Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

A place to discuss topics affecting quizbowlers as a community rather than quizbowl as a game.
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Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by sadieb328 »

So. Men of quizbowl. Let’s talk about the misogyny (and other gender-based misconduct) problem in the community, again. I am furious that we clearly need to continually have these conversations, but I’m going to try and be as levelheaded as possible. I’m not going to yell at you, and I’m not going to make callouts or accusations. I am going to talk about my own experience as a woman in quizbowl, and I’m really not interested in debating the validity of them the way I’ve seen happen in the past. I hope that you will be able to sit and listen for a few minutes while I talk.

SOME PREAMBLE.

I have been very lucky to experience little in the way of sexism and misogyny as a woman quizbowl player. The two notable times that I have— senior year of high school, when a new teammate repeatedly questioned why I was team captain instead of either of the other (guy) seniors; and when our (female, incidentally) former club president at W&M assigned me to essentially manage the emotions of a badly-behaved male teammate for an entire academic year, and made me apologize to him when I told her I was uncomfortable with that —are not events I’ve discussed outside of the confidence of a few friends. I believed that in the grand scheme of things, my experiences paled in comparison to those of other women in quizbowl. I respect them deeply for sharing their stories and didn’t want to equate mine to theirs.

It took a long time before I realized that my experience is the exception and not the rule. It also took a long time before I recognized that what I experienced may not have been actual physical assault or severe harassment, but it was still not acceptable behavior, and that sharing my story didn’t diminish the ones of those who faced more serious misconduct.

I say this to make one thing clear. If someone like me— who has the privileges of playing on a very diverse team (in terms of both race and gender identity), who does not feel like teammates see her as a disadvantage by virtue of her gender, and who believes in the essential goodness and welcoming atmosphere of this game because her good quizbowl experiences outweigh her bad ones 50:1 —is talking now, we have reached a point of no return. Even I, insulated as I am in all my privilege, cannot ignore how angry I am at the state of our community.

Make no mistake, men of quizbowl: we have reached yet another (hopeful) watershed moment, and it is once again your turn to sit down, shut up, and listen. Now, let’s talk about what I’ve noticed.

THE STATE OF "WOMEN IN QUIZBOWL" DISCOURSE ON THE FORUMS.

Based on a cursory search through these very forums, there seems to be at least one community thread every year, for the past several years, either explicitly focused on gender-based misconduct or the presence of women (and other underrepresented genders) more generally:
  • The “How We Treat Each Other: 2019” thread, which was started by Mike Cheyne but has excellent contributions about women in the game from Alex Damisch, Caroline Mao, Connie (Prater) Tzeng, and Joelle Smart.
These conversations also pop up frequently in real time on the main quizbowl Discord, in the #misconduct-and-misogyny channel.

I point this out to emphasize that it seems like we have the same discussion on gender-based misconduct, like clockwork, every year. I’ll quote Frances Clark-Murray’s comment in Heather's “Y’all need to pay attention...” thread, because I think she does a great job explaining the current cycle:
“This is the umpteenth thread like this that has been posted, usually in response to some egregiously vile thing that some guy in quizbowl has done. Almost without exception, the substantive contributions in these threads will come from women. Quizbowl men, be they elite college/open players or freshmen in high school, may wander in and post agreements, or condemn misbehaviour (as is the bare fucking minimum), but it's obviously a far more important use of their time to argue about proper protest resolution methods, powermarking or the best way of subdistributing the literature.”
I think that quote also puts into words another thing I noticed in that same thread, and in discussions on various quizbowl Discords I’m a member of: there seems to be less discussion among quizbowl men about action steps they can take to help make the community more welcoming, and more discussion about how the discourse makes them feel. This ranges from cursory acknowledgment of the thread to tone-policing women’s replies to the thread to self-flagellating about how they’ve been complicit and need to learn to do better. (The last one I find to be especially insidious given how it tends to put the onus on the disadvantaged party to "not-all-X" the situation and offer comfort or validation.)

INTROSPECTION IS NOT ENOUGH.

In the same “Y’all need to pay attention” thread, Clare Keenan wrote:
"I’m seeing a lot of men in quizbowl discussing the problem of harassment and sexism in qb but I’m not seeing any introspection.”
I respectfully disagree that I haven’t seen any introspection on the men’s part, because I would consider the discussion of how the discourse makes them feel to be introspection in its own way. But I do think that the current state of the discourse on their side shows a worrying trend. Acknowledging that your behavior has hurt others (whether it was actively causing harm to others or sitting complicit while others caused active harm) and apologizing for it is a good step, but it’s a first step. However, those first steps seem like they do not pan out into anything. Many of the same names as today appear in the old forum threads— I should not need to tell you that this is a massive problem. Recognizing that there’s a problem is essential, but how you proceed once you recognize the problem is much more important.

I understand that even though it’s not always at the forefront of discussion, this has been a hot-button issue in the greater quizbowl community for many years. Personally, I would argue that one can trace this discussion back to 1966, when a team from Agnes Scott College (a not-super-well-known women’s college in Georgia) beat Princeton in an upset on GE College Bowl. Simply searching “women” in the forum archives gives me results talking about how the community treats women going back to 2005 (even if this one is likely trying to be offensive.) Sam Luongo made an excellent comment about the state of women in quizbowl in 2012 and a short follow-up in 2015. Those posts are from eight and five years ago respectively, and they still read as though they could’ve been written today. Once again, I should not have to tell you that this is another massive problem.

I recognize that the current discourse is primarily focused on gender, but there is plenty of evidence that BIPOC members of our community feel this to an even greater extent and we should not act like quizbowl is a bastion of racial equity. I understand that institutional change often moves at a glacial pace, and that underrepresented groups need allies from the majority group (so, in this case, [white] cis men.) I understand that gaining the knowledge and sensitivity necessary for effective allyship is something that also takes time and requires education (from willing members of the underrepresented community, existing material, or some combination of both.) But that kind of thing should be the bare minimum, and to be frank, I’m just not seeing it in this community right now. I also understand that there are likely very small circuits dominated by men where it’s plausible “women in quizbowl” is simply not a topic that comes up, or that there people who are not Very Online in quizbowl spaces like us who have no idea this discourse is happening.

To be clear, I’m not telling any player of an underrepresented gender in this game, who’s too frustrated to continue making the same points over and over in the hopes of getting through to male players, that they have to suck it up and continue to do it. I merely bring up this point to emphasize that these theoretical and discursive conversations are happening among a very small group of people once again, despite the urgent need for wide-ranging, structural change in how we conceive of quizbowl as a community.

The vast majority of us here are young adults (or true adults) with critical thinking skills, who should be able to synthesize information and create and implement responses to that information. We have years’ worth of information about how underrepresented genders have been treated in the greater quizbowl community. Now we need to synthesize that information, create a unified response to it, and implement it. To do that, we need the men of quizbowl to acknowledge the overall harm they’ve caused (either directly or implicitly), vow to do better, and then actually do better.

I am heartened by the current push to create a community-wide code of conduct and draw greater attention to the existing misconduct form. But at the same time it’s bittersweet, because so many of the people I see getting very involved in those initiatives are high schoolers. We, as the older generation, should be doing this work ourselves so we can hand it down to them. We adults should be the ones guiding the community. That doesn't seem to be happening, because too many (male) members of this community would rather debate respectability politics and highly theoretical situations in forum discussions than come up with plans to the real issues underlying these theoretical situations that they generally have the luxury of ignoring.

Having a conversation (and by “having a conversation” I mean “really listen to what the underrepresented-gender players are telling you”) is a good first step. That’s the absolute baseline, and I think it says a lot that my gut instinct wants to applaud you for taking the most basic step— because it is a very basic first step, and in my jaunt through the forum archives today I’ve seen these first steps repeated over and over again for years. And where do we end up? Clearly, since I felt the need to make this post, right back where we’ve started.

I hope that this ends up being a watershed moment, the beginning of the end of the status quo, and that we can repair this community. I want to end by quoting Clare again:
“We’ve had this conversation on the forums roughly once a year for as long as I have been in quizbowl. Are your memories really so short? Are you never talking to women in between these discussions? Do you really think the training you get in your school or workplace doesn’t apply to quizbowl as well?”
We don’t need to have these conversations every year like clockwork if we can make changes now. It should also not be up to female, transgender/nonbinary, and other quizbowlers who are members of underrepresented groups to fix things by ourselves. Men of quizbowl, you’ve once again recognized and acknowledged that there is a problem with gender-based discrimination and misconduct in our community. Excellent. You’ve realized that the current status quo cannot be maintained. Good. Now that you’ve done that, take the next step that so few of you have actually taken and ask yourselves, how are you going to contribute to fixing it?

(Special thanks to the girls' quizbowl Discord for workshopping this with me, especially Lauren, JinAh, Liberty, Caro, Heather, Frances, Karen, and Manasvi.)
Last edited by sadieb328 on Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

I am definitely not trying to undermine this moment. We do need to tackle misogyny, which is a huge force that is actively hurting many of us women and trans + gender-nonconforming people every day and keeping us from enjoying quizbowl. We (every single one of us we) also need to think about how we approach consent. People of any gender can violate consent, from smaller conversational intrusions and taking up emotional space (like, for example, asking someone about their trauma history) all the way to physical assault and all sorts of things in between.

Especially in social spaces where alcohol and other drug consumption is the norm, we need to be really careful about getting affirmative consent in our interactions. Every single one of us, no matter what our gender is, needs to think about consent if we choose to interact with our fellow players romantically or sexually (or just socially in general, too). I talk about consent this much because it has prompted a lot of discussions of misogyny, but of course "misconduct" refers to so much more than consent violation.

Here is a guide on consent from one of my favorite sex education websites (although its principles are applicable to non-sexual situations too, like for example, play fighting). https://www.scarleteen.com/article/disa ... ent_basics
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by jinah »

On the broader topic of "people who are not marginalized by specific issue, what should you do": men and white people, while it is good to reflect on your own shortcomings and mistakes, keep in mind who you are helping when you discuss these with other people. As Athena referred to in their post, people who are interested in talking about this issue publicly are not necessarily interested in discussing your personal demons in private, and if you are e.g. a man who is interested in learning more about sexism, a given non-man is not going to want to delve into this with you just because they are not a man, or they are interested in social justice, or they made a meme about sexism once.

Specifically, if you want to apologize for past behavior, consider:
  • Am I apologizing to this person to make myself feel better, or to make them feel better?
  • Do I think this person is receptive to receiving this apology from me at this time?
  • Am I putting this person in an uncomfortable position where they feel obliged to accept my apology, or discuss this further?
  • Am I focusing on what I did / the harm I caused, or how bad I feel?
  • Am I delving into a negative experience in a way that could be uncomfortable or stressful?
If you want to talk to someone from a marginalized community about the issues that impact them (e.g. talking to a trans person about transphobia), consider:
  • Has this person expressed interest in having this conversation with you?
  • Are you asking them things that you can identify via doing your own research on the internet?
  • Are you interested in their personal thoughts and experiences, or just their status as Member Of Marginalized Group X?
And if someone is not interested in responding or having a conversation, or if they brush you off in what feels like a rude or dismissive way, again, it's not about you. There are only so many non-white, non-men players in this community, and you don't know how many people have approached someone in a similar way -- many of us are tired with being approached in this way in addition to the general exhaustion of life. @People on the receiving end of these conversations, don't feel like you need to dance around responding in the Perfect Way To Avoid Hurting Their Sensibilities, or whatever.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I think it's appropriate to offer my thoughts as an older man in this community, and to offer some constructive actions that men should take.

I'd preface this by restating the obvious: Quizbowl has a large mix of people of many ages. Many, if not most, people in the quizbowl community are quite young, and this game often attracts people who aren't necessarily the most well socially adjusted, particularly in the online era. A clear distinction needs to be drawn between these people, who have not necessarily been compelled by life experience into serious self-reflection, trainings related to consent and appropriate conduct, etc. and older figures (especially men) in the community, who have gone through such adjustments through longer participation in quizbowl, college, etc. and "should know better."

From here, I'd like to offer a set of guidelines for men in quizbowl which I have sought to better follow myself during the last couple years, particularly as I have returned to being a member of an active collegiate quizbowl club with many younger members.

1) LISTEN to people who are not like you in terms of sexual orientation, gender, etc. to learn about what makes them uncomfortable. By this, I refer not only to situations of misconduct, harassment, and assault, but also to many situations where people can feel uncomfortable pressure, isolation, or exclusion on account of individuals' word choice, body language, and many other factors. Do not take this as an expectation that people will share everything or tell you what to do. You will learn many things, and in particular many things you should avoid doing; you will rarely receive any particular prescriptions for specific actions. Being reflective and critical means taking what you hear into account developing your own such prescriptions, informed by the acts of listening and learning which are fundamental to the game that brought us here.

2) ACT when you see such situations. The best way to intervene in situations which look uncomfortable is not always the same. Sometimes it involves talking to an offending participant privately about their behavior; sometimes it involves stepping in publicly; sometimes it involves checking in with the person who is uncomfortable - they may not in fact be uncomfortable with the interaction, and it is not your place to tread on their agency unless something is severely wrong. There are resources available to help teach you how to decide what's the best course of action, but it is never a universal rule.

3) If you are an older male in quizbowl, MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE. Make sure younger members of the community are aware that:
  • You are willing to ENFORCE standards of conduct, and ensure our clubs and public spaces are safe and welcoming communities. In particular, if you're in a quizbowl club, you should make sure that club officers are explicitly aware that you can and will support them in their efforts to ensure that our communities meet both of these criteria.
  • You are a resource for MENTORSHIP for younger male members of the community, who may lack experience navigating many situations that make people uncomfortable, as well as attraction and romantic interpersonal relationships.
4) RECOGNIZE YOUR INFLUENCE AND WIELD IT WISELY. Especially if you're an older male member of the community (and this goes well outside of college clubs) make sure you aren't exploiting power / influence differentials in your community to get away with making people uncomfortable (especially based on what you have listened to). Ask people about this explicitly if you feel a need to - and if you think it'd be uncomfortable to do so, that's all the more indication that it's an important step to ponder and potentially take. There are many positive ways you can wield your influence as well, informed in particular by (1). But in recognizing this, do not seek to wield your influence out of a quest for Homeric thymos, but rather as a responsible citizen of the quizbowl body politic.

Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by halle »

I wasn’t sure which of the (great and exciting to see) threads that have sprung up in the last few days I should post this in, but I’ve chosen this one because I’d like to direct my thoughts towards the men in the quizbowl community who’d like to do better. One thing that I’ve encountered quite a bit throughout my quizbowl experience is the pressure to forgive or ignore the individuals who harassed or otherwise upset me. Sometimes this was explicit advice to accept apologies or not make a fuss, with the intention of keeping the peace. Other times it was less straightforward, but still hurtful: people who I’d confided in about someone hurting me remaining friends with that person, or saying nothing about their continued presence in our social circles while privately claiming to support me. Often, I’ve been in social situations where I need to personally decide how I’m going to maintain my distance from people who have hurt or harassed me, because everyone else has opted to act like nothing is wrong. This is a really shitty position to be in! So, I’d encourage the men of quizbowl, and the whole quizbowl community, to be more aware of the signals they’re sending out. Please don’t send out the signal that someone is still welcome in your social circle even if they have hurt women or other non-men in that group. Please help women/non-men avoid feeling forced to get along with people who they are rightfully angry at or afraid of—come over and interrupt conversations that your friends and teammates don’t want to be part of; check in with us and ask if we want to hang out somewhere else if the people who have harassed us are around; if we’re giving someone the cold shoulder, don’t call us rude, and maybe even join in on being frosty towards them. The pressure to coexist with people who have committed offenses against us is so incredibly common and strong for women (and other non-men, although I cannot speak as much for them) in quizbowl. Please, men, help us maintain the boundaries we need, and do not ask us to forgive before we are ready.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:46 am Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
I've been made more aware recently that young quizbowlers often view "the Olds" as remote and inaccessible; this was not the case when I was coming up, so I didn't realize it had become the state of affairs. Contrary to appearances, though, if you reach out to us via PM or email we're typically happy to talk. I, for one, am open to talk about basically anything related to quizbowl or qb social life as long as you're not asking how to get good.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by ryanrosenberg »

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:09 pm
naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:46 am Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
Contrary to appearances, though, if you reach out to us via PM or email we're typically happy to talk. I, for one, am open to talk about basically anything related to quizbowl or qb social life as long as you're not asking how to get good.
Same here.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Mike Bentley »

ryanrosenberg wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:19 pm
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:09 pm
naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:46 am Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
Contrary to appearances, though, if you reach out to us via PM or email we're typically happy to talk. I, for one, am open to talk about basically anything related to quizbowl or qb social life as long as you're not asking how to get good.
Same here.
On the subject of mentors,I'll call out here PACE's writer mentorship program. This hasn't been explicitly positioned in the past as helping people from underrepresented identities in quizbowl but there's certainly an opportunity to do so going forward. I realize that "quizbowl writer for high school nationals" is relatively high up in the informal quizbowl ranks. Helping some people become better writers isn't going to solve the larger and more serious issues discussed in this thread and others. Nevertheless, writing and editing is one avenue to building quizbowl social capital. With these programs I hope I can at least do some part in helping writers reach that next level. And I don't want to speak for PACE, but I could see us expanding mentorships (and reverse mentorships) to other parts of quizbowl should there be demand for this (I don't want to immediately assume people want this).

I'll also say that these threads have been very helpful in making me more self-reflective. I'd like to hope that I've personally treated others in the community decently. But I've definitely fallen short in being explicit about building an inclusive community. The recent push to establish codes of conduct for tournaments and teams is a great idea and I'll be doing this going forward for my tournaments/teams/editing crews. Again, these aren't the only things that need to be done but I'm hopeful they'll help us make more progress than we have in the past.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Mike Bentley »

Mike Bentley wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:46 pm
ryanrosenberg wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:19 pm
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:09 pm
naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:46 am Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
Contrary to appearances, though, if you reach out to us via PM or email we're typically happy to talk. I, for one, am open to talk about basically anything related to quizbowl or qb social life as long as you're not asking how to get good.
Same here.
On the subject of mentors,I'll call out here PACE's writer mentorship program. This hasn't been explicitly positioned in the past as helping people from underrepresented identities in quizbowl but there's certainly an opportunity to do so going forward. I realize that "quizbowl writer for high school nationals" is relatively high up in the informal quizbowl ranks. Helping some people become better writers isn't going to solve the larger and more serious issues discussed in this thread and others. Nevertheless, writing and editing is one avenue to building quizbowl social capital. With these programs I hope I can at least do some part in helping writers reach that next level. And I don't want to speak for PACE, but I could see us expanding mentorships (and reverse mentorships) to other parts of quizbowl should there be demand for this (I don't want to immediately assume people want this).

I'll also say that these threads have been very helpful in making me more self-reflective. I'd like to hope that I've personally treated others in the community decently. But I've definitely fallen short in being explicit about building an inclusive community. The recent push to establish codes of conduct for tournaments and teams is a great idea and I'll be doing this going forward for my tournaments/teams/editing crews. Again, these aren't the only things that need to be done but I'm hopeful they'll help us make more progress than we have in the past.
Sigh, as Marianna pointed out to me there is in fact already such a program (run by PACE no less) that I had forgotten about.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Illinois Admin »

A quick note about what follows. These are not my ideas and I am not claiming credit for them. I am paraphrasing from a woman whose opinion on power dynamics and interpersonal relationships in professional settings I greatly admire (and who does not want to be publicly named here). I am also not claiming to be an exemplar of this sort of action, but I wanted to share these thoughts with the community at large.

First and foremost, there are a lot of posts from men saying things like "men need to speak up when they see something." I get the feeling though, that these posts are imagining a situation analogous to stopping a mugging, where nigh every observer would agree that what is happening is bad. I like to think that (at least in principle if not in practice) the vast majority of people would find it worth stepping up and shutting down if they hear some random person making denigrating comments about marginalized groups or otherwise engaging in unacceptable behaviors. However, where men (in quizbowl and elsewhere) need most to step up is being willing to sacrifice our own social capital and standing. It's easy to say "if you're a staffer and hear a kid making an inappropriate joke, say something." What is much harder, and more meaningful, is when everyone else in the room finds a denigrating joke funny and by saying something we open ourselves up to ridicule or loss of face. Furthermore, it's also much harder to step in and make ourselves vulnerable when the offender is someone we see as a friend and whose relationship we may damage by stepping up and saying something. It is, however, those very situations where it is most important to do so and where power and influence must be used most effectively.

What I most want to highlight here is this, men in quiz bowl need to be willing to lose face and to lose standing in our personal relationships to make quiz bowl a more open and accepting place. Until that is more widely accepted and practiced, it is going to be hard to make meaningful change, because otherwise the only actions that are condemned and acted on will be ones that very public and those that are truly repugnant. We (men) have to do a better job at policing each other in our own personal spaces.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Jem Casey »

ryanrosenberg wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:19 pm
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:09 pm
naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:46 am Finally, as an older member of the community with a wide variety of trainings and experiences, I'll offer myself as a resource for younger male members of this community who are having issues navigating interpersonal relationships or recognizing uncomfortable situations. My DMs are open, as is my email.
Contrary to appearances, though, if you reach out to us via PM or email we're typically happy to talk. I, for one, am open to talk about basically anything related to quizbowl or qb social life as long as you're not asking how to get good.
Same here.
I'll bandwagon a bit here and offer my dms (on the forums, on fb messenger, or jordanzbrownstein at gmail) as a place to talk through any sort of quizbowl community-adjacent question or uncertainty.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

Illinois Admin wrote: Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:01 pm What I most want to highlight here is this, men in quiz bowl need to be willing to lose face and to lose standing in our personal relationships to make quiz bowl a more open and accepting place. Until that is more widely accepted and practiced, it is going to be hard to make meaningful change, because otherwise the only actions that are condemned and acted on will be ones that very public and those that are truly repugnant. We (men) have to do a better job at policing each other in our own personal spaces.
This is a really good point.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Scottietodd »

Thank you to everyone for these comments and this thread. As al older person who is relatively new to Quizbowl (53 and 9), I have not read these forums as much as I probably should have and was directed here by a friend.
I like to think that (at least in principle if not in practice) the vast majority of people would find it worth stepping up and shutting down if they hear some random person making denigrating comments about marginalized groups or otherwise engaging in unacceptable behaviors. However, where men (in quizbowl and elsewhere) need most to step up is being willing to sacrifice our own social capital and standing. It's easy to say "if you're a staffer and hear a kid making an inappropriate joke, say something." What is much harder, and more meaningful, is when everyone else in the room finds a denigrating joke funny and by saying something we open ourselves up to ridicule or loss of face. Furthermore, it's also much harder to step in and make ourselves vulnerable when the offender is someone we see as a friend and whose relationship we may damage by stepping up and saying something. It is, however, those very situations where it is most important to do so and where power and influence must be used most effectively.
The above comments are spot on. In conversations with my 80 year old mother about BLM and all of the hurt that has been and continues to be faced by minorities in our country, I have pointed out that this is where her generation down through my generation has failed and contributed to the systemic nature of the oppression in our country. Every time I have heard a joke or inappropriate comment and just let it go to keep the peace, or because the target of the comment was not present has been an opportunity missed, and a deterrent to progress.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by wcheng »

I'm fairly certain I'm not the only male quizbowl alum reading what has been posted in the last few days and reflecting on the times when we have neglected to push for policies to prevent misconduct in our organizations, or as Bradley's source has very helpfully put it, put our social standing at stake to make quizbowl a more inclusive place. Perhaps we alumni are not involved in the quizbowl community any longer, or perhaps only tangentially, and we might be thinking that we've missed our chance to make the quizbowl community a better place, one where women, BIPOC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and oppressed people of all kinds are not just accepted but truly welcomed.

It is very possible that given our levels of involvement in this community, we might not be able to make a systemic impact here in quizbowl anymore. That's OK, I think, because--this should really go without saying--we know very well that the problems in our hobby are just a microcosm of those in our larger society. If we have run out of time to make quizbowl better, very well--we have our workplaces, our academies, our places of worship, our other hobbies, etc. We know there are problems there too, and that what is being brought to light here is not special to our community at all.
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Re: Men of Quizbowl, We Should Talk.

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

I have been reading these threads for the last few days and would like to contribute to the conversation. I offer these suggestions with the understanding that some, if not all, could be bad ideas. I don't plan on defending myself if this post is not received well. However, in line with the calls for action, I want to try and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Here are some thoughts:

Taking Responsibility
The first step is to acknowledge that as a white cis man who's been active in quizbowl for more than a decade, there is no way I am completely blameless in creating the toxic culture in question. For example, I have certainly not done enough to combat the boy's club mentality that has kept the game closed off for too long. We've known for years that women and non-binary people were uncomfortable in this community and have done regrettably little about it. I also suspect that, as mentioned upthread, many of the subtly harmful behaviors we perpetuate are reflective of a toxic culture as a whole. I've definitely talked over women, disregarded perspectives I should have taken as valid, and participated in aggressive hyper-competitiveness that can boil over into anger and other antisocial behaviors. I know this is true in a quizbowl context because it's true in a non-quizbowl context--men are taught these behaviors in our society, and if you're a man who thinks you've never done these things, you just haven't been sufficiently made aware of it yet.

Conducting Ourselves Better
We should absolutely be uplifting Marianna Zhang's proposals for what a code of conduct might look like for quizbowl. It is of highest importance that we define a spectrum of intolerable behaviors with functioning mechanisms for reporting and justly resolving these problems. It is also true that we don't just need a set of rules, but we need to be proactive making sure we do something about misconduct when we learn of it. The fact that people know about and even whisper that our fellow community members could be engaging in sexual harassment, abuse, or other forms of misconduct, but don't follow through with action to stop it immediately, makes us complicit in perpetuating these harms.

To contribute further to the conversation, we should think more seriously about how to deal with microaggressions and root out the systemic and cultural problems where responsibility is far more shared. Expelling the abusers and harassers in our ranks would be a major step forward, but the goal is creating a culture where no person ever feels disrespected or excluded. The behaviors I mentioned earlier in my post are perhaps not as egregious as abusing power dynamics in relationships or other examples described elsewhere, but their relative mildness is no excuse. It is very hard to define exactly what can and cannot be allowable, largely because often this depends on the context, but there should definitely be some consequences for this kind of behavior when people feel hurt by your actions. Perhaps I would have taken my own conduct more seriously had I been barred from attending a tournament or two when I got mad and shouted at a teammate, for example. Or perhaps somebody who disregarded a woman's input finds themselves demoted on a question set editing team.

Building a New Community
We need to think beyond simply punishing misconduct or misbehavior in our community. Men (especially white cis men) need to re-think our positions in the community. How many team captains are not men? College club presidents? Coaches? What about the boards of state and national quizbowl organizations? I am sad to say that in many of these cases we are running not just figurative but literal boys' clubs. Men need to get out of the way. And in cases where there are no women able to step up into leadership roles, it should be an absolute priority to change that ASAP. We need to be developing a more diverse set of leaders and vacating positions of authority in favor of underrepresented voices when possible.

Quizbowl outreach must be refocused to take into account the disparities on race, class, and gender which exist in our community at both the organizational and individual level. Teams need to be recruiting non-men as players and leaders, prioritizing their development when possible. Individuals, teams, and organizations who will not do this, especially those who are known to be toxic cultures that drive away women, should not be welcome in our community. Mentorship programs for writers and editors should of course be prioritizing these dimensions; quizbowl study resources, camps, online spaces should not just welcome non-men and BIPOC quizbowlers but actively establish programs and spaces that are devoted to specifically furthering their development as players as a priority.

Building upon the prior point, we as a community need to seriously re-evaluate our approach to what we even get out of the game of quizbowl. The fun in quizbowl that it is a test of knowledge, but the access to that knowledge is not equal and the standards for how knowledge is measured are designed by...the advantaged people who are already good at the game. This is not a call to dismantle quizbowl the game as we know it, but we can at least rethink what we reward. The game is also a test of aggression driven by a desire to ascend the ladder of a social hierarchy that we carefully maintain. We shouldn't be too surprised that our hierarchy has all the flaws of society's other hierarchies baked into it. What if we had a more egalitarian approach? A stronger focus on teamwork, not just between the four playing at one time but among a whole club and even the whole community.

White cis men could stand to sacrifice our own development as players to spend time sharing and cultivating knowledge with everybody else who wants to play the game. It's about priorities: the game rewards a study binge weekend before nationals but what if more men on highly ranked teams were using those weekends to help other people learn and to learn from them. This floats somewhere into the territory of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, perhaps we could re-imagine our community as the kind of place where the shared pursuit of knowledge is our ultimate goal, where we all have equal stakes and roles in the learning process. This suggests a quizbowl where scoring points and winning games has less importance; a community where our duties to one another as people and the duties of the more privileged to the less privileged are taken into more consideration.

I hope I haven't taken up too much space with this post. The quizbowl community is a special place. We should be dismayed by how many people have spoken up for the first time either ever or in a long time to discuss why we're making their lives worse and driving them away. I would like a community where women and non-binary people don't have to expend their energy on essays explaining how we've harmed them; instead they could lead us in discussing how to play the game, how to set the distribution, and every other topic we cis white men have prioritized while perpetuating a broken culture that has silenced many voices for far too long.
Nick Conder
Kentucky Quizbowl Alliance
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