Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

A forum for discussing current and historical trends relating to the participation of women in collegiate quizbowl. Due to the contentious nature of the discussion, all posts in this forum are subject to moderator approval before being displayed.

Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby mozzarella » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:40 pm

ITT: We talk about women's issues in QB. (By that same token, any discussion of being queer/LGBT in QB is more than acceptable to talk about. Voices matter.)

I've still noticed that a majority of teams we play against are either all-men or have only one female player. My QB club, American University, is certainly an outlier with our typical meeting attendance 5 women to 3 men. AU's historical society is also majority women, and I'm hoping to pilfer some members from there to AUQB. While we are not a masterfully performing team... We have a frickin' blast. And the women feel comfortable being at QB, and our meetings are always a fun time. I know competitiveness is an important goal for any Quizbowl team, but I would hope other teams don't let a competitive spirit drive out more casual members who may just want to attend practices for their daily dose of trivia.

Hopefully I start to see more women in the QB circuit. I know I sometimes feel overwhelmed and underqualified to be in the same game as many tough, male competitors, but there is absolutely no reason to feel like a waste of space. Speak up and, goddammit, don't be afraid to write a bonus on Drag Race. You better work!!
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Amiable Vitriol » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:12 pm

Your neighborhood nobody who happens to identify as a girl reporting. Because everyone likes listicles and this is going to devolve into an ally dominated thread soon anyways, here's my top four ways to be a good ally to women in quizbowl.

1. Surprise, We're Human: I know, right? I was hoping I was a sentient space probe too :(. But seriously, all too often guys in quizbowl are quick to objectify/gossip about/speculate about sexytimez with women in quizbowl. Considering we're conscious, feeling beings, that's kind of gross. Talk to us, not about us.

2. Reach, But Not For The Top: Don't be afraid to strike up a convo with a girl. I have fond memories of standing petrified to the side as other tournament goers socialized- it's hard being different. Make it less of a burden by reaching out. I would say some of the better experiences I've had in quizbowl occurred in a certain Facebook meme group- casual, fun interaction that inevitably involves girls? Sign me up.

3. There's This New Trend Called Being Considerate: Missing women's restrooms. Alienating room assignments. Everyday misogyny. Yikes! Some of these tragedies are unavoidable, but that's where you come in, gentle reader. If a girl is rooming all alone, separate from her male teammates, make an extra effort to involve her in activities during the day. If you're running a tournament, know where women's/men's/gender neutral bathrooms are. Be a kind human.

4. But, Like, What If You Stopped: A last tip pertaining to this thread and other discussions regarding women in quizbowl. In general, if a woman could say it better, don't say it. Don't talk over women. Don't speculate on what women might think. Don't play devil's advocate for no reason outside of calling a woman's lived experiences into question. Just...don't.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby notchole » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:26 pm

NOTE: PLEASE POST THIS ONE AND NOT THE OTHER ONE:

Copied from my Facebook post (warning: some profanity):

The issues with being a girl in Quiz Bowl range from the banal and annoying to the outright offensive. Here’s a list of some I brainstormed over the course of about five minutes: On the more annoying end of the spectrum, often at tournaments, the people in charge have no idea where the women’s bathrooms are, or they know, but the bathrooms are locked (though the men’s aren’t). When we go to away tournaments, often whether or not I can go depends on finding a girl from another school I can room with, because school rules say I can’t be alone but I also can’t be with guys. (I was lucky enough to be able to go to TI this year, for example, only because we found out Lex Cooper from Dorman was also going. We were the only two girls in the entire tournament on away teams; I believe there were one or two others who played, but not for the whole tournament, for local teams.)

Then, there’s the feeling of isolation. Many girls in Quiz Bowl are the only girls on their teams. As Olivia Lamberti put it so eloquently, “Have you ever been the only person of your demographic in a room? Whether the unique factor be race, sexuality, gender, etc., it’s hard.” I don’t have good stats on the percentages of women in QB (although I am working on compiling them), but I do know that there are NO all girls schools with any important QB presence but many all boys schools, the most notable of course being DCC. I also know that only 3 HSNCT-winning teams ever have had even one girl on them, us this year being the third. There are fewer and fewer girls the farther into the elite of QB you go, as evidenced by that stat and by the TI story, but that makes it really intimidating to be one of the few -- not that I’m elite, but Hunter as a team is, and this year suddenly being on the national stage, it was often very lonely and weird. Some of Olivia’s experiences include hearing a teammate tell a rape joke (and then everyone else suddenly realizing she was there and avoiding eye contact) and being alone at ACE because all her friends there were guys and she wasn’t allowed in the dorm of the “opposite sex.” As she said, “Honestly, after a certain point you don’t mind the jokes about dick-sucking or nats sex. At least you’re being acknowledged.”

In terms of question sets and whatnot, yes, it’s hard to find as many women as men from history notable enough to toss up (thanks, millennia of oppression!), but there are CERTAINLY ways we could do better. One example from my own category that comes to mind is Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer -- both authors of tremendously important anti-apartheid novels, though the latter won a Nobel and the former did not, and yet Paton’s work is frequently mentioned at the IS level while Gordimer’s is not. We’ve had discussions in the Girls in QB group about how trash questions focus on topics traditionally (though definitely not exclusively) enjoyed by guys -- video games, sports, etc. -- while minimizing popular culture which is more traditionally consumed by girls. And, of course, women’s sports are almost NEVER mentioned. As a consequence of the canon being skewed towards men, usually tossups about women use gender-neutral pronouns until after power because it’s considered too obvious is feminine pronouns are used, a style which is not applied to questions about men.

In terms of social interaction, there’s a lot I could say. If you want a healthy dose of modern day sexism, just read the comments on the Periscope videos of the HSNCT finals. But if you don’t have the time to watch those videos, just a few examples would be the following. I’ve been repeatedly accused of being a terrible player and only being on the team because my captain thought I was cute. Multiple times at NHBB, moderators asked me to scorekeep because they assumed I was an enthusiastic sister there to cheer everyone on (“you’re ON the team? oh!”). As a freshman, Olivia had to fill out a nats permission slip which asked her parents about their “son” because she was the first girl to attend in many years. Someone at nearly every regional tournament this year assumed I was the teacher chaperone because I was a girl wearing a cardigan. I was repeatedly admonished for actually having an answer to the pointed question, “Do you think any guys in the QB community are cute?” despite the fact that the guys on my team quite frequently talk about whether or not the girls we play are cute. I was referred to as “the Semitic QT” for months until it was declared a “dead meme.” The list goes on to places where, frankly, I don’t really want to go. But the point is that there are lots of ways in which it’s just harder to be a girl in QB (and, I assume, a gender-nonconforming person, but I obviously don’t have firsthand experience with that), even in the modern day. Thanks for your time.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby alexdz » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:44 pm

Olivia L wrote:If you're running a tournament, know where women's/men's/gender neutral bathrooms are.


This is super important. It takes just a few minutes of your time to identify the closest restrooms of different types and, regardless of your feelings about women or trans people, doing so can be a big help to people who are unfamiliar with your building or people with certain physical conditions who need different types of restrooms (i.e., if accessing the closest women's room means navigating stairs). If you're on a college campus, you can try to contact your school's diversity/inclusion office or LGBT resource center to ask if they have a map or list of non-gendered restrooms. And, if your campus doesn't have such a list or any non-gendered restrooms, what a great opportunity for your club to advocate for visitors that you are bringing to campus!
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby ElysiaJW » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:41 am

I am a woman who does quizbowl in Britain, so I thought I would add a perspective from this side of the pond.

Women and non-binary people are in the minority in British quizbowl as in the US. The community is small and friendly, and certainly I have never felt unwelcome at any tournament or event, or experienced practical problems with bathrooms or the like. However, I agree that people do forget how tiring it is to constantly be in the minority. It was so disheartening to go to my first quiz tournament (BSQC 2015) and be able to count the non-male participants on about one hand, versus around 100 men. There have also been a depressingly non-zero number of perhaps well-intentioned, but ultimately really not great things which have been said/done to me in quiz-related contexts: "jokes" I initially laughed off, messages after tournaments, insensitive comments, etc. Indeed I have had too many exhausting arguments during my time in quiz with regards to the seeming complete lack of sensitivity shown by some writers as to who might be hearing a question. Graphically describing sexual assault in a question or making a flippant remark in a bonus lead-in is completely unnecessary and demonstrates a lack of empathy. It is so galling to have to "justify" why you are uncomfortable when the experiences relevant to your discomfort are not ones that you wish to or should indeed have to discuss. Another point: there have been a fair few times when I have been able to buzz on certain science questions about anatomy/health *much* earlier than my skill-set should otherwise allow (I took only basic biology, and stopped all science after the age of 16), purely through having had mundane experiences, e.g. having a vagina, menstruating, taking birth control. This is not perhaps a massive issue (hey, free points! a first-line buzz on a Nats question!) but it is an interesting indicator of who writers are aiming questions at sub-consciously. Not quizbowl, but another quiz-related issue I want to mention, is that over here we have a TV quiz called University Challenge (it occupies a similar position to Jeopardy as a cultural institution) and the responses that contestants receive are extraordinarily frustrating. To put yourself on UC as a woman or NB person is to have to resign yourself to receiving a deluge of tweets and online comments discussing your looks in crude terms and infantilising you. Even the old-guard media are happy to publish articles in which the focus is on how "hot" certain contestants are, where there might be literally a two-word parenthetical comment about one's intellect if one is lucky. It is honestly incessant. When I was on another quiz show (Only Connect), one online commenter questioned why I "need to know so many languages when the instructions for the oven are in English", and another was "itching" to punch me "right in the throat".

Quizbowl is still niche in the UK, and so most people gain exposure to competitive quizzing through what they see on TV. And I think this contributes a lot to why we see comparatively fewer women and non-binary quizzers here. Potential female/NB quizzers observe the unpleasantness other quizzers like them have received from the beautiful public, observe a tangible absence of women and NB people on screen, see few people like them if they come to quizbowl practices and hear questions (generalising here) written by, for and about men. I feel constant guilt that I can and should do more to help. I try and write the questions I want to hear. In Cambridge I encourage female/NB quizzers who come to our practices to keep coming, and suggested holding a female/NB only novice quiz session. However, this didn't end up happening partly because there was debate on our committee as to whether this would actually help. Has anyone tried this at their university? Was it a success? Or are there better methods we could be using?

I am glad this discussion is being had afresh, as it is a topic I think about a fair bit. The responses so far have been really interesting.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby bmcke » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:02 pm

Other schools' teams at tournaments are almost all male. My school's student club has a healthy gender balance.


Someone posts this sentiment like every year. I probably said it a lot in my day too.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Calculus? » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:23 pm

Firstly, I'm going to paste my comment on Chloe's Facebook post pertaining to university QB here:

------------------

Wish I could say this kind of behaviour goes away when you reach the university level but unfortunately, (here at least) it seems to persist, only as players mature it simply seems to become more insidious. Going into my third year running the University of Toronto club, I've directed a lot of tournaments -- along with the responsibilities of which comes the obligation of maintaining composure when new players/parents repeatedly direct all their questions at your male colleagues, despite the fact that you've repeatedly announced yourself as the tournament director and all the guys are redirecting people to you when they ask questions anyway.

Even amongst the more seasoned players here, I get absolutely skewered for making decisions (and in some cases, mistakes), that male TDs before me have made and gone completely uncriticized, and most of the decisions I make seem to get nitpicked apart in a way that no one else's do.

I don't believe that a lot of the aforementioned behaviour is deliberate or comes with malicious intentions -- many of the men I've spoken to about these issues have responded with patience and kindness and a willingness to learn, which I always appreciate. What I do believe is that it's absolutely an issue that is not spoken about enough and is not being addressed in any concrete manner. I'm constantly reminding my teammates about behaviours that can result in our club being seen as a hostile environment for women or even just new members in general (i.e. spending most of our introductory meetings loudly referencing inside jokes/general dick waving) -- and while they usually see my point and try to correct their behaviour, it becomes obvious that while making quizbowl more welcoming and equitable for women is something that's always on my mind, it's almost never on theirs.

That said. There have certainly been incidents in my career which can't really be interpreted as anything other than blatant disrespect of the women in quizbowl and all they've accomplished. One that comes to mind is the amount of times people have deemed it completely acceptable to explain that the best way to attract new members to our club is to put a "hot girl" in the clubs fair booth in September, and then proceed to list all the girls in quizbowl whom they thought would and would not be acceptable for this job. This conversation has happened more than once, sometimes I was present, sometimes I heard by word of mouth. (Regardless, if you're reading this you know exactly who you are, and thanks for reminding us all that no matter how much we contribute to QB, we are, in the end, just objects for you to look at and judge.) I shouldn't have to elaborate on how completely disrespectful these "jokes" are to both current and potential female members of the club and how things like this are exactly why this organization has a problem.

And of course, the nats sex/dick-sucking jokes remain as consistent as ever.

Again, I don't believe that the university QB community *wants* to make their organizations unwelcoming to women, but they sure as hell need to step it the fuck up if they want this to stop being an issue because it clearly isn't on many people's minds.

-------------

ElysiaJW wrote:I feel constant guilt that I can and should do more to help. I try and write the questions I want to hear. In Cambridge I encourage female/NB quizzers who come to our practices to keep coming, and suggested holding a female/NB only novice quiz session. However, this didn't end up happening partly because there was debate on our committee as to whether this would actually help. Has anyone tried this at their university? Was it a success? Or are there better methods we could be using?


Yeah, I'm constantly in discussions with (usually male) quizbowlers trying to figure out what we could do to encourage women to keep coming to practice, and even though they mean well unfortunately they aren't able to contribute much. I have tried to encourage our members to be less...aggressive(?) at practices, especially during the beginning of the year. We're also currently running a practice for novices only which seems to be working well but the idea of a female/NB only novice practice is an interesting one and I wonder if it would work for us.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby alexdz » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:27 pm

I just became aware of a community that exists for women/trans/femme/non-binary people in, of all things, bike polo. Perhaps a community like this that existed for quizbowlers might be able to bring together some of these voices doing amazing things? The bike polo group seems to focus on granting scholarships to WTF-NB players to attend camps or tournaments, and maybe that's a direction, but that may also not be right for quizbowl's structure.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby mozzarella » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:36 pm

ElysiaJW wrote:I feel constant guilt that I can and should do more to help. I try and write the questions I want to hear.


I'm trying to do this as much as I can as a beginning/novice level writer. The thing is, on that level, my questions are still subject to the whim of editors, but I'm more than satisfied writing trash tournaments that get played as weekend side events if it means I can promote knowledge that doesn't typically get used.

I feel the ramifications of that Millie Dresselhaus commercial all the time, but, goodness, she didn't win her a medal until she was 59, for goodness sake. We've got to seek women in history who weren't Joan of Arc or in science who weren't Rosalind Russell--who is most famous for having her work pretty much stolen, sheesh. Also, I never want to see Diego Rivera mentioned in another Frida Kahlo question.

**Rosalind FRANKLIN. I don't know how that slipped out as Rosalind Russell, lmao. Guess I had too much Mame on the mind.
Last edited by mozzarella on Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Rococo A Go Go » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:40 pm

Some of the things described in this thread (rating women on their appearance, jokes of a sexual nature, etc.) are behaviors that would be unacceptable in most of the real world; those behaviors are considered sexual harassment and people get fired for them all the time. I think it would be completely appropriate for quizbowl clubs to adopt codes of conduct to prohibit that kind of behavior, and kick out players who repeatedly harass their teammates and other members of the community.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:41 pm

notchole wrote:If you want a healthy dose of modern day sexism, just read the comments on the Periscope videos of the HSNCT finals.

I am once again reminded of the old Protobowl thread, where the developer responded to complaints about racist trolls by basically going "oh, there's nothing I could possibly do about that; please go back to saying how impressive my site is." (incidentally, this attitude isn't far off from those of the people in charge of the big social networking sites!) Thankfully, based off their Facebook thread, it looks like NAQT is taking concrete steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future.

I guess while I'm on the subject, I'll say something that's been on my mind ever since I saw that NAQT might be partnering with Twitch, which is that it is usually completely unnecessary to go up and tell someone (particularly someone you don't know that well) that other folks are making shitty comments about them. A bunch of the public (even if only by internet standards) figures that I follow have to periodically remind their audiences about that; I believe it was Mara Wilson who compared it to someone shoving a smelly rag in your face. I don't know if anyone has had this issue currently, but as quizbowl streams reach a wider audience it could become a problem in the future. And of course anyone could be the target, but it's just more likely for women and other minorities.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Calculus? » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:08 pm

Rococo A Go Go wrote:Some of the things described in this thread (rating women on their appearance, jokes of a sexual nature, etc.) are behaviors that would be unacceptable in most of the real world; those behaviors are considered sexual harassment and people get fired for them all the time. I think it would be completely appropriate for quizbowl clubs to adopt codes of conduct to prohibit that kind of behavior, and kick out players who repeatedly harass their teammates and other members of the community.


It would be completely appropriate for these people to be penalized/removed from the club for such behaviour, and yet in the majority of cases they are not -- the people making these comments generally aren't social pariahs, they're people who probably have a lot of friends in the QB community and are fairly well-liked. It can be incredibly difficult to take a stand against someone perpetuating this kind of behaviour, especially since there's a track record of women not being believed about these sorts of things. I'm not going to lie -- the amount of times I have remained silent after being witness to comments like that for fear of making an enemy or being viewed as someone who's trying to start shit makes me a little nauseous when I think about it. What makes it even more difficult is that many of these things are said in private conversations which can make you doubt your freedom to actually report this kind of thing.

A code of conduct is absolutely a good first step in this sort of thing but enforcing it will take the effort of the entire community rather than just the (marginalized) affected players.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Cheynem » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:14 pm

Yeah, in terms of what Nick is saying, I have never encountered a lot of the behaviors mentioned in this thread. That's not because I'm a great person or because I don't see any sexism or discrimination against women, but it's usually not as bold-faced as sex jokes and appearance ogling or some of the other stuff mentioned here. I've played for Minnesota for six years and attended various other teams' practices/traveled with them and have never encountered those behaviors (again, I'm not trying to act like everything is great, I have seen, including from myself, a lot of sexism, intentional or otherwise). For teams who assume that joking about sex or making comments about people's appearances is normal or "locker room talk," it's not and it wouldn't be tolerated among the college programs I've been associated with.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby alexdz » Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:34 pm

notchole wrote:I don’t have good stats on the percentages of women in QB (although I am working on compiling them), but I do know that there are NO all girls schools with any important QB presence but many all boys schools, the most notable of course being DCC.


The National Coalition of Girls' Schools could be a good venue to encourage more all-girls' schools to participate in QB. They seem to host several conferences a year on different themes; perhaps it would be a good idea if a group of quizbowl folks (ideally led by those who are WTF-NB, and even better if girls' school alumnae) submitted a proposal to one to have a session on girls' participation in quizbowl.

Side note: This isn't currently relevant, but I know that in 2010 and 2011, Missouri's NASAT roster included a player (Sabrina Fritz) from an all-girls school (Villa Duchesne, in STL).
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby notchole » Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:13 pm

Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant wrote:
notchole wrote:If you want a healthy dose of modern day sexism, just read the comments on the Periscope videos of the HSNCT finals.

Thankfully, based off their Facebook thread, it looks like NAQT is taking concrete steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future.


Because I'm bad at social media and don't really check the NAQT Facebook much, what specifically would suggest this change? Are you just referring to the recent post about making QB more inclusive, or did they specifically say something about the Periscope vids?
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby jonah » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:33 pm

notchole wrote:
Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant wrote:
notchole wrote:If you want a healthy dose of modern day sexism, just read the comments on the Periscope videos of the HSNCT finals.

Thankfully, based off their Facebook thread, it looks like NAQT is taking concrete steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future.


Because I'm bad at social media and don't really check the NAQT Facebook much, what specifically would suggest this change? Are you just referring to the recent post about making QB more inclusive, or did they specifically say something about the Periscope vids?
Periscope does not allow comment moderation, and precisely because of this, we are planning to change livestreaming services for future championships. We're very sorry about the awful comments that were posted on some of this year's videos.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Geriatric trauma » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:36 pm

notchole wrote:
Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant wrote:
notchole wrote:If you want a healthy dose of modern day sexism, just read the comments on the Periscope videos of the HSNCT finals.

Thankfully, based off their Facebook thread, it looks like NAQT is taking concrete steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future.


Because I'm bad at social media and don't really check the NAQT Facebook much, what specifically would suggest this change? Are you just referring to the recent post about making QB more inclusive, or did they specifically say something about the Periscope vids?

The NAQT Facebook page stated that they wouldn't be using Periscope for livestreaming next year, due to lack of comment moderation. PACE chose to not to use Periscope and use YouTube Live this year primarily for the same reason.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby ErikC » Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:28 am

I'm curious if there was a way of accurately gauging how well women are represented in different categories of questions. My impression is that there are plenty of women asked about frequently in literature questions and are an integral part of history questions (with significant variance). But for other subjects that I'm in the dark about the canon, I'm not sure how good the representation is. The great ongoing debate in academia over the idea of a canon and how exclusive it can be should be had here as well.

I'd also like to know how important different people think representation in questions is for encouraging women to join and stay with quiz bowl clubs compared to the nerd culture issues that have been identified already (that as a member of some of those communities I've seen first hand). We are all playing from the same pool of questions at practices and tournaments, so this isn't something that is easy for a motivated club president to address.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby mozzarella » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:57 am

ErikC wrote:My impression is that there are plenty of women asked about frequently in literature questions and are an integral part of history questions (with significant variance). But for other subjects that I'm in the dark about the canon, I'm not sure how good the representation is.


Women aren't that well represented in either category, as far as I'm concerned. Obviously the number of women relative to men in any "canon" is dismal and makes it difficult to write questions based on it, but it still feels like tokenism. Until women writers are a natural, unforced 50% of questions about writers, for instance, then it isn't enough. The problem is, it's not the novel--it's the writer. It seems that for the next while, men are still going to dominate neutral lit, and women are going to be relegated to genre fiction.

ErikC wrote:I'd also like to know how important different people think representation in questions is for encouraging women to join and stay with quiz bowl clubs.


Check your school's student historical society! Ours is packed with women! They host a trivia night every semester, and we are always able to get a few people interested every time the Quizbowl team wins or places. We've been looking to host more trivia nights of our own, with QB-style questions written by myself and other players. My school is very politically active, and feminist and women's movements are a big part of our history and culture (Alice Paul went here <333), so it's not hard to find women who are vocal and willing to place themselves in typically masculine spaces.

I think another thing is to acknowledge that they're going to be new to QB too. Play lower-level packets the first few meetings to encourage new people to join. Explain to them that this is warm up, and things can get harder. Have separate teams, or have one night a week be beginner practice, and one night be advanced (we're toying with this idea now, only one would be open and the other competitive/team-oriented/base-building practice).

Question representation doesn't matter as much as subject matter. I know women who have encyclopedic knowledge of Roman wars and would love to use it, and since they aren't as deep in the QB community as the rest of it, gender disparity in question subject hasn't hit them yet. I think representation in players is more important than representation in questions, if I had to choose.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Calculus? » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:24 pm

mozzarella wrote:
I think another thing is to acknowledge that they're going to be new to QB too. Play lower-level packets the first few meetings to encourage new people to join. Explain to them that this is warm up, and things can get harder. Have separate teams, or have one night a week be beginner practice, and one night be advanced (we're toying with this idea now, only one would be open and the other competitive/team-oriented/base-building practice).


We do this now at Toronto -- we practice two nights a week, with one being a "hard practice" where we read Nats, ICT, etc. packets for more experienced players and one where we read less challenging stuff. We also have a separate room on the latter day for a "novice practice" where someone reads easy questions to new players. This system seems to be working quite well for us so far as everyone appreciates being able to play at their level, although the one concern we have had is that some of the novices seem unwilling to attend any practices other than the novice one or attempt to integrate with the rest of the club at all, which has been a bit of a problem.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby gyre and gimble » Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:51 pm

mozzarella wrote:Women aren't that well represented in either category, as far as I'm concerned. Obviously the number of women relative to men in any "canon" is dismal and makes it difficult to write questions based on it, but it still feels like tokenism. Until women writers are a natural, unforced 50% of questions about writers, for instance, then it isn't enough.


I think that if there are important women writers out there, quizbowl question writers are probably writing about them, and they're doing so because the writers are important, and not because they need to fill a token distribution. What I mean, I guess, is that the questions currently being produced about women writers are usually neither unnatural nor forced. They come organically from an editor's attempt to adequately cover the "canon" of topics that are askable for a given difficulty level.

That said, you're right that if an editor tried for a 50-50 split, it would indeed be unnatural and forced. In an ideal world that would be great. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where literature has long been dominated by men. Let's say there's a 25-75 split, to make the numbers easy to work with. If we want to use a 50-50 split in quizbowl, then any given woman writer would be coming up three times as often as any given male writer. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are the most important female and male American poets, respectively. I don't think Dickinson should come up three times as often as Whitman. Nor should Jane Austen come up three times as often as Charles Dickens, unless players read Austen three times as much as they read Dickens.

The best that quizbowl can do, I think, is to make sure that women who are famous or important aren't overlooked. This isn't limited to women who don't come up at all because they're not quizbowl-famous yet. To use my example above, Dickinson should probably come up at least as often as Walt Whitman. Or, as Chloe mentioned upthread, July's People should probably come up as often as Cry, the Beloved Country. But that's never going to get us to 50% overall because that's a standard that the history of literature utterly fails to meet. On an ideological level, I'd agree with you that it "isn't enough." Practically speaking, though, it's not really a problem that quizbowl can solve.

Sorry if I misunderstood any part of your post. Obviously, my perspective is limited to that of a male player and question writer.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby ErikC » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:56 pm

mozzarella wrote: Until women writers are a natural, unforced 50% of questions about writers, for instance, then it isn't enough. The problem is, it's not the novel--it's the writer. It seems that for the next while, men are still going to dominate neutral lit, and women are going to be relegated to genre fiction.


I'm interested in how novel fiction and poetry might differ here.

mozzarella wrote: I think another thing is to acknowledge that they're going to be new to QB too. Play lower-level packets the first few meetings to encourage new people to join. Explain to them that this is warm up, and things can get harder. Have separate teams, or have one night a week be beginner practice, and one night be advanced (we're toying with this idea now, only one would be open and the other competitive/team-oriented/base-building practice).


As Meghan explained, U of T has been doing this while I've been attending their practices with some good success, but it seems to be more of a solution with retaining new players in general rather than specifically women.

mozzarella wrote: Question representation doesn't matter as much as subject matter. I know women who have encyclopedic knowledge of Roman wars and would love to use it, and since they aren't as deep in the QB community as the rest of it, gender disparity in question subject hasn't hit them yet. I think representation in players is more important than representation in questions, if I had to choose.


Part of what I am curious about is about the higher attrition rate that seems to result with women in QB, not just who we are engaging.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Susan » Tue Jul 25, 2017 12:25 pm

One thing that I'd like to see (and that I hope is already happening!) is for folks who are recruiting writers/editors (NAQT, ACF, HSAPQ, etc., but also people organizing collaboratively-written tournaments) to proactively reach out to women and encourage them to apply/participate. I don't have a great sense of how well women are represented among the entire pool of quizbowl writers, but I think it's fair to say that relatively few of quizbowl's notable writers and editors are women, and I think it's likely that a predominantly male writing corps writes a somewhat different set of questions than a group with more female representation would.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Joshua Rutsky » Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:12 pm

I'm going to add my two cents here, just because I am looking at this issue from a different position than many of you. It is clear to me that the trend of women being marginalized, treated poorly, or leaving quizbowl as a result of this or other factors is one that begins with the transition from MS to HS. In looking at the individual stats for Alabama's MS State Championship, for example, about 1/4 of the players in attendance were female players. However, if you look at the stats for Alabama's HS State Championship, that number drops to 1/5 or less. I don't know if anyone has bothered to do a similar tally at the MSNCT vs HSNCT, but I imagine that the trend there would be more pronounced, not less.

As a coach, I'm concerned about recruiting for my team each year, and that involves communicating with the middle schools that feed my program and with my own players about the students we ought to be pulling into the group. However, as a TEACHER, I believe my job also includes ensuring that we are actively and aggressively recruiting female players and players from underrepresented minority groups, such as African-American or Latino students. Many coaches rely on their teams to "get the word out" and recruit. Unsurprisingly, those players tend to recruit other players who look like them and come from the same background as they do. I don't think that's a conscious choice by any means, but it does produce a self-replicating effect that, without intervention on my part, would limit team diversity.

There are reasons why having a single-sex team would be convenient, not the least of which is cost-effective hotel stays. It is also possible for a coach to find themselves in a situation where they don't have female players at tryouts. It can happen, but when it does, it becomes the coaches' responsibility to take the lead in finding those potential players and getting them into the room. Passively accepting the status quo isn't being a good role model for change, particularly when it is so easy to reach out to recruit kids.

Once those underrepresented players are in the program, it then becomes the responsibility of the coach to provide a suitable environment for practice and play, one that doesn't permit the sort of "boys will be boys" crap mentioned above. Even if the female player isn't objecting to anything at the time or being treated as anything but a teammate, it is STILL our job to remain actively vigilant and ensure that the player's silence isn't out of fear of retaliation or being accused of "breaking up the team". We've already conditioned women to remain silent too often in the face of abusive behavior. Again, this isn't anything that shouldn't have been drilled into a teacher's head from day one, but it still needs to be said.

Finally, we need to take more firm steps to encourage our female players to take on leadership roles. It's very easy to default to sending all your female recruits to lit study and your male recruits to handle the sciences, but its also clearly gender stereotyping. Coaches should be very, very clear to players that it is THEIR choice to pursue an area of study, albeit with the understanding that if a team already has a full slate of players in that area, they might serve the team best in another capacity. That, however, is something that should be said to male recruits as well, not just assumed to apply to female players.

If we did a better job of all of these things at the High School level, we would have fewer problems moving up to the next levels of QB.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby cchiego » Wed Sep 06, 2017 10:17 pm

Joshua Rutsky wrote:It is also possible for a coach to find themselves in a situation where they don't have female players at tryouts.

I've always wondered if try-outs themselves might in themselves dissuade or cut many people who would make great players. During the year that I coached a high school team, we had a simple policy: anyone who helped out at tournaments and attended practice could play. We averaged around 16-20 players at any one time, so this was doable with parents helping drive to tournaments. This seemed to work pretty well--practices were low-stress, lots of new people cycled in and stayed, and we ended up with a basically even gender mix. As a comparison, my old team when I was in high school had an incredibly stressful and secretive weeks-long tryout process; it didn't have a female player on the varsity team for many, many years.

While I know some schools just have an overwhelming amount of interest and need some way to cut, doing away with high-stakes tryouts or figuring out some way to get as many students a chance to practice on the buzzer outside of just the A and B teams might help. I liked to break out the buzzers during testing-induced downtime in classes and encouraged every student to give it a shot; that helped get several other female players to join the team as well.

Simply reaching out to more schools and making sure to help get teams started the right way might help as well. Six of the top twenty individuals in stats at the Philly City Champs last year were female and all of them were basically new to quizbowl. Making sure that the introductory meeting to quizbowl is well-run and positive, that there's a competent adult coach to oversee practices (primarily player-run teams seem to have a disproportionate amount of goofiness), and that teams have opportunities to compete against teams of similar abilities rather than get thrown to the wolves as the only new school at a tournament all might help in recruitment and retention of players from all kinds of backgrounds.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby alexdz » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:11 am

I mentioned this above, but I still think it would be a great idea to put together a presentation for a conference of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools. There's a conference next summer in Washington, D.C., which would be perfect, and the call for proposals is open until December 11. Would anyone be interested in working on a proposal about women in quizbowl?
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby brianamagin » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:10 pm

Anger 1: Actual Competition
Anyone who is in quiz bowl knows that there's significantly more men in the activity than women. There was a cool experience I had at Penn Bowl this year at Northwestern. My team consisted of me, two other females, and only one male and one of our matches was against an entirely female team from WUSTL, even better our moderator was also a female. Before the match even began a few of us began commenting that it was the most females we had ever seen in a single match before and by the half we had had some discussions about being a minority in the activity. The main point being how degrading it is when the "token" girl buzzes on a question and the entire team praises her for getting it right, and of course they expect the category to be literature or art. The best part of the female dominated match was when the one male in the room, my team member, buzzed in on a sports question. When he got it right we all congratulated him with rounds of clapping and "good buzz." It was all in good fun and we had a good laugh about it, but it sucks that this is something that we feel we can all relate to. If you're a female on your team and not the smartest person on your team then people just won't expect you to contribute, and every time you answer a question correctly at least one person on the team will be surprised or impressed. Even more annoying is the stereotype of what categories women are "supposed to" specialize on in quiz bowl. I swear I'm like a unicorn because not only am I a woman in quiz bowl, and not only was I the President of my club this semester, but I'm also a science player. Talk about a minority. It just gets irritating because I can't even count how many times people are shocked when I tell them I specialize in science, but at the same time once I tell them they expect me to be able to answer every science question that comes up. You are either completely disregarded as a player, or expected to answer every single question that comes up in your category and I don't see the males on my team having these problems.

Anger 2: Traveling
MEN AND WOMEN CAN SHARE A BED WITHOUT IT BEING AWKWARD OR SEXUAL. Okay, so we are in college. We are adults, you'd think we'd be able to handle this one but yet it's still a problem. I will travel to a tournament with my team and we will have full hotel rooms and I might be the only female on the entire trip. We have a nice car ride to the hotel, order some pizza, read some questions, and stay up late talking all together but then it comes time for us to finally go to bed. Now I am not one to sleep on the ground, I will always take a bed, but I don't care who I have to share it with. Yet time and time again I will have male teammates picking a chair or the ground rather than having to share a bed with me. (Now I understand that there are some people that just don't feel comfortable sharing a bed with anyone regardless of sex and this doesn't count them.) Two of the guys on the team will share a bed together no problem, if there ever is a female teammate for me to share with then we will share a bed, but if there's an uneven balance between males and females then one of the males will almost always pick the floor.
Thankfully though, I've been vocal about the fact that I have no qualms about sharing a bed for a night with a male teammate and they've been more understanding about it. Even a couple of times now they've bitten the bullet and slept next to me in the bed. I'm not sure why this is such a pet peeve to me, but I just want to be equal. If a guy can share a bed with a guy, and a girl can share a bed with a girl, then a guy should be able to share a bed with a girl.

Anger 3: Leadership
Now let me tell you, my semester foray into being president of an established quiz bowl club was quite an adventure. I didn't know how to host a tournament, or what tournaments we should attend, or even most of what I was supposed to be doing but thankfully I was able to figure it all out. Now I very much enjoyed being in charge of my club and arranging things for tournaments, but I noticed time and time again that I wasn't seeing a lot of other girls in charge of their clubs. Granted, I don't know the e-board of every quiz bowl club and there could be more women in leadership than I realize, but it seems that there aren't many. One time discussing previous leadership with an older teammate of mine, we couldn't come up with a previous female president. Now obviously I know that there aren't as many females in quiz bowl to begin with, but that doesn't mean we can't take leaderships in our club.You don't even have to be the best player on your team to be able to run your club successfully. I am a solid member of the B team, and I don't believe I will have a spot on the A team until maybe my senior year if I'm lucky, but I still ran solid tournaments. I was able to TD a high school tournament without any previous experience, and I was able to successfully run a very frustrating college tournament that easily could have gone horrible (the horror of WAO II at MSU). Yet I can't think of a single tournament I've attended in college where the TD has been a female. I just believe that anything the guys and quiz bowl can do, then the girls should be able to do as well. I may have only been president as a technicality this semester, but that in no way means that I'm not going to try and be president again. If you want to have any sort of leadership in your club, don't let anything or anyone stop you.

TLDR; Women need to stop being stereotyped in competition and there should be more of us, men and women can share a bed for a night at an away tournament and have it not be awkward, and there should be more women taking the lead in their clubs.
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Aaron's Rod » Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:59 pm

brianamagin wrote:even better our moderator was also a female


it me

brianamagin wrote:Anger 2: Traveling
MEN AND WOMEN CAN SHARE A BED WITHOUT IT BEING AWKWARD OR SEXUAL. Okay, so we are in college. We are adults, you'd think we'd be able to handle this one but yet it's still a problem. I will travel to a tournament with my team and we will have full hotel rooms and I might be the only female on the entire trip. We have a nice car ride to the hotel, order some pizza, read some questions, and stay up late talking all together but then it comes time for us to finally go to bed. Now I am not one to sleep on the ground, I will always take a bed, but I don't care who I have to share it with. Yet time and time again I will have male teammates picking a chair or the ground rather than having to share a bed with me. (Now I understand that there are some people that just don't feel comfortable sharing a bed with anyone regardless of sex and this doesn't count them.) Two of the guys on the team will share a bed together no problem, if there ever is a female teammate for me to share with then we will share a bed, but if there's an uneven balance between males and females then one of the males will almost always pick the floor.
Thankfully though, I've been vocal about the fact that I have no qualms about sharing a bed for a night with a male teammate and they've been more understanding about it. Even a couple of times now they've bitten the bullet and slept next to me in the bed. I'm not sure why this is such a pet peeve to me, but I just want to be equal. If a guy can share a bed with a guy, and a girl can share a bed with a girl, then a guy should be able to share a bed with a girl.


I'm really glad that you brought this up, because I think the traveling situation is worth talking about. I would like to challenge what I see as the implicit assumption that a man wouldn't want to share a bed with a woman because he would be afraid of making her uncomfortable. Some men might just be uncomfortable with sharing a bed with a woman, regardless of their gender politics. People shouldn't be pressured into sleeping arrangements of any kind--if they really prefer the floor or a chair to sharing a bed with someone of another sex/gender (or someone else at all), that's really their prerogative.

I'll chime in with a different perspective just so it's out there. Even as someone who considers themselves fairly anti-gender binary and comfortable with hanging out with people of any gender, as you have to be to participate in the quizbowl social scene, I am not generally comfortable with sharing a bed with a male friend. And frankly, unless even quizbowl guys stop giving me reason to be cautious, that preference is unlikely to change. I'm saying this because this came up when making some sleeping arrangements for an open tournament this year, when Eliza Grames and I were somewhat amusingly both put into rooms where we were the only women. (I asked for a roommate swap, which everybody agreed to.) I guess it's nice that it demonstrated how much of a non-issue mixed-gender situations were to the guys who set up the rooms, and certainly no malice was intended at all, but you don't have to be a gender binarist prude to be uncomfortable with mixed-bed situations.

Not trying to hijack, just pointing out that mileage may vary, and it's always best to ask the people involved what they're comfortable with. A lot of times hotels can offer you a rollaway bed for free or a nominal fee, which may be an improvement over sleeping on the floor. (But sometimes not, as they tend to be truly terrible excuses for beds.)
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Re: Women in Quizbowl 2017 Edition

Postby Calculus? » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:52 pm

It occurs to me that one of the reasons we may have a problem with women in quizbowl could stem from the fact that when a prominent male player makes a series of sexist, homophobic and transphobic posts, people who express discomfort with those posts are blown off because the content is “funny”, and the poster is eventually given a light slap on the wrist. It’s almost like when the joke is on women, trans people, and gay people rather than people’s haircuts it suddenly becomes a laughing matter. Just a thought.
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