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Hi everyone!
Recently there has been a huge ongoing argument on my team about using gender neutral language and being politically correct. As for myself, being as inclusive as possible(especially in the debate space) is very important to me. My team completely disagrees with this and doesn't regard discourse as important, which has become a really hostile environment. I wanted to get opinions from debaters who have argued discourse K's, or have debated against them-- especially those who take it into their everyday lives. 

Thanks!

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It all depends on your circuit how important it will be if they agree or disagree in terms of being competitive.  In terms of the real world, everything is progressively becoming more gender neutral.  Several of my professors make a point to be gender neutral and if a student makes an assumption, they will be questioned on their assumption.  I would say that gender neutrality in and of itself is something that is becoming more important in the regular world.

 

In terms of your team, as long as your partner and you are on the same page... well that's what you really need to worry about.  It also depends on what they are refusing to filter, some words and claims are much easier to catch or make a link to.  If your teammates have faced a gendered language K and want to see more of them then by all means, ignore gender neutrality.  But I agree with you that I do not really see the point of providing the opponent with an unnecessary link into the debate.  Your circuit is also a big factor, if you're in a heavy K circuit and there's a lot of teams that go for gendered language then your teammates will learn soon enough how frustrating it is that you lost a round because of the word "human" when "humyn" would of delinked you.

 

Also, I debated from a rather lay circuit, so i'm by no means a qualified expert on this topic.

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The PIC out of "human" for "humyn" is nonsense and the basic premise is based on the development of the term "womyn" which originated as a signifier to separate biological women from trans women, because biological women needed their own "womyn-born-womyn" space.

It is, therefore, highly transphobic because it is inextricably tied to a word that is bent on delegitimizing the gender of trans women as being flawed in the face of their sex assignment, wherein the biological categorization of "woman" supposedly takes precedence.

 

This has been a PSA on why you all need to stop trying to PIC out of "human". As you were. 

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Gendered language/male generics are symptomatic of sexism and perpetuate sexism. Male generics like "mankind", "one giant step for man", "man v nature", "congressman" are all problematic. Women are excluded from language. Terms like "bro" "dude" "you guys" being used to women is ridiculous because the reciprocal is unthinkable in society. Men would find it emasculating to be called "girl". Thus, gendered language is LITERALLY dehumanizing since women are excluded from language. Men/masculine language is the norm in our colloquial discourse and women are the deviation from the norm of language. That is horrible and only possible because of sexism. I used to laugh this off and think "you guys" was not a big deal, but its actually really terrifying and horrible. Gendered language proves how widespread and ingrained sexism is in our society, even in our everyday language. 

 

For example in Spanish, the norm is masculine language and you change the last letter for feminine when you are only referring to women. In Japanese, girls and boys are even raised to speak differently. Women speak words differently so that they are softer sounding and more "submissive". Men speak more directly and more "vulgar". Its scary because the way we talk subconsciously affects how we think so much and how we think affects actions and view of self worth. 
 
So yes, I applaud you. Gender neutral language is important for inclusivity and debate. Discourse is very important. Discourse shapes reality. 
 
Also: You should avoid gendered language/male generics NOT JUST TO AVOID LINKING INTO K'S BUT ALSO TO JUST BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING. 
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as a point of clarification, I was referring to the term, "you guys," not the term "humyn." But thank you both!

I know but the PIC out of human is actually ridiculous and messed up, just wanted to point that out since you mentioned it. 

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The PIC out of "human" for "humyn" is nonsense and the basic premise is based on the development of the term "womyn" which originated as a signifier to separate biological women from trans women, because biological women needed their own "womyn-born-womyn" space.

I'd never heard that version -- the version I've heard is woman and human start with maleness as a default, and so spelling "womyn" with a y signified non-dependence on men, rather than distinction from trans* women. I'm sure some 2nd wave feminists were backwards on trans* inclusion, but most modern feminists (from my reading) who argue for "womyn" have been about distinguishing themselves from dependence on men, not about distinguishing themselves from trans* women.

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Gendered language/male generics are symptomatic of sexism and perpetuate sexism. Male generics like "mankind", "one giant step for man", "man v nature", "congressman" are all problematic. Women are excluded from language. Terms like "bro" "dude" "you guys" being used to women is ridiculous because the reciprocal is unthinkable in society. Men would find it emasculating to be called "girl". Thus, gendered language is LITERALLY dehumanizing since women are excluded from language. Men/masculine language is the norm in our colloquial discourse and women are the deviation from the norm of language. That is horrible and only possible because of sexism. I used to laugh this off and think "you guys" was not a big deal, but its actually really terrifying and horrible. Gendered language proves how widespread and ingrained sexism is in our society, even in our everyday language. 

 

For example in Spanish, the norm is masculine language and you change the last letter for feminine when you are only referring to women. In Japanese, girls and boys are even raised to speak differently. Women speak words differently so that they are softer sounding and more "submissive". Men speak more directly and more "vulgar". Its scary because the way we talk subconsciously affects how we think so much and how we think affects actions and view of self worth. 
 
So yes, I applaud you. Gender neutral language is important for inclusivity and debate. Discourse is very important. Discourse shapes reality. 
 
Also: You should avoid gendered language/male generics NOT JUST TO AVOID LINKING INTO K'S BUT ALSO TO JUST BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING. 

 

I agree and disagree. I think that intention matters (at least to me) a lot more than action. If I say "you guys," it isn't a subconscious thing. I didn't learn to be sexist in my subconscious. It's a society thing. I grew up hearing "you guys" as referring to a group of people all the time. It's thus incorporated into my dialect. So as long as I mean "you people" it's not as big of a deal. I do agree on one point, that being our societal trends are shaped by sexism. So I don't think that such language necessarily causes sexism, but is rather a consequence of it. I generally try to use gender neutral language (even though I'm from a lay district) just from a decency standpoint, but I don't think it's really that big of a deal if somebody messes up. Perhaps I'm not in much of a position to speak on this as a male, but I thought I'd give my insight.

 

Edit: And avoiding that language just so you don't link to a K is not the best, but neither is running that K just for strategy. Both should be from personal standpoints.

Edited by Rnivium
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Edit: And avoiding that language just so you don't link to a K is not the best, but neither is running that K just for strategy. Both should be from personal standpoints.

 

Why not read the K out of strategy? I think it's okay for people to make arguments they don't believe in.

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I'd never heard that version -- the version I've heard is woman and human start with maleness as a default, and so spelling "womyn" with a y signified non-dependence on men, rather than distinction from trans* women. I'm sure some 2nd wave feminists were backwards on trans* inclusion, but most modern feminists (from my reading) who argue for "womyn" have been about distinguishing themselves from dependence on men, not about distinguishing themselves from trans* women.

This is definitely true but my argument is in regards to the first usage of the word as applied to any social organization/movement, which was a Michigan Festival that was for "womyn-born-womyn" in the early 2000's I think, and in a series of emails from the chief organizer that were released, they basically said that this space was important for "real" women, and that trans women were relevant but that "womyn-born-womyn" needed their own space, which was/is pretty problematic given that it still falls into the notion that sex is still somehow more relevant than gender. 

 

There are some other arguments that I don't agree with as much, but still exist: 

Some scholars argue that starting from "wom--" to describe a gender identity is bad as a whole because it is still indebted to the starting point of the "immutable sexes", which are of course, male/female, aka men/women. They think that starting from "wom--" necessitates a belief that conceptualizations of gender should start from the point of sex, which they argue will still give primacy to sex even if that primacy given to sex is totally unintentional. 

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Why not read the K out of strategy? I think it's okay for people to make arguments they don't believe in.

I mean, sure. Argue what you please. I have nothing against that. But why do we debate? For me, it's to form beliefs and opinions and become better at sharing them. For example, I love running the security K because it makes sense to me and I agree with it. Winning is great and all, but in my opinion there's not much a point to it if it's not at least somewhat genuine. What have you won? That your arbitrary stance beats out their arbitrary stance? That things such as gender and identity are nothing more than tools to achieve success? This is by no means an attack at you, but rather, I challenge you to think about what debate means.

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I mean, sure. Argue what you please. I have nothing against that. But why do we debate? For me, it's to form beliefs and opinions and become better at sharing them. For example, I love running the security K because it makes sense to me and I agree with it. Winning is great and all, but in my opinion there's not much a point to it if it's not at least somewhat genuine. What have you won? That your arbitrary stance beats out their arbitrary stance? That things such as gender and identity are nothing more than tools to achieve success? This is by no means an attack at you, but rather, I challenge you to think about what debate means.

 

Well, in following your logic; would that not mean that his arbitrary stance (i.e. reading arguments debaters do not believe in is okay) is as correct as your arbitrary stance (reading arguments debaters do not believe is not okay)? I mean, if we're talking about interpretations of debate and it's value; why should we prefer your somewhat righteous interpretation of what debate entails and what it means for the debaters in question if your very justification for your claim is that interpretations of debate are arbitrary? It's not that I do not agree with you as I too believe that debaters reading arguments they don't believe in is rather hypocritical (i.e. white kids reading Wilderson); rather what I'm trying to point out is that your conclusion, or rather goal, is not supported by the premises you give us as your very premises contradict your conclusion. 

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Well, in following your logic; would that not mean that his arbitrary stance (i.e. reading arguments debaters do not believe in is okay) is as correct as your arbitrary stance (reading arguments debaters do not believe is not okay)? I mean, if we're talking about interpretations of debate and it's value; why should we prefer your somewhat righteous interpretation of what debate entails and what it means for the debaters in question if your very justification for your claim is that interpretations of debate are arbitrary? It's not that I do not agree with you as I too believe that debaters reading arguments they don't believe in is rather hypocritical (i.e. white kids reading Wilderson); rather what I'm trying to point out is that your conclusion, or rather goal, is not supported by the premises you give us as your very premises contradict your conclusion. 

But that's just it. I'm not saying I'm right. I'm not saying I'm any more right than he is. I'm merely giving a counter-argument. I'm defending a position that I personally believe in by saying that I like defending positions that I personally believe in. Following my original logic, people should be able to do whatever they want. I just think it makes more sense, to me at least, to try to develop genuine beliefs through debate, at least to some extent.

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The discourse we use shapes and represents the way we structure and view the world. Lack of representation, or emphasis/expected roles force people into certain norms that they cannot or should not be forced to engage in. And , these structures are hyper violent towards femme bodies, be it trans men, trans women, cis women, queer men and women, and basically anybody who is not a het cis man.

 

It doesn't matter if you have no intention of reinforcing a gender binary, or gender norms, the way you speak can still empower these structures.

 

 

Even aside from this, inclusion is a prerequisite to the conversations we have so often, and this impacts back out to the real world implications of our discourse even outside of the structures that can be enforced.

 

Being politically correct isn't the point, it's about being an inclusive person, which is a prerequisite to being a good person.

 

Scapegoating good language as "political correctness" is an attempt to hide from the issue, you should call them on this. This is symptomatic of the Trump campaign, where supporters often cite his refusal to be "politically correct" as a reason for their support. There are two major ways that this effort is bad. One, this can be the façade hidden behind to defend outright racism, and two, justifies moral laziness, since its "so hard," or "too much effort" to care. Apathy and ignorance are consistently used by oppressive structures to protect itselves.

 

On the topic of the correct language to use, I change all gendered pronouns in evidence to they, and mark this clearly, and ask my opponent for their preferred pronouns. Aside from that, just be cognizant of your word choice every day. It may be difficult at first, but it gets easier.

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I mean, sure. Argue what you please. I have nothing against that. But why do we debate? For me, it's to form beliefs and opinions and become better at sharing them. For example, I love running the security K because it makes sense to me and I agree with it. Winning is great and all, but in my opinion there's not much a point to it if it's not at least somewhat genuine. What have you won? That your arbitrary stance beats out their arbitrary stance? That things such as gender and identity are nothing more than tools to achieve success? This is by no means an attack at you, but rather, I challenge you to think about what debate means.

 

For me, part of the process of forming beliefs and opinions is experimenting with ideas that one does not believe in, or only partially believes, or even finds repulsive and opposite the truth. I view debate as a place where people start to change and develop their beliefs, rather than as a place where people with already strong and justified beliefs go to share those beliefs.

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I'd never heard that version -- the version I've heard is woman and human start with maleness as a default, and so spelling "womyn" with a y signified non-dependence on men, rather than distinction from trans* women. I'm sure some 2nd wave feminists were backwards on trans* inclusion, but most modern feminists (from my reading) who argue for "womyn" have been about distinguishing themselves from dependence on men, not about distinguishing themselves from trans* women.

 

That's actually wrong, as a matter of language development.  Old English "man" is originally gender neutral, and just means 'person'.  The gendered forms are wereman/wermann (male) and wifman/wifmann (female).  (Hence werewolf, same root, and specifically masculine.  See also Wehrmacht in german and Weergeld in Dutch - it's the male designator in all germanic languages.  Even Northern Germanic / Norse languages, where its Verr/Var).  Wifman became wi'man, and then woman.  (Wif- also gives us "wife", but the old meaning shows up in constructions like "fishwife", which does not imply married!)  The "wer-" prefix was ultimately dropped from the male version, probably no more recently than ~500-600 years ago.  (And this wouldn't have been a sudden transformation - the old uses of "man" would have persisted unaltered for quite some time with no intention on anyone's part of implying maleness).

 

Its not just as a prefix either.  Wer and Wif could be used by themselves to mean male and female.  Both appear in this function in Beowulf, for example.  The words could refer to strictly sex, but also to marital status (although the beowulf useage is without reference to marital status), and the 'Wer and Wif' alliterative construction was used to mean "Husband and Wife".  (The word which became husband was exceedingly rare in old english - both male/husband and female/wife were generally represented by wer and wif respectively).

 

It's even more generally dispersed than that.  The latin cognate is "Vir-", as in virility and virtue (Both include the male prefix, but their latin forms are feminine - virilitas and virtutas - now how's that for weird?).  The irish cognate is "fear".  It's pretty much pan-Western Indo-European.

 

"Man" itself is the species referent in Germanic languages, and while in english it became the male referent, in both German and Swedish it became the indefinite third person.  "Man kan saga" = "One can say".  From this use it entered Frankish as homme, from which english gets the word "One" in the exact same usage as indefinite third person.

 

But this means that constructions like human and mankind, which predate the dropping of were- as the masculine signifier, are not themselves sexist constructions.  They didn't start with maleness as an assumption, because when the words were first introduced, "man" wasn't gendered.  It's the modern linguistically-ignorant who assume they started with maleness.  And all that actually proves is their ignorance.

 

If you want an actual sexist construction, try "world".  From "wer-old", lit. age of (were)man.

 

Trivia: linguistically, the jamaican "mon" is actually related to this, and just means 'person'.  It does not derive from modern english "man" as male gendered.

 

Addendum:

Strangely enough, "human" doesn't even come from the same root.  It comes from latin 'humanus' (a human being, note lack of latin masculine signifier) through old french 'humain', and that's not a compound derivation in latin, it goes back to the indo-european root (dh)ghomon: earthly being.  So the root -man is never even present in the first place, nor is the root gendered.

 

Mankind goes back to the early 13th c. (as "man-kende"), and is constructed gender neutral.  It replaces the gender neutral old english mancynn (which is almost the same word linguistically - "kind" in old english is 'gecynd' (with the ge- prefix dropping ~late 12th century), closely related to 'cynn' = "kin"), and with identical meaning.  Taken together, the construction easily predates the dropping of the masculine indicator, and even the purely modern construction likely predates it (as wer- begins disappearing late 13th c.).

 

Bonus trivia: 

There's also the amusing weapman to mean male person in old english.  weap- is the root of 'weapon', so it's literally a person with a weapon, and typically meant 'sword', but also 'penis'.  That particular sexual innuendo is older than chivalry, at least!  And thus the construction means 'male person' by sexual innuendo.  But it could also mean swordsman (ie, refer to a person with an actual weapon). That there are famous historical and fictional examples of women wielding swords in old english only makes this weirder. (e.g., Judith).

Edited by Squirrelloid
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Apologize? no link? language policing bad? those are some answers

Apologies alone don't solve because they're toothless -- punishment key to deterrence

 

Link is use of the term "man" (or whatever) as a default 

 

No link to censorship - we're not censorship of speech, we're counterspeech - your (legal) right to your free speech isn't infringed by punishment for harmful speech (https://xkcd.com/1357/)

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For me, part of the process of forming beliefs and opinions is experimenting with ideas that one does not believe in, or only partially believes, or even finds repulsive and opposite the truth. I view debate as a place where people start to change and develop their beliefs, rather than as a place where people with already strong and justified beliefs go to share those beliefs.

That makes sense to me, but what your saying is a lot difference from running "they're marginalizing me" only to win rounds and not actually to shape beliefs.

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That makes sense to me, but what your saying is a lot difference from running "they're marginalizing me" only to win rounds and not actually to shape beliefs.

 

Why is it different? You didn't really explain your reasoning, but here's a guess. It's different because arguments like the Discourse K are more genuinely perceived by others and they really do change people's beliefs, unlike most arguments in debate, and it's selfish and immoral to involve oneself with social causes solely for personal gain. I partially agree with this. I would find it distasteful if someone intentionally lied to me and manipulated me into thinking they believed in an argument, but I would not care if someone was transparent about the fact that they didn't believe in an argument they were reading. This makes sense to me because if someone is transparent about their real beliefs, then the Discourse K or similar arguments shouldn't be more or less likely than any other arguments to change people's beliefs, and there's no element of selfish deception involved.

 

In order to minimize the number of people who fake the existence of a personal belief or emotional reaction, my best option is to minimize the potential incentive to lie, which means treating arguments identically whether or not the speaker seems to really believe in them. The alternative would require judges to make assessments of how much debaters believed in their arguments, and of which instances authenticity is or is not important, and both of those sound like difficult and potentially distasteful assessments to make. I prefer to err on the side of debater freedom, and so my prejudice is to default to minimizing the importance of questions of authenticity.

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My take on political correctness is that people should try to make an effort to listen to and respect others and their ideas. In theory, political correctness serves this goal, but in practice, sometimes people use complaints about the incorrectness of other people's language as a shallow excuse to ignore their ideas or demean their opponents or raise the marginal costliness of disagreeing with majority opinion. To give an example outside the normal context of debates on this issue, using the wrong sort of language under McCarthyism might get you branded as a communist sympathizer. That means people become afraid to argue for vaguely left wing ideas, or to use the rhetoric of left wing associated speakers, and ultimately situations like this hurt both the left wing and the right, because good policies rarely come from ideologically extreme positions, but those are the equilibrium when everyone is afraid to be either less conservative or less liberal than everyone else. I like things that encourage people to try to get along with each other, and sometimes political correctness is about encouraging this, but other times it does the opposite. Most people are talking about the latter situation when they use the phrase "political correctness", though, few people think it's acceptable to be willfully rude to others. Even someone like Donald Trump has to equivocate between the different meanings of political correctness, rather than say outright that he hates all foreigners. The reason he's so popular for doing that, aside from the fact that people are idiots, is that 70% of Americans think that political correctness is bad: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/opinion/trump-obama-and-the-assault-on-political-correctness.html?_r=0. If your goal is to get people to be more respectful to others, you should probably try to distance yourself from political correctness, and not attempt to reclaim the label; at this point it's just too far gone, in my opinion, for good reason.

Edited by Chaos

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Why is it different? You didn't really explain your reasoning, but here's a guess. It's different because arguments like the Discourse K are more genuinely perceived by others and they really do change people's beliefs, unlike most arguments in debate, and it's selfish and immoral to involve oneself with social causes solely for personal gain. I partially agree with this. I would find it distasteful if someone intentionally lied to me and manipulated me into thinking they believed in an argument, but I would not care if someone was transparent about the fact that they didn't believe in an argument they were reading. This makes sense to me because if someone is transparent about their real beliefs, then the Discourse K or similar arguments shouldn't be more or less likely than any other arguments to change people's beliefs, and there's no element of selfish deception involved.

In order to minimize the number of people who fake the existence of a personal belief or emotional reaction, my best option is to minimize the potential incentive to lie, which means treating arguments identically whether or not the speaker seems to really believe in them. The alternative would require judges to make assessments of how much debaters believed in their arguments, and of which instances authenticity is or is not important, and both of those sound like difficult and potentially distasteful assessments to make. I prefer to err on the side of debater freedom, and so my prejudice is to default to minimizing the importance of questions of authenticity.

You're right that I didn't explain myself. Your reasoning is correct, and I agree that judges shouldn't have to evaluate motives. The one other part is that those who use such arguments are using the people who are *actually* facing violence in their real lives as a way to win rounds *instead* of taking legitimate action to get rid of that violence, because debate, for the most part, doesn't change much. At the point where it's better for someone to use others' struggle for personal gain, I think that's an awful structure because it incentivizes *exploiting* the marginalized instead of *helping* them in a general context.
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You're right that I didn't explain myself. Your reasoning is correct, and I agree that judges shouldn't have to evaluate motives. The one other part is that those who use such arguments are using the people who are *actually* facing violence in their real lives as a way to win rounds *instead* of taking legitimate action to get rid of that violence, because debate, for the most part, doesn't change much. At the point where it's better for someone to use others' struggle for personal gain, I think that's an awful structure because it incentivizes *exploiting* the marginalized instead of *helping* them in a general context.

 

Okay, thanks for the reply. I disagree with the last part of your argument. I think the counterfactual to teams reading activist arguments they don't believe in is not that those teams suddenly believe in their arguments and actually help the poor, it's that they continue to read arguments they don't believe in, but those arguments will not be activist ones. I do not feel that it's exploitative to use oppressed and suffering people's problems solely as a tool for winning the round. This blog I like to read has an essay that I think is relevant: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/05/17/newtonian-ethics/. Many times, people's intuitions tell them that it's morally worse to acknowledge a problem and fail to solve it than it is to just ignore a problem, but I disagree with this intuition and try to resist it, even though its appeal is understandable to me and it probably exerts some bias on the way I think about responsibility.

Edited by Chaos

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