well as resources for implementing these strategies online at

Profile for Speech & Debate

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4