Edinburgh Wom*ns: an exciting new event on the debating circuit

Having fostered free social and political dialogue within the University of Edinburgh for nearly 130 years, Edinburgh University’s Debate Union continued their legacy on the 12-14 October, holding their prestigious annual debating tournament. The tournament included 120 participants from 31 universities across the world, making it one of the largest and most successful competitions in the UK.  

On the 12 October, the Debates Union hosted Edinburgh Wom*n’s, a tournament exclusively organised by and for women and non-binary people. This aids the promotion of diversity, inclusivity and representation amongst communities that are oppressed. The convener of the tournaments also ensured that the organising team for the Edinburgh Cup, hosted between the 13 and 14 October, included individuals for whom womanhood constitutes a part of their gender identity.

Building its past successes, the Edinburgh Cup has been running for more than two decades. However, the event of Edinburgh Wom*n’s, which only debuted last year, was recognised by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association as an impactful event which catapulted the Debates Union into winning the ‘Best Society Award’ under the category of Political Skills and Finance. This year, Edinburgh Wom*n’s was won by a composite team comprising of a student from the University of Oxford and an exchange student studying his year at the University of Edinburgh.

Since its first appearance on the debating circuit, the existence of a tournament dedicated exclusively for those who identify as ‘wom*n,’ or for whom womanhood constructs a part of their gender identity, has attracted controversy, as some feel that such safe places are redundant. However, structural barriers embedded into debating institutions have inhibited wom*n from voicing their opinions. Such mechanisms of structural oppression and maltreatment within the community had previously resulted in a historic underrepresentation of women and non-binary individuals within the circuit. Moreover, historically far fewer resources, both financial and human, have been dedicated to nurturing w*men’s talent. To counteract these barriers, w*men’s competitions strive to provide a safe and inclusive environment, celebrating the success of wom*n and nurturing younger debaters within the community. The success of this is evident here, as more than 50 per cent of the participants at this years Edinburgh Cup identified themselves as wom*n.

The first round of Edinburgh Wom*n’s required participants to weigh up the merits of Universal Basic Income against a means-tested welfare system. Participants calibrated serious questions about the ability of global governments to establish effective safety nets for low-income families and individuals. Another motion was on whether the judicial system should give complainants of crime full control over whether cases should be brought to trial. Under the light of the recent Kavanaugh trials, this provoked meaningful discourse about finding an effective way of protecting victims whilst providing justice. The panoramic perspectives brought out through this debate proved that respectful discussion about sensitive issues is possible. 

In addition, the final round of the debate required the finalists to argue about the voluntary human extinction movement. The debate boiled down to whether or not we owe a moral obligation to animals to extinguish the human race. The team in the position of ‘Closing Government’ won, demonstrating a strong analysis of how animals are as important as humans, therefore having the same right to freedom and safety as us. Their deliverance of a thought-provoking retrospection on our treatment of animals demonstrated how we have abused and have continued to cause irreversible harm to the animal kingdom for centuries. Their powers of persuasion convinced the panel of judges that it is the responsibility of the human race to end their existence, allowing animals to enjoy the freedom and safety that they deserve. The winners of Edinburgh Cup 2018 were a composite team comprising of a student from the University of Glasgow and an alumnus from the University of Edinburgh. 

Key Information: The asterisk in ‘Wom*n’ demonstrates the desire to remove the masculine ‘men’ from the word ‘women’.

Image: Dhruti Chakravarthi 

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