Debaters Against Sexism: Taking a Stand

To the debate community:

We begin by deciding to write a pledge. We need a beginning, a stepping stone. This pledge is meant to provide a concrete platform for the community to demonstrate our readiness to confront the issue of gender discrimination in debate, and to fight back. We will use this as a springboard to demand change in the community. There is so much we can do, and we’ve decided to stop waiting to do it. Of course, it doesn’t end with the pledge. But it starts with a commitment—and every signature counts.

A Pledge to Fight Gender Discrimination


We are tired of online discussions about gender disparities in debate dying out without resulting in any concrete changes. We are tired of sexism becoming the talk of the day, and then fading away as people settle back into their normal routines of cutting cards and trying to win tournaments. We are tired of waiting for someone else to do something, so we are taking a stand now.

The biggest problem is not that tournament rules are written to disadvantage women, or that workshop and institute policies don’t account for sexual harassment (although policies lacking enforcement are meaningless). The biggest problem is the way that we as a community behave. Gender discrimination is prevalent because we fail to embrace mature dialogue, underestimate the power of disparaging remarks, and stigmatize victims.

We need to examine the way we think and behave as a community. No real change can occur until we do.

To that end, we have written a pledge for debaters to take as a stand against discrimination of gender identity and expression in debate:

I believe that all debaters, judges, and coaches, regardless of gender identity and expression deserve to feel safe and supported at tournaments, at workshops and institutes, and within their teams. By signing this pledge, I promise to:

  • Avoid using discriminatory language or slurs when speaking about other debaters, judges, and coaches.
  • Be willing to a) point out problematic language when I hear it and b) accept responsibility if I say something harmful out of ignorance or privilege.
  • Support efforts to end gender discrimination, bullying, and sexual harassment, and encourage others to take a stand.
  • Intervene, if I safely can, or tell an adult about situations where members of the community are being sexually harassed or bullied.
  • Respect and empower victims to have confidence in themselves.

I will not be a bystander. I will take a stand against gender discrimination in debate.

*We modeled the pledge on the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s Ally Week pledge, and thank them for the inspiration.

Please visit to join us in signing the pledge. This website will also be the host of our future efforts to create change. By introducing this into the community dialogue, we hope to call attention to the words and actions we take. Sexism is often subtle, but ignoring the subtleties will only perpetuate the problem. We have signed this pledge as a reminder to ourselves to be aware of and sensitive to gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying whenever it occurs. We hope you will, too.

Pledge Signatories:

1. Elana Leone, The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, MD

2. Annie Kors, Harvard Westlake School, CA

3. Karlyn Gorski, University of Chicago, IL

4. Shania Hunt, Northland Christian School, TX

5. Catherine Tarsney, University of Chicago, IL

6. Megan N. Nubel, West Des Moines Valley High School, IA

7. Bekah Boyer,Colleyville Heritage ‘09, Southern Methodist University ‘13, Greenhill School TX

8. Rebecca Kuang, Greenhill School, TX

9. Jessica Levy, Walt Whitman High School, MD

10. Cindi Timmons, Greenhill School, TX

11. Allie Woodhouse, Winston Churchill High School, TX

12. Lucy Korsakov, West Des Moines Valley High School, IA