“Our decision will empower women and non-binary people.”
A national college debate group banned men from participating in an upcoming tournament at George Washington University in the name of providing a “safe space” for women and transgender students.
The American Parliamentary Debate Association, the older of America’s two national debating organizations, last month voted with a two-thirds majority to make the April 19 event exclusively for students who are not cis-males. The George Washington University Parliamentary Debate & Literary Society will play host.
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“Women and anyone who does not identify as cis male will be welcome to compete, and registration is no questions asked,” George Washington debate team president Matt Cryer told Campus Reform.
Cryer said that while non-cis-men won’t be allowed to compete, they may be invited to judge as cover for gender-questioning students who don’t want to be outed.
“We will place an emphasis on creating a judging space for gender minorities, but cis men will be allowed to judge,” Cryer said. “In addition to the inclusion of allies, it may be necessary for logistical reasons, this allows access to a safe space for people questioning their gender identity without needing to out themselves.”
Some students, even while sympathetic to the the motivations behind the tournament, pushed back against the notion that gender segregation is a valid way to encourage inclusivity.
“Harmful gender stereotypes are all around us. And while these can be damaging and create inequalities, not all solutions to this problem are productive,” international affairs freshman Glen Ekimov wrote earlier this month for the GW Hatchet, a student newspaper.
“Considering tournaments that separate participants by gender a solution is akin to creating separate but equal institutions,” he argued. “We cannot ignore the history of our nation which consistently shows this is not the answer.”
Responding to the event’s organizers – who pointed out that the male-excluding tournament is only one of many unrestricted events – Ekimov wrote that, “even one event that reinforces the idea that gender stereotypes hold truth is too many.”
If there really is a problem in the treatment of non-biological-men on the debate team, contended Ekimov, then it should be confronted head-on, not by the creation of an alternative safe space.
“We shouldn’t seek to make women and transgender individuals more comfortable by separating them from men,” he wrote.
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But the debate team disagreed. In a letter to the editor, Rachel Kane and Joey Schnide, the team’s former president and vice president, argued that the creation a temporary men-free environment is exactly what so-called “gender minorities” need (presumably in order to feel free to debate the issues).
“It is essential to create spaces where gender minorities can find support, meet mentors and peers and feel empowered by seeing successful women,” they wrote. “The people who compete at the gender minority tournament are still going to be competing against men at dozens of other competitions throughout the year.”
The two also rejected Ekimov’s analogue to the long-defunct southern segregationist policy of “separate but equal.”
“Comparing our efforts to create a debate tournament for women and non-binary debaters to segregation is an exceptionally serious accusation. We are wholly convinced that our decision to host a gender minorities tournament will empower women and non-binary people in the college debate community,” they wrote, saying that the persistently low representation of women in school debates proves the need for the exclusionary tournament.
Employing segregation as a means to fight discrimination is not an uncommon strategy on college campuses. Last month, Indiana University announced a series of “racial equity” events that would be presented separately to white campus dwellers and those of color.
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Famously, in 2017 Evergreen College practically excommunicated professor Bret Weinstein, a life-long progressive, for questioning the wisdom of holding a university-wide “Day of Absence,” in which white students and faculty would be told to make themselves scarce.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian applicants has drawn renewed scrutiny to elite college’s use of racial quotas in admissions.