Report shows spread of Misogyny and Sexism within Debating

Datum: Aug 15th, 2013
Category: international

Front page of the report

During the Glasgow Ancients Final the Team of Opening Government, defending the motion “This House Regrets the Centralization of Religion”, was booed and “shame”-d by male debaters in the audience, adding to the list of problematic remarks on women in the Glasgow Debating Union observed during the weekend. Achte Minute documented parts of the debate in an article.

Now one of the victims of this incident, Rebecca Meredith published together with Matt Hezell and Clara Spera reportthat shows the spread of misogyny and sexisim within debating. The report collects contributions from a survey started after the final of the Glasgow Ancients 2013 in march. 201 respondents took part in the survey (of which 127 identified themselves as female, 72 identified themselves as male and 3 identified themselves outwith a binary gender description). The report is split into 9 sections. These have been formed around the main issues which respondents raised in the survey.

A brief summary of the main findings:

  1. The first section deals with what the authors of this report deem to be sexual assault or harassment – groping, sexual harassment or non-consensual physical intimacy. There were 11 reported incidents of this type.
  2. The second section discusses sexism based around dress, physical appearance and attractiveness. There were 59 separate reported incidents of this type.
  3. The third section will deal with ‘speaking style’ and references to the rhetorical style of female debaters with reference to their sex. There were 48 separate incidents of this type recorded.
  4. The fourth section will deal with the propensity for sexist comments or behaviour to arise which targets a female debater’s sex life; of which there were 47 incidents.
  5. The fifth section will refer to debating topics and sexism; of which there were 34 descriptions.
  6. The  sixth section  will  examine  the  ‘social’  aspect  of  debating,  including  social  groupings  and  female  freshers.  There  were  48 references to this type of behaviour in the report.
  7. The seventh section of the report looks specifically at the issue of equity and the lack of reporting of sexism when it occurs. This was 2 a concern highlighted by 38 respondents.
  8. The eighth section deals with claims of misandry from male respondents, of which there were 5 reports.
  9. The ninth section of the report will look at suggested methods of tackling sexism as suggested by the survey’s respondents. The final section will be a breakdown of the purely quantitative data in the survey.

The events of the Glasgow Ancients were picked up by a number of media oulets such as The TelegraphThe Huffington Post (UK)The Spectator and The New StatesmanAt the same time Germany was also debating about sexisim after Laura Himmelreich published a portait (“Der Herrenwitz”) about Liberal Democrat and federal minister of economics and technology Rainer Brüderle, accusing him of inappropiate sexual advances.


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2 Kommentare zu “Report shows spread of Misogyny and Sexism within Debating”

  1. Patrick says:

    I would like to thank Rebecca, Matt and Clara for putting in the effort to gather and sort the data. Also, it is a sign of great strength by all the respondents offering often disturbing details and intimate information – thank you!

    Whilst there are many things that are worth discussing as a result of this paper, I would like to focus on equity teams, making two observations: 1. The composition of equity teams causes some debaters to be scared of approaching the equity officers. 2. The equity team is a unique and independent institution and should not have to fulfill other roles at a tournament.

    1. The composition of equity teams causes some debaters to be scared of approaching the equity officers. Often equity teams are brought together at the last instance, organisers having forgotten to approach appropriate persons beforehand or equity issues are not understood well enough or taken seriously. This leads to acquaintances being asked to fill the positions. At times I have thought that if I had an equity complaint I would be loath to approach one of the equity officers as I believe they’d be talking to their friends about my case, maybe even making denigrating comments. New members of the debating circuit observe the “in-group”. The comments in the report make it apparent that its is particularly experienced debaters that foster a climate of trivialization. If the equity team seems token we are sending the message that we do not truly care about non-discrimination.

    2. The equity team is a unique and independent institution and should not have to fulfill other roles at a tournament. For example, it is unfortunate that at this year’s EUDC in Manchester the equity team doubles as the language team. Whilst I believe both officers to be competent in both fields there is a structural difficulty with this – please note: my argument is no way directed against Rosie and Tomas, I am purely making remarks on the structure. Language questions have a propensity to leading to equity complaints (less so on the level of gender discrimination than in questions of background). It would be awkward for debaters that believe they have been discriminated against by the language team to have to complain to those same persons as part of the equity committee. Also, if equity committee members are either adjudicators or speakers there is the chance that they could inadvertently cause reason for an equity complaint. At WUDC Berlin 2013 we specifically worked out measures to ensure that we would substantially reduce the risk of conflicts of interest (see

    I’d like to throw the following ideas into the discussion pool. Organisers need to make a conscious effort to pick persons as equity officers who are either not directly connected to the perceived debating elite and/or who are particularly qualified. They should also not have other roles at the tournament. Questions which may be asked are: What is their personal background? What is their professional background? Do they have experience in conflict resolution? Have they previously shown an active interest in addressing equity and related issues inside or outside the debating circuit? Being a good speaker, adjudicator or administrator is not enough. Maybe it is time that – at least for large tournaments – we have an application process for equity positions, in which public feedback is considered, just as it is for DCAs.

  2. Volker says:

    Thanks for reporting about this survey and about those unsettling circumstances as a whole. Nonetheless, I would like to point out an instance of rather unfortunate wording in the title of the article. As I understand it, the survey aims to provide a comprehensive description and to assess the situation as is – apparently for the first time. The time announces a “spread” of sexism and misogynistic tendencies in debating, which would imply that the survey had found these phenomena to be increasing in extend (and potentially severity). This I can only hope not to be true – but at least the survey does not seem to claim so.

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