Anika Ganesh: Debate Like a Girl

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Anika Ganesh' team won the debate, but what happened next was her introduction to blatant sexism. (Anika Ganesh)

When sexism ruined what should have been a glorious moment, Anika Ganesh realized she needed to speak out.

It happens all the time.

Every day, women are told they are less than, that they act inappropriately even though they do the same things as men. These sexist ideals are especially prevalent in the debate community, and I’ve unfortunately received my share of these comments.

I sat down after giving my last speech and felt all the stress of the round leave my body. My partner and I used our shared document to communicate to each other while the judges decided our fate. Were we going to compete the next day or were we going home? Fifteen minutes later, the decision was revealed. “It’s a 2-1 for the affirmative,” said one of the judges. My partner and I turned to each other, big smiles on our faces, and high-fived. We had won!

I thanked my opponents for a good round, then asked one of the judges for feedback specific to our team. I wanted to hear what we could improve on, not what she was going to say. She called me to her desk, and I wondered, “Why does she want to talk to me individually?” Little did I know, the words that would come out of her mouth would be, “You spoke too loudly and aggressively for a female debater. You need to be subdued, because that is not our place.” I stood there in astonishment while she told me everything I did was wrong, because I was a woman.

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This was one of the first experiences I had with outright sexism in the debate community. The sexism hasn’t been decreasing since it happened. Sexism in the debate community is so prevalent, yet it is one of the most ignored issues. It occurs in subtle ways, and such outright ways like the experience I had. It ranges from mansplaining, to losing rounds to male debaters because of the way that women are dressed. And yet for some reason, the entire range is ignored.

Raising awareness about this issue is important, because as society is changing, the debate community needs to as well. I long for the day when I don’t receive these sexist comments.

With a Perspective, I’m Anika Ganesh.

Anika Ganesh is a sophomore at Notre Dame High School in San Jose. Her piece was produced with free curriculum from KQED’s Perspectives Youth Media Challenge.