Glasgow Sexism Scandal – The Tip of the Iceberg?

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The Tab talks to the Union President, Debating Officer and a judge at the competition in Glasgow to assess the incident's wider implications.

The Cambridge Union’s reaction to the Glasgow sexism scandal has been met with approval, but many believe that the incident is symptomatic of a greater, underlying problem.

Every weekend, university level debate competitions are held across universities throughout the UK, and often internationally. The Cambridge Inter-Varsity is one of the most important events in the debating calendar.

Competitions to decide who the best debaters in the world are also held, hosted in countries such as Turkey, Botswana, the Philippines and Germany. Sexism is endemic, in both overt and subtler forms.

The problem, it seems, starts in schools, where there is a noticeable lack of female participants, and a predominance of white, upper-middle class competitors. Schools like Dulwich, Westminster and St Paul’s dominate the competition. There are some obvious reasons for this: debating is traditionally a public school hobby, and the schools provide paid debating coaches, as well as funding to compete in competitions.

At university level, more women start taking part; some compete at the highest level and are respected judges. Equally, however, there is a high drop-off rate amongst female debaters, many of whom try debating for the first time in their first year at university.

Many feel that this is because sexism in debating is still rife. Women’s speaking styles are often criticised as sounding ‘hysterical’ or ‘less convincing’. At the other end of the spectrum, they’re regarded as ‘dull’ or ‘weak’. Moreover, the debating world considers males as the experts in subjects such as economics; female debaters have suggested that they feel pressured to hand over the handling of such topics to their male counterparts.

The weekend’s events in Glasgow are an extreme example of the misogyny that female debaters face. Clara Spera, Debate Officer at the Cambridge Union, explains that this is not an unusual occurrence:

Kitty Parker-Brooks, a top ranking judge at the Ancients Competition in Glasgow, told The Tab that she is no stranger to everyday misogyny prevalent in the debating world:

“It’s sometimes frustrating the assumptions that get made. As a female speaker, if you get very, very good speaker points in one round, quite often people will say ‘it’s because the judge fancied her.’

She was near the hecklers at the Glasgow University Union, and sat next to the highest ranked debater in the world – also a woman.

“We were sitting behind them and they kept saying stuff like ‘shame’ or ‘boo’ and then they would sit back and mutter ‘shame, woman’ under their breath, and other derogatory things. Other members of the Glasgow Union were sitting around them; they could hear but they didn’t do much.” Instead, those around Kitty tried to diffuse the situation, excusing the hecklers’ actions.

Then it came to the open floor debate, in which audience participation is encouraged. “They took the first point from the guy who everyone there knew to be one of the hecklers, and started sarcastically making comments about treating women as equals.”

This was the final straw. “Not only did they not kick him out, not only did they ask us not to say anything, but then you ask the guy who you know is going to be rude to speak first.

“I stood up afterwards but the president was not going to take my point from the floor.”

Only after pressure from the members in the chamber was she allowed to speak. This apparent lack of pro-activism by those present irritated Parker-Brooks. “We have debates on sexism all the time; it’s frustrating that they’re so good at debating sexism on an intellectual level – but when it actually happens, they don’t do anything,” she said.

In front of the chamber, she openly directed her anger at the GUU hecklers: “I told them: there is a massive difference between being technically equal and actually being treated as an equal. The fact that you were yelling shame and booing is horrible.

“What you don’t realise is that I heard the other comments you made. I heard you every single time, saying, ‘shame, woman’ to each other. I know you didn’t yell it out in the debate because you know it’s incredibly offensive. If you thought it was acceptable you would have said it. Importantly, at a competition like this – when it was a woman who organised it and when an all-female team topped the scores – I suggest that your comments are not only incredibly harmful and derogatory, but they’re also incredibly misguided.

Regarding the way that journalists have approached the event, she told The Tab: “When you’re reporting on women standing up for themselves, why have you gone from ‘on verge of tears’ to ‘crying’? That never happened. You couldn’t see it on their faces. It was remarkable how they delivered brilliant speeches despite all the heckling.

The Cambridge Union has taken the serious action of demanding an apology and revoking reciprocal membership with the Glasgow University Union. Ben Kentish, the Union President, told the The Tab that the action was appropriate:

Parker-Brooks wants more meaningful action to be taken: “The best thing that was done was that we’ve created a survey for people in debating about sexism in debating. I’m glad that this is being taken seriously and people, particularly guys in debating, are taking it as an opportunity to do something. Liking a Facebook status is fine, that’s great, I’m really glad you’ve liked it, but that’s not what’s going to be what changes things. You have do to more.”

  • Ben Kentish

    has a terribly annoying voice.

  • An oldie but a goodie
  • Oftentimes

    is an unnecessary variant.

  • umm

    can someone explain how shouting “boo” and “shame” is sexist

    • if it is

      directed at a woman because of her gender

    • Because

      it was heckling reserved exclusively for the only two female debaters in the final. Just because something isn’t specifically a misogynist epithet, doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a sexist way.

    • Ruth Graham

      Because the targets were women and women are always victims and it’s always because of their gender. That’s just a fact, you rape apologist.

      • right…

        someone asking a genuine question makes them a rape apologist? Nothing in the comment excused what they did, it was just asking what made it sexist. Persecution complex much?

        • a joke

          please notice me

        • Retard Alert

          Buzz buzz buzz

    • They shouted

      “shame woman”…

  • Rather odd

    a free speech society is making a stance on abusive speech. Maybe we no-free-speech people have finally won…then again they did invite Le Pen to tell us the people of colour are inferior.

    • There is…

      quite clearly a massive difference between expressing an opinion and actively abusing another person, hence why expressing racist/sexist/homophobic views isn’t illegal, but racist/sexist/homophobic abuse is. It’s really not hard.

      • Rather odd

        I don’t know, it seems rather a vague difference to me.

      • Hmm..

        I don’t think its illegal to abuse someone unless the abusee believes there to be a credible physical threat.

        • Credible threat

          “Get that woman out of my chamber!” – I’d call that a credible demand for someone to be physically removed from the room.

  • Unrelated

    Do debating competitions here devolve into the speed talking competitions you can watch on youtube? So stupid…

  • Good to see

    the tab comments are up to their usual standards of lazy bigotry

  • Who


  • The Truth

    This reporting is awful. Read the actual event here, straight from Rebecca, the King’s student involved.

  • John

    I think there might be a grain of truth to the idea that, on average, men make better rhetoricians than women.

    After all, men do make better leaders on average than women, as evidenced by the fact that women generally prefer to be subordinate to men in relationships. Women tend to want men to be strong and make them feel safe, women tend to want men to take the initiative romantically and sexually, etc.
    That division of labour is just the outcome of biology. Men have testosterone and women have oestrogen. Of course this will create mean differences between the sexes.

    I don’t know why some people get so upset about this stuff.

    • Please,

      tell me more about how you managed to account for society telling men and women to fulfil those specific roles in your no-doubt expansive and detailed scientific study of what everyone wants from a relationship.

      • John

        Conventional gender dynamics arose in society because they suited most of the people in that society.
        If most women were biologically predisposed to a mindset where they didn’t mind if men were meek, timid and didn’t take the initiative and men similarly generally were predisposed to wanting a strong woman to make them feel safe and take the initiative, then society would have instead developed such that the conventional image or notion was that men were swept off their feet by women rather than the opposite.
        But you don’t have to hear it from me if you don’t want to. Here’s a documentary series that examines the biological basis behind a number of observed social phenomena.

        • Science

          Listen John, it’s just not working out between us. I thought you knew me, but now it seems you don’t understand me at all.

    • Matthew Sawyer

      Yes. one has to ask why if single sex male private schools dominate, why their female equivalents do not have strong debating clubs. Why (if the article is correct) most females engage in their first debate in their first year at uni? I would suggest, along similar lines to yourself, that debating is a very competitive activity where, unlike much of the modern education system, the natural desire of males to show off and compete is allowed freer rein. With this, where very strict rules do not apply, then you’ll get some of the boorishness that is seen at other events where males preponderate such as sports.

      Further, is it perhaps ironic, that feminism itself has some responsibility for this discourtesy to women? Feminism and the sexual freedom and procreative freedom that came with it, has removed most of the social mores that previously regulated conduct between men and women. This makes much of male/female interaction a game directed at short-term intercourse under a theatrical display of interest for the duration of the game. Respect for women as an abstraction, in and of themselves, is not likely to be at the forefront of a late teen’s mind. This is one of the gift’s of the feminist project as are a range of other social areas such as marriage.

      Apols for typos, can’t be bothered reading through a three centimeter box.

  • Tab TV

    Clearly only had one camera for the Ben Kentish invterview

  • JD
  • Logical student

    You purposely go looking for a shit night out, what the fuck is wrong with you?

  • Bertie von Bertestron

    Exeter locals are SCUM, aren’t they…

  • hordes of intoxicated locals

    Anna Romanska and Iona Bepey. You my friends are fucking idiots. No wonder some of the “intoxicated locals” go student bashing. The pubs you have mentioned are the pubs you can have a laugh in. Get a life

  • Anon

    If the average IB offer at Exeter (38 IB points) is equivalent to AAAAA at A Level (whilst the average offer for A Level students is A*AA-AAB), surely this suggests that A Levels are harder than IB overall, therefore defeating your point? Why else would we be given “lower” grade offers?

    As a matter of fact, 38 IB isn’t equivalent to 5 As at A Level at all..

    • Actually

      there was a study recently published that confirms all of the above facts. And the reason that UK universities ask for higher IB grade points is because they don’t understand the system and the extra requirements made of students in it. Often, in many subjects, the top grade in IB (a level 7) is harder to achieve than an A* at A-Level. While that’s not the case across the board, it’s still a fact for highly subscribed to courses such as English, History, Chemistry, and Maths.

      Here’s the link I was talking about:

      • Lizzie

        Never trust the Daily Mail.

  • IB survivor

    a levels is a joke

    • Heidi

      A levels *are a joke.

    • hmm…

      I think someone needs to do Standard Level English again.

  • phillipe

    if you think IB is hard you should try French Baccalaureate

  • ‘You remember really important things that teach you about the value of not just being a good student, but a good citizen. And just a good human being, who is aware of issues that society is facing, and more importantly, is interested in them.’ so are you implying that A-level students are not good people?

  • Guest

    for some reason it won’t let me reply directly to you, Anna.

    Dail Mail, really? Not exactly a reliable or credible source.

    What about
    “results from the IB will generally be equivalent to the following: grades A, A, B or A, A, A in British A-levels will be considered equal to 38 points in the IB”

    Or http://www.timeshighereducatio
    “…38 IB points – the equivalent of A*AA at A level”

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say that UK Universities “don’t understand” the IB system, I imagine they’re pretty clued up on all examination systems that are permitted in university applications.

  • Guest

    Dail Mail, really? Not exactly a reliable or credible source.

    What about for example?
    “results from the IB will generally be equivalent to the following: grades A, A, B or A, A, A in British A-levels will be considered equal to 38 points in the IB”

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say that UK Universities “don’t understand” the IB system, I imagine they’re pretty clued up on all examination systems that are permitted in university applications.

    • anonymous

      Not sure exactly what you’re referencing here about sources, but if it is the a-level grade / IB point score comparison, how about ucas tarrif points? IB 38 points: 567, one A is 120 – making ‘AAA’ equal 360 – not exactly what I’d call equal. And applying with IB definitely confuses some university admissions boards – I even heard an Oxford admissions officer say ‘we don’t really like to consider standard-level IB subjects as qualifications’. I kid you not.

  • Anon

    The only thing harder than IB is my cock whenever I think about how amazing I am at everything – Every IB Student

    • yo

      Yep. And that’s because I am. Jog on.

  • Person

    “It all turns you into a better human being”. Not sure what your definition of “better” is but you sound like a right pretentious cunt to me.

  • Lizzie

    Why is there constant competition over which is better? Surely they’re both challenging in their own way? I’d have to say that unless someone has completed both A Levels and IB then your opinion is invalid and this article is void. Next.

  • anonymous

    Having done the IB, I don’t agree with a lot of these points. It definitely doesn’t necessarily make you a well-rounded person, purely because you have less free time = less time for extra-curricular activities. I think it’s a shame that this is formulated in such a ‘I’m-better-than-everyone’ way, because ultimately the IB is a good (and difficult!!) program, which could be shown to be so without sounding so pretentious. However, comments insulting all IB students are just as ridiculous. At the end of the day – we’re all at one of the top unis in the UK now, so who even cares whether you did IB or A levels? Just focus on your current degree and grow up…

  • guest

    People have got to stop being outraged by shit/poorly researched articles. You’re on the Tab, what did you expect…

  • yeah ok

    I did the IB, yeah it got me into university, but it also gave me severe anxiety and depression. I don’t know if I’d’ve been better off with A-levels, but what’s done is done. One is not ‘better’ than the other, it’s about personal choice. I wanted to stay general with my subjects so I chose the IB.

  • Anon

    Look how highly ranked IB is in terms of UCAS points. Not from the Daily Mail, but direct from the UCAS website.

  • Well-Travelled-Student

    Actually, as a student that did both (I had to move in the middle of my IB and was forced to take A-levels instead), I can wholeheartedly confirm that IB is MUCH more difficult- both in workload and subject content. I did the regular amount of A-Levels, but because I started late, I had to do AS and A-Level for 3 subjects- in 2 MONTHS.
    And because I was used to the IB, I was fine.

    This is coming from a student that never even FINISHED her IB education- supposedly the second year is even harder, and students that survive that really have achieved something awesome- pat yourselves on the backs, former IB-ers. You deserve it.

  • anon

    Yet another example of IB smugness. Your paragraph on grade requirements and how it’s “unfair” to demand 38 is particularly out – it’s definitely not the equivalent of 5 A grades. Yes the world average is 32-34, but Exeter is not an average university. And as for universities valuing IB students, I’ve seen so many IB students get rejected for subjects like medicine over A level people because they’re not specialising enough. Don’t cheapen how difficult A levels are – anyone who has done them and achieved good grades will tell you that it’s also incredibly hard and stressful.

  • Anon

    The fact you think 38 points at IB is equivalent to 5 A’s at A2 is hilarious. Seems like you’ve forgotten to add on AS level points to your calculation. Using the UCAS tariff points, 38 is 567 points, which is 2 years of study. An A at AS level= 60 and a B=50. At A2, an A= 120 and a B=100. Not even going to bring the A* into it, which actually works out to be higher than a 7. But anyway, using simple maths, 2 A’s and 2 B’s at AS level plus 2 A’s and a B at A2 level is equal to 560 points, which is roughly equivalent. And those grades are pretty average. Therefore to what you’re trying to say in this article…. just no. At the end of the day, as long as you got into the uni you want, it doesn’t really matter. Just annoying when people who have done IB think they’re so much cleverer… yes you have a greater range of knowledge, but it’s not as in depth as the same subject at A level.

  • anon

    Can’t help but feel that this comment is patronising at best: ‘IB isn’t for everyone (neither are A-Levels), so if you feel like you’re better suited to three or four subjects rather than seven, then that’s completely fine and that’s completely up to you.’ Thanks for your approval. I think you’ll find that they’re actually just as hard as each other. As an A Level student having studied Maths, English, History and Chemistry I think i can say I am just as well rounded. I also managed to do your ‘CAS’ off my own back; surely it’s better to take up community service and creative and active hobbies voluntarily rather than to tick a box for a qualification?

  • Anon

    ‘IB is better than A-level’ said the person who has no experience whatsoever of actually doing A-levels……..

  • exeterlyf

    ew what a snotty bitch.

  • Anon

    You got into university, why does it matter?

  • Physicists and Mathematicians

    Fucking arts students.

  • Man is tired of Miles

    Good title, shit article.

  • I don’t know why I read this.

    Genuinely appalling article

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  • Ben

    ‘a law degree at the age of 91 back in 2012, only to go and break his own record by completing a masters aged 97’

    So he completed his masters in 2018 then? Fucking idiot.

    • D

      was literally just about to write this…

  • bristolroad

    crime rates do not necessarily make a road a dangerous place to live. clearly much of the crime on bristol road will be caused by people using the pubs, etc. rather than burglary.nnnI lived on Bristol road two years ago and never had a problem, in fact there’s more police there than any other road and it’s always busy so i’d say in terms of burglary it’s the safest road to live.

  • User

    This is silly, obviously Bristol Road is going to be highest as it has the highest concentration of shops, pubs etc so its not necessarily a threat to live there and likewise Heeley Road has the Train Station, duh. Also why is it surprising that Tiverton Road has 1 crime because its popular with students? Being popular with students doesn’t equal crime, lol.

  • 2 time Rookery Resident

    “Rookery and Alton seem like a pretty safe bet, with only 6 crimes committed on each throughout the year”

    Except one of those crimes was the murder of an 18 year old?

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  • Used to go to school with you

    Youre an absoloute neek mate

    • Conrad Young

      ‘Mate’ get on my level, you obviously can’t handle my fast track life.

  • Harry

    Now that’s what i call edgy 54

  • d

    Wtf was this

  • pdfxm

    The person who wrote this was definately on drugs, but then so am I as I write this.

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  • No.


  • Robstermd

    If satire it’s about 20 years late.

    If not satire then go fuck yourself.

  • JohnDoe

    clutching at straws, and to top it off it’s poorly written.

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  • yo

    CAS involves both sports and volunteering. And a lot more. So saying that sports+volunteering > CAS is pointless.
    Even looking at grades only, IB students do twice as many subjects, all of which involve continuous assessments, projects and a lot more. IB grade > A-level grade.

  • Jimmy Neutron

    4 years multiplied by £9000(year)^-1 = £36000 = 2 X £18000 = roughly twice the average UK salary

  • Admirer

    With tiny toned waist?? She is bang on!!

  • Joe Miles


    I was working off the assumption of the median salary being 21 grand or so, which is what I’ve heard. The mean is considerably higher than the median due to income inequality et al.

    I was also considering the expense of living costs etc which pushes the price of studying up even higher, especially at a university such as Oxford where the cost of living is much greater.

    This boils down to the fact that we do pay an awful lot of money in a lot of cases to not do an awful lot of work.

  • dfdf

    “Law degree”

    Reading comprehension darling.

  • joshisgay

    shut up boy

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