Women’s History Month 2021 - WUDL Staff Reflections

As International Women’s History Month comes to an end, we wanted to spotlight the powerful women of the Washington Urban Debate League. Here’s what they have to say about what being a woman in 2021 means to them and how it influences their work for the league.

From Cydney Edwards, Program Associate:

"As a Black woman participating in an academic sport previously dominated by white men, I am consistently moved by the ways we have smashed through the doors of policy debate with our own methods, rules, and most importantly, our narratives. I’ll never forget the days of going to National Circuit tournaments in the suburbs of Chicago, and my partner and I, a younger Black woman, having opponents who were young white men in suits, getting prepped by 3-4 coaches with laptops and we had our 2 tubs of evidence and our coach was lovingly reading a newspaper article in the hallway. We’d be in elimination rounds and people would be referring to us, “we’re facing some girls from Chicago,” I hated it sometimes then, but I loved it when we won, and I love it now, when I’m explaining to a young woman why she shouldn’t back down or get more quiet in Cross-ex against her male opponent, or why she shouldn’t change just because a judge called her “Sassy, feisty, too fierce or..... cue the exhaustive list of what they say to strong communicating women.” I know so much of my experience was also being a Black debater, but I know the moments where folks weren’t expecting me to speak the way I did, as a woman, or command space, these are the things I try to ensure I pass down. We have so much progress in this game, and it excites me each accomplishment my women make along the way.

From Dara Davis, Program Coordinator:

“Being a woman in 2021 is still unfortunately difficult but I am surrounded by more empowered women now than at any point in my life and a large portion of those women are our female debaters. Growing up, I remember hearing from adults and peers, all of the things I would never be able to accomplish because I am a woman and you start to internalize those things. But our students believe they could rule the world and are so determined to make that happen. So because of them and their belief that they can do literally anything, I am able to take that energy and apply it to my life which in turn shows them that they were right. And for me, that’s what being a woman in 2021 means, women coming together expressing their dreams and using the strength of the collective to accomplish those dreams. Life will still be hard but we can make it better together.

From Sierra Wood, Development Coordinator:

"Growing up in Texas and competing all over the state I often heard that women debaters were too loud or too quiet, rude in cross-ex, or maybe just too emotional. I can clearly remember the feeling that my opponents and sometimes even the judges didn’t take me as seriously as my male counterparts. In round your opponents may try to intimidate you in cross-ex by speaking over you, or squeezing your hand too hard when greeting at the beginning of the round. Behavior like this made winning and succeeding in debate even more satisfying. It was so important for me to see all women teams dominate and I remember being so proud watching those rounds. Now, as a WUDL staff member, I am so excited that we are a majority women league. I love watching young women advocate for themselves, express their viewpoints, and confidently defend their position in a debate. These skills don’t just benefit debaters in the classroom or in round, but, in the workplace, in relationships, in interviews, and in life in general. I look forward to seeing the growth of our debate community and watching these young women become leaders as they have already proven themselves to be.

As a league we are thrilled to serve so many young women in the D.C. region. It is imperative that we support them as they grow and come into their own through debate. The Washington Urban Debate League has been about 2/3 female over it's history, at all levels of competition and success, and is proud to help empower these young women on their path to great things.

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