In regions with widespread violence against women, THIS HOUSE SUPPORTS Acts of Vigilante Justice in Response to Gendered Assaults. At first, when the team heard this topic we were feeling rather good about ourselves. I had debated something similar before. The topic was ‘This House Would Arrest Batman’ and I was on proposition, meaning I just had to drop a bunch of Joker quotes and refer to how the GCPD felt about him back in Year One. But the debate became a problematic one during prep time as soon as it came to that opening line, ‘In regions with widespread violence against women’.
We were team opposition which meant that we would have to be responding to the definitions of proposition – and unlike previous debates, we couldn’t just assume how they would define the argument. Were these vigilante acts of justice in response to assaults to women exclusively? Were the regions referred to in the topic sentence so broad as to include South Africa? And how would they define vigilante justice? We found out pretty soon that most of our argument would be entirely dependent on what they define everything as. But we couldn’t just sit there wasting time so I thought, why not define the topic for ourselves?
And so we made the focus of our debate explaining the nature of a vigilante (and the harmful effects they have), discussing the nature of the hypothetical society where vigilantes are allowed to seek retributive justice, the undermining of police forces, and other things that fall under these. We were not feeling too confident about this one at all, I’ll admit. We could have used a few more points as what we had by the time we were done was barely enough for two seven minute speeches. I was to be first and fourth speaker so I was quite concerned about how it might turn out. When it came to the actual debate… well, let me say now that I was surprised upon seeing who we were debating against.
I had met them before. In fact, I lie. I hadn’t met them but I had seen them debate before. At the beginning of last year, all the new debating students attended a masterclass where four students from each school squared off against each other on stage in front of students from a ton of different schools. They were gifted speakers – two of them even reminded me of some of the smarter kids back in primary school – and now here they were a year later, debating against the B team. The fact that they were good enough to speak on stage as a demonstration last year and would be debating against a team of people having either their first or second debates made me extremely nervous. Once we actually got started, we were in awe.
Turns out they interpreted the debate completely differently from us! In their definitions, they limited the aforementioned regions specifically to places where the law was not in the favour of women, they defined a vigilante as one of the abused women who was simply taking retribution, and they emphasized that they weren’t condoning killing by law but just supporting aggressive revenge in theory. We had not expected that at all! We were assuming that the vigilante could be absolutely anyone, that the regions could be potentially anywhere where attacks against women were commonplace, and that they were in unconditional support of the idea of a vigilante. After their first speaker spoke, I saw two options: either we change our debate as much as possible – essentially making our seven minute speeches impromptu – or we could disagree with their definitions and stick to the plan. Naturally, we went with the latter and the result was probably the messiest debate I had ever seen.
We were arguing two different topics and both claiming that the other had misunderstood the motion. It was absolute calamity. It was difficult going up as fourth speaker to explain why I thought we won. To be honest, I didn’t think we won. I was almost 100% sure we were losing this one at that point but I stuck to the script. But ya know what really sucks? When that mess of a debate was over, they didn’t even tell us who won! “The results will be revealed during the week,” they said and sent us out waiting to hear that we had lost.
Now I liked those first two debates but that last one left me feeling bleak. They were an unstoppable force and we were doing whatever we could to be an immovable object. Meanwhile the A team was busy raking in trophies, medals, and other such accolades. I found it interesting how the first debate was a guaranteed win, the second was an ambiguous loss, and the final was a definite fail. I guess it’s better than having it the other way around – that first win did lift our spirits after all. But at the end of the day, we were pretty sure we lost two of our three debates.
Still, I didn’t let that last confusingly argued debate ruin my day. I actually did quite enjoy debating three times in a row with the rest of my team. It actually is nice to step up in front of a crowd (cough, two other people, cough) and share my political opinions (cough, they weren’t mine, they were just the sides assigned to me, cough). I still did look forward to debating again another day… but not today! Damn, I need to take a breather. Damn near lost my voice doing all that talking.
Just got the results back and apparently (I actually can’t believe this) we won two of our debates… which only means that this last debate that I was just ranting about was actually a win for us! Maybe team prop did misinterpret the motion… or maybe it’s because we accidentally wrote our names on the wrong column and the adjudicators forgot to correct it, I don’t know. This is cause for celebration! Next round is on me!