"What Do You Mean By, 'Debate Like a Girl?'"

Posted on July 02, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Let's be honest. The colloquial phrase, "like a girl," hasn't been a terribly flattering one. As a kid, it was a sneering insult that made an otherwise innocuous term sound like a four-letter word.

You hit like a girl.

You run like a girl.

You fight like a girl.

It is as if doing something "like a girl," meant that the effort was less than ideal. This brilliant video from Always was recently launched tackling this rhetoric.

 Similarly, Verizon paired up with Makers to illustrate the subtle ways in which girls and young women are discouraged from expressing their curiosity and critical thinking skills. 

Many people will contend that the necessity for gender equality has passed. There aren't any rules preventing women from becoming doctors, astronauts, mothers, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, or politicians. Some may point out statistics that show a greater percentage of women enrolling in college to illustrate that everything is going great.

Except when it comes to representation in politics. Or only 3% serving as Chief Executive Officers. Oh, what about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields? Nope, that's not too hot either.

One would think that being a highly influential leader in a public debate would mean that the content and quality of one's arguments would be the most important factor. They are, unless you happen to demonstrate some semblance emotion. Then journalists will pose the question, "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back into the White House?"

So let's start reclaiming what it means to do things like a girl. Young women and girls can be as passionate, critical, articulate, argumentative, competitive, and successful as they want to be. There is no shortage of desire, curiosity, or talent among today's young women. That's why we're selling our "Debate Like a Girl" shirts and donating the proceeds to the Women's Debate Institute. The funds will help cover the cost of their tuition-free debate camp for high school and college aged girls. 

The shirts also give you the opportunity to start discussing the power and potential of young women in forensics and debate. Though it isn't perfect, this activity celebrates the accomplishments, intelligence, passion, charisma, and efforts of a diverse community of individuals. If someone asks you what it means to "Debate like a girl," you have your answer. 

Debating like a girl means using passion, critical thinking, logic, and strategy. How else would they do it?  

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College Forensics: A Celebrity Intro to Public Address

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Let's be honest, if you're a speaker in high school forensics, it can be tough. Interpers have plenty of events to choose from, limited preppers can bounce between domestic and international Extemp, Impromptu, and for many - Broadcasting. But if you prefer to give an audience ten straight minutes of fully prepared content, unless your circuit regularly offers events like Expository, chances are that Oratory is your bread and butter. Bread and butter are great. Sometimes, though, you want a cold cut combo or veggies and hummus. Womp womp - welcome to Oratory.

All of that changes once you hit the collegiate circuit. The four public address events run 8-10 minutes, are typically memorized (though manuscripts are allowed), and visual aids are welcomed. Visual aids: a treasure to behold (and a burden to be carrying) can range from foam boards and models, to handouts, brochures, or anything that is necessary to help illustrate and emphasize your message.

While some of the names of the events are fairly self explanatory - Informative and Persuasive - others, like After Dinner Speaking and Rhetorical Criticism (a.k.a. Communication Analysis) are a bit more unique. To capture not only the specifics but also the "spirit" of the event, we've chosen a few celebrity speakers who we believe capture the essence of the public address events in one way or the other. Unlike Josh Gad's championship in Oratory, we're not suggesting that any of these celebrities actually competed in these events. If we were running our own Fantasy Forensic League though, we'd definitely be interested in recruiting them.


When it comes to presenting information in a clear, coherent, and charming fashion - we thought nobody captured the spirit of Info quite like Neil deGrasse Tyson. The internet darling slash astrophysicist blends enthusiasm and education in his talk show appearances and on Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. If you haven't caught his appearances on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, or The Big Bang Theory then you're missing out. Check out how he uses humor and intelligence to spark human curiosity and make science so fascinating. Watch as he discusses human communication and space below.


Aristotle believed that persuasion occurs through logos (logic), pathos (emotions), and ethos (credibility). Speakers who come across as credible and knowledgeable, incorporate logic and reasoning into their argumentation, and touch upon the emotions of the audience tend to have greater efficacy in successful persuasion. Whether you agree with Maddow's political perspective, her ability as a speaker to use pauses, inflection, reasoning, and emotional appeals demonstrate her commitment to communicating her message.


If you've ever sat through a round of After Dinner Speaking (or Speech To Entertain), the inclusion of Jon Stewart is obvious. The goal of a successful After Dinner Speaker is to utilize humor as a means of conveying a message. While the description sounds easy, the execution is much more challenging. This isn't a stand-up comedy routine - judges will be looking for a message, argument, and research to support your claims. Veer too far into your rhetoric and you lose the rhythm and mood of the audience. Many speakers have found Stewart's ability to effortlessly transition from clown to critic to be the gold standard in style, (while finding their own voice, jokes, and message, of course.) It would help to have a team of writers and the ability to use television clips in rounds, but you make adjustments as needed. Regardless of whether you agree with his political perspective, the live audience response shows that he's able to sell his jokes.


Admittedly, this entry may strike a few as a bit...odd. Fashion guru and mentor of Project Runway, Tim Gunn, isn't the first name that comes to mind when discussing public speakers. Bear with us - we have a reason for this inclusion.

Of all of the collegiate public address events, Rhetorical Criticism (similarly known as Communication Analysis at the AFA-NIET) is perhaps the most challenging event for high school speakers to pick up. The event entails a speaker selecting a piece of rhetoric or a communication event (say, a public service campaign or monument) and examining its efficacy and resulting implications through the use of a particular methodology. Sound confusing?

There's an analogy we like to use when explaining the event to lay judges. Pretend that your communication event (a.k.a. "the artifact") is an outfit that a person is wearing. You want to discern whether this person's outfit would be considered a great trendsetting outfit. The guide that you will use to determine if an outfit is trendy might be a particular fashion magazine's "Ten Trendsetting Items for Spring 2014." If the outfit meets the magazine's standards, then you can say, "This outfit is an effective trendsetter because it follows the tips laid out in this particular fashion magazine." The outfit may meet none, or a few of the items laid out in the magazine. Your implications may be that a good looking outfit may make the wearer more or less popular - or you may find that there are underlying issues with the tips the magazine laid out. For example, "Yes, Modern Mom does have interesting spring fashion tips, but those may not be applicable to a seventeen-year old person."

As a speaker in Rhetorical Criticism, you're juggling a variety of hats. At one moment you're educating your audience about the different standards you will use to analyze the artifact, then you'll turn around and begin to pick apart the different aspects in the next. Ultimately, your goal is to be an insightful and unbiased critic, communicating your assessment while being willing to see the potential for both success and failure in the process. It may not be the perfect parallel, but it ideally captures part of the spirit of the event.

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