Video transcript
@The Arts Unit Art Bites – Stop rebutting yourself – secondary debating – 05. With Emily Kim

>> Back to video

TONY DAVEY: OK. Hi, Emily. How are you going?

EMILY KIM: Hi. I'm doing very well. Thank you so much for having me.

TONY DAVEY: No, please, it's super exciting. I remember this debate, and it is a great debate. So, can we begin? If you want to start just by telling us a little bit about yourself, what are you up to in debating?

EMILY KIM: Sure. So, I'm Emily, as Tony just mentioned. I am currently in my third year of university studying law and neuroscience. I've been debating since late high school, and I participated obviously in the Premier's Debating Challenge, as you'll see in a second. I also was a member of the combined high school's team in Year 11 and 12. And then in university, I've also continued debating, and just last year I was really fortunate, and I was awarded best speaker at the Australian Inter Varsity Debating Championship. So, that's my favourite achievement to date, but I've definitely kept it up, still enjoying it, looking forward to doing more.

TONY DAVEY: No, that's great to hear. Fantastic. So together, we're going to watch your second affirmative speech from Years 11 and 12 state final. The topic of the speech is that we should have quotas for women in parliament, which is, first of all, quite a chestnut. So, it's worth noting how this runs. Solid chance you people out there will have to debate something like this at some point. It's also one of the most popular videos on the website. I think it's close to 1,500 people have watched this one through. So, you're like semi-famous.

EMILY KIM: Oh my gosh. It's a bit embarrassing.

TONY DAVEY: Anyway, then this should bump that up nicely. At any rate, are you ready to go watch yourself, then give yourself a bit of feedback, and maybe finally rebut yourself?

EMILY KIM: Yeah, got it.

TONY DAVEY: Fantastic. All right, then. Let's get underway.

[video playback]


Neg wanted to come here and tell you today that Australia is simultaneously a society that is becoming so progressive in terms of gender rights that we already have enough organic change, and also a society that would react with immense and uncontrollable backlash to the idea of having an equal number of women and men in parliament. So, we would question which one is it then? Is it an Australia that would respond with backlash to having 50% women in parliament, or is it an Australia that would support this move because we are already so progressive? That was a major contradiction in their case that we thought they failed to address, and was symbolic of the fact that they are unwilling to recognise that we do think there are still systematic disadvantages in place for women, and Australia is not the all-progressive society that they wanted to talk about.

So, I have two issues of rebuttal today, and one issue of substantive. My two issues of rebuttal are going to be how our model's going to actually play out in government, and the second one is about social perception and backlash. And then my substantive point will be about how our model will effectively empower women in broader society.

So, on this question of how this is actually going to play out in government, So firstly, they wanted to briefly raise the question of independence. So, we would stand for independence potentially also having to find like a female to run with, as we stated would happen in various other parties. But what they wanted to push from very early on is that conservative women who were going to get voted in will not push for things that are necessarily pro-gender equality, things that are not considered traditionally feminist.

Firstly, we would disagree to an extent. We think that even if they are conservative women, they would probably still support women's rights to an extent, because we thought the neg's first speaker severely underestimated the extent to which gender inequity actually impacts and hurts women's lives. We thought whether you are a progressive or a conservative woman, you are going to have had some experience of how gender inequity has led you to be unfairly disadvantaged, unfairly hurt, unfairly pushed back, because of the nature of the systematic oppression that we have to exist in. So, we thought to an extent they would still stand for women's rights. They would still vote for, say, pro-women policies even if they didn't champion it as loudly as the liberal politicians that may be more openly pro-feminist.

But, we thought even if they weren't to support all pro-women policies, even if they were to come in and, say, once in a while vote against something that may be considered traditionally feminist, we think it is still important to have the voice of women represented in whatever party it is, even if it is conservative. We would still prefer to have 50% conservative women and 50% conservative men debating the merits of the tampon tax rather than a 100% conservative men debating the merits of the tampon tax.

Furthermore, they then wanted to talk to you about how women will be pushed to promote only women's issues and be very pro-affirmative action for women because they will believe that that was the grounds that they were elected on. Firstly, this, again, was a major contradiction in their case, because they then wanted to tell you that women would not want to champions women's rights because they were afraid of backlash. So again, which is it?

But furthermore, we would say that if it is true that women who are elected and are initially pushed to only promote, say, women's rights and for a period of time be really pro-affirmative women's rights, we would still say that is important to have, because historically we have lacked that to such an extent that we would largely defend it if women wanted to spend the first year or so focusing on women's rights. We think that is sorely needed, and that is part of the reason why we wanted to introduce this quota in the first place.

So, moving onto the second question of social perception, because this forms the bulk of first neg's speech. They wanted to talk about how we will have this huge backlash because we will challenge this perception that we do not live in a true meritocracy. Firstly, as Bella told you, that is literally one of the main purposes of our quota, to show that the government believes that there is not a true meritocracy currently within the Australian system, and to therefore challenge people's views that it is a meritocracy, because that allows them to be complacent about the fact that currently we have a meritocracy. So, if women aren't making it in, that's on their own grounds. We did want to challenge that view. And if that was met with backlash, it was probably because they were confronted by a new perspective that we thought was important to have.

Then they wanted to tell you that, as I just mentioned, that this is going to lead women to move away from championing policies for women because they would be afraid of the backlash that they would be met with. We would disagree, because we think when you have 50% of women in parliament, female politicians have more political capital and will feel more secure and will feel more encouraged to push for policies that support women, because they know they are going to have an audience in parliament that is 50% women. We did not think that they were going to be so influenced by the assumption of backlash that they would no longer want to champion women's rights at all.

We also thought that to an extent, we would agree that Australia's progressive enough that perhaps this backlash would die out after a while. Maybe, yes, initially there would be a little bit of backlash, but we were willing to stand for the long-term benefits that Bella highlighted to you. And lastly, they wanted to tell you that the perception of women will still not be changed and we will still have anti-women sentiment. As I'm about discuss, we will only have a change in perception if we implement our model.

So, moving onto my point of substantive, how does our model effectively empower women in broader society? So, four main reasons. Firstly, because they are now directly impacted by policies that are going to take into greater consideration the rights and needs of women. So, that meant we were going to now have a platform for women's voices to be heard. What did that look like? That meant things like the tampon tax was now going to be seriously considered to be repealed. Things like sexual reproduction rights, paternal leave, things about sexual abuse, as we recently saw, is such a huge problem for women in universities, were going to be considered much more seriously, and we are probably actually going to get policies reflecting those concerns. So, there was a clear advantage there.

But secondly, we also thought it is very important for young girls to have role models in parliament, to be able to look at the government and say, look, my country is run and half by people where half of them actually look like me and think the same way as me. So we thought, for example, when Julia Gillard became prime minister, that was an incredibly meaningful thing for a lot of young girls who may be interested in politics. We thought we were more likely to have more female people running for politics if they thought they actually had a chance of getting in, and they felt like their views were now being represented and voted into parliament.

Thirdly, we also thought that this creates a really strong social message from the government. So, what did that look like? This meant that now the government is sending a very strong message about the fact that, firstly, they recognise that there is gender inequality in society, that they care about taking a firm stance on women's rights, and further, more importantly, that they believe women are qualified. When a government passes a law like this like our model, it shows that they believe that women are qualified enough to take up 50% of seats like within parliament. So, we thought that this would largely counteract this whole belief that this is not a meritocracy, because the government is saying, look, you know what, we think having 50% of women is still a meritocracy because we think they're able to do things just as well as men. We thought that is really important, because that is much more likely to reflect into other sectors of society, such as business. As we mentioned at first, that is an area that is sorely lacking in female leadership, and we thought that was only going to be achieved when we see that the highest level of the power structure within Australian society sees women as qualified, women as capable. As long as the Australian government isn't willing to take a firm stance on that, neither will any other sectors in society.

And finally, our model's going to empower women because of the way in which we currently characterise leaders. So, we thought a major problem, and this addresses their whole point about the perception of leaders, is we have largely an echo chamber in which male voices in politics reinforce male voices and only make it possible for male voices to rise. What did that look like? That looked like society believing that only males were qualified to be leaders, that characteristics that are traditionally associated with males, such as male patterns of speech and male stances, would just automatically assumed to be the qualities of a good leader. That was the reason why we did not get a perception change of women currently and why we have anti-women sentiment when they go into parliament, because the behaviours that they demonstrate are just automatically assumed to be not the ones that make up a good leader, because we see male characteristics to be those that create good leadership.

So, what this does is this permeates into the rest of society, and we think it's very important that we have 50% of women in leadership positions so we are able to demonstrate that traditionally female characteristics are also legitimate qualities for leaders to have and that those qualities can also make an extremely good leader. And that was the only way we were going to change the perception of women in parliament is, when we actually put them in, allow them to achieve things so people can see that, yes, women are able to have a really important and positive role in running our country.

So, because I've told you that government will function better and more positively under our model, that social perception is not firstly the problem they want to make it out to be, but also we think would only change under our model, and because our model is the only one that empowers women in broader society right now, we are so proud to propose.


[end playback]

TONY DAVEY: OK. An excellent speech I thought there. You were probably a little bit too harsh on yourself in some of these comments. So, now are you ready to give a little bit of feedback to your former Year 12 self about how that speech could have been improved before we do some rebuttal?

EMILY KIM: Yes. Yes, definitely. I think I have a couple of things. I guess I'll start with some things that I thought were pretty good, and I think especially, I think you're probably right that I am being a bit too hard on myself. And I think it's the curse of anyone who does any activity is you always think you're the worst at it. But, I think if I was watching a Year 12 student give the speech, there would be things I would definitely say you did a good job on.

So, I think firstly, I think there was some good second speaker substantive, and the reason I point that out is I've heard a lot of debaters, I think myself included, for some time say things like, second speaker substantive doesn't really matter. Just chuck in a social messaging point. You're done, good to go. And I think while it is totally fair to give a second speaker speech with no substantive, and I think I've seen a lot of good second speakers give very rebuttal-heavy speeches, I think there are ways in which you can wield substantive material in a debate like this where a lot of first speaker's speech will be taken up by actually proving those core outcomes, like that we will get policy or that people will not respond with backlash. Then you can give yourself a little bit of room at second speaker to then bring in some interesting other points of substantive.

Yes, so things like, for instance, rehashing some of the role model stuff and talking about how that carries into other fields, because parliament house is a place where the eyes of the nation are constantly on them, which means if you're a little girl, it not only inspires you to maybe become PM, but it might inspire you to, I don't know, become a professor because you think, wow, women are really good at getting up and speaking in front of people or things like that.

And then I think, as I mentioned in the watching, I think the substantive about transforming the way that people view traditionally masculine and feminine traits in regards to what is appropriate for leadership is an interesting piece of substantive that probably would have gone amiss in a first speaker speech for this topic. So, I think it was a good idea to pick that up at second. And like I said, I almost wish I'd spent a little bit more time impacting that, because I do think it's really interesting. So, I think some good second speaker substantive there.

And I think on the whole, it was actually pretty efficient. Like, I think I got through quite a lot, and I tried to avoid fluffing around I think as much as possible. So, I didn't spend too long on things that I maybe felt we'd already proved earlier, or if I knew that there was something my third speaker would have to go over again anyway. I think I moved past those things a little bit quicker. So, I think it's important to always consider your speech as being in the context of a team. So, there are people who have spoken before you, and there will be people who will speak after you, if you're a second speaker, who can cover some of those holes as well. So, when I say efficient, don't just prioritise racing through every single thing in the debate. Rather, kind of think to yourself, what things do I have to respond at this specific point in the debate, and what things can wait maybe. Cool, so I think that those are the things that I was pretty happy with.

In terms of some things I think I could have improved on, I mentioned this earlier as well, but I had this tendency to keep calling things contradictions when they're just not really contradictions. So, for instance, you'll hear that I said at the very beginning of my speech, and you can tell I thought was super important, because I made it my entire intro, that I say, this opposition team says that Australia's really progressive. So, we're heading towards organic change anyway and we will have more females in parliament in due time. But, the opposition also says that Australia will be angry if we have this quota in place, because they're actually still quite sexist and they'll see it as giving unfair positions to women.

So, I said this was a contradiction, and as I mentioned earlier, it's actually not a contradiction. It's what we call nuance, right? So, the opposition team is recognising that it's probably true that Australia is far more feminist than maybe ever before in history. And yes, we are on a positive trajectory, however, if you step in the way of that natural trajectory and say, actually, we're going to force this change maybe years before it's due to happen organically, then people will think it's unfair and that it was something that was kind of intercepted by the government and it was pushed on the people. So, I think that I probably should have been a little bit more generous with their discussion of those different cases, and I think that continues throughout the speech.

So, some other tips I would give myself would be to take the opposition at their best. So, I often represented their points I think slightly more at extremes than maybe what they actually said. So, I was like, it's not true that these women will only champion women's rights, or it's not true that they'll constantly feel pressured, but the opposition never said that they would constantly feel pressured or they'd always champion women's rights only. They said they may be pressured to behave in this way most of the time, or their experience may predominantly be characterised by this or that. And I think if I'd actually responded to those versions of the arguments, I think my rebuttals would have been far more effective and would have felt more like I was engaging with the debate as it was happening, and I think I could have done the same thing that the other team does and give best case and worst case scenarios of things.

So, rather than just trying to drive home the one scenario that we envisioned in our head is happening, which was like perfect feminist utopia, maybe it would have been better for me to consider, but let's just say at the very worst case scenario, yes, like there's backlash, yes, these women aren't able to pass a lot of their policies, what then? Why is that still better than what we have right now? And that could be things like the role model stuff. Like, it is still important to see a woman's face during debate time on TV, things like that. So, talking about what can happen in the whole spectrum of possible scenarios.

And finally, I think I could have just explained some things step-by-step in a little bit more of a concrete way. So, rather than just using. So, because I'm also a public speaker, I think I have the tendency to kind of rely a little bit too much on rhetoric at times, and I used a lot of phrases that sound very nice, I think, but I think some of those things I could have broken down a bit more. So, for instance, saying that it's important to have women's voices in parliament because it will mean maybe we can repeal things like the tampon tax. So, maybe I could have actually given concrete examples of what would a woman sitting in that room maybe say in the middle of a house speaker's speech. What kind of question would they ask that would mean that it brought forth an issue that had not been considered before?

So, for instance, maybe they would say something like, but hang on, so if you think about how often we have to use, for instance, menstrual products throughout the month, often you have to change them this many times, or you go through this many boxes. So, I could have given some more examples of how than actually being there would have led to that outcome rather than saying, well, we'll repeal the tampon tax, and obviously repealing the tampon tax is amazing. And I kind of said why that outcome is very good without necessarily proving all the way that we would definitely get that outcome.

So, I think those are the things that would have strengthened this speech a little bit. But, on the whole I'm pretty happy with it, and I think I seemed to have been enjoying giving it.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, I think that's true as well. It did look fun. And that was, yeah, spectacular feedback. We can all learn a little bit from that. So, thank you. I guess now the only thing left is to go back and rebut your former self. Do you reckon you're ready to go?

EMILY KIM: Yeah, sounds good to me.

TONY DAVEY: Excellent. All right, let's go destroy Year 12 you. Here we go.

EMILY KIM: Panel, it is not a contradiction to say that you love a particular food, but you wouldn't want somebody to make you eat it every day. This opposition team fails to realise that when we say that Australia is on a positive trajectory towards organic change, we mean that that is the kind of change that is likely to happen in an increasingly progressive society anyway. We do not mean, therefore, that that population is then equally likely to accept this kind of affirmative action, something that is seen by many people as something that the government is forcing down their throats. Even though it is true that some statistics show that, for instance, even under 50 years we could have a parliament that naturally fills with 50% women on its own accord, we do not think that means that this population is necessarily prepared for the kind of affirmative action for the kind of quota that this opposition team wants to force onto the population. Even if it is a positive thing, it is still something that is being forced by the government, and we think that perception is particularly harmful.

So, what we think, at the end of the day, is, yes, this model does achieve the number of 50% of women in parliament maybe a few years earlier than we would in our world, but at what cost? We tell you that this backlash is not just bad because it makes the women sad, even though obviously we should see it as a harm if female politicians are being constantly beaten down by backlash every day of their political careers, but we also tell you it's harmful because it prevents them from passing the kinds of effective policy that this team wants to rest their hat on. And it also grinds the kind of organic change that we tell you is already occurring to a halt. That is bad, because it means we take one step forward and two steps back. We do not think that is a compromise we ought make.

And that's why when they tell you that, oh, they would still prefer 50% of women in parliament over no women in parliament debating over a particular policy matter, but they never explain why that is true, they expose the flaw in their own model, which is they get nothing but a number and all of its harms.

So, a few things in this speech. Firstly, on what they tell you about how conservative women are still likely to vote in a way that is largely in line with the feminist movement due to the fact that they have personally experienced the day-to-day struggles of gender oppression, while that is true that they have personally experienced that oppression, and we never said that they did not experience that oppression, we don't think that is enough to necessarily push you to actually vote for, and even at a higher barrier, to actually propose those sorts of policy reforms for a few reasons. Firstly, these are women who opted to join a conservative party which often has anti-affirmative action types of policies. They selected to join that party as opposed to a more progressive party. So, there is some extent to which their, for instance, experience of oppression will be mediated by other beliefs that, for instance, the government should not intervene in those kinds of matters.

But secondly, even if they still personally, deep down, held quite feminist views and wanted to propose those kinds of radical changes, there would be quite a lot of external party and voter pressure to not necessarily do so, or at least not do so the vast majority of the time. The reason is because even if, yes, you are a woman who has been quoted into this position, your voters are still voting for a conservative party. You are still a politician representing those voters, and your party and your voters will want you to still largely vote in line with those party's ideals. That will be a significant restriction on those women, because it obviously means that they compromise their political careers if they do not do so. We think that incentive would probably be stronger than the desire to just speak up as an activist, because if that was truly their primary passion, there would have been many other avenues for them to achieve that kind of progressive activism. They did not select to do that. That's why we think those other incentives are likely to come into play much more with these particular women.

Note here, then, that this is not just a net neutral, oh, those women do not push for feminist policy, because we think the actual outcome is that you have a lot of internal disagreement between women of both sides of the house who have been quoted into parliament. That is not just nothing. That is an active harm for the reason that the eyes of the country will be on the women who have been quoted into parliament to see how good of a job they do. Infighting between those women feeds into stereotypes about women being unable to compromise, being catty, and we think that is actually an active of harm that we would want to avoid. Even if women were going to disagree with one another 50 years into the future when they were organically voted in, at that point they would not experience the same kind of scrutiny they would under this model, and we think that this team actually actively increases the risk of those women being viewed in a negative light.

They then tell you that, well, actually, we think there will be external pressure to vote for or to pass changes that are pro-feminist, and that is good pressure because it makes up for years of historical oppression and a failure to have those kinds of policies. While maybe there may be some pressure, for instance, particularly for progressive women politicians, to pass those kinds of policies, we think that pressure is also bad. Why? Firstly, because you are likely to have disagreements with women on the other side of the house and you are feeling the pressure to pass these policies quickly, not only are you likely to have poorly-thought-through or poorly-worded reforms because you are in a hurry to pass them, but you're likely to continue to water them down in an attempt to just get them voted through, because you know that a radical feminist policy that maybe is very important and maybe would have been passed in 20-30 years would not pass now, especially when people think, well, you've already been quoted in. What more do you want?

That means you're likelier to settle for a far worse form of that policy which then once is passed, you can clap yourself on the back and say that you passed that policy, but again, at what cost? Maybe we could have had a far better form of that policy come naturally that would have been agreed to by everyone in the house, but now we just have kind of like a bastardised version of that policy that is now stuck in the law, and that is seen as being the one that women want and the one that is best for Australia. So, we think it is not true that the types of pressure operating on these women would play out in the way that this opposition team says.

But, let's move on to the more important part of this debate about backlash. So, they tell us that this model sends a strong message that the status quo is not a meritocracy and needs active fixing, therefore that is likely to counter people's initial backlash. We think this functionally misunderstands the way that people actually work, which is just because the government does a policy, it doesn't mean everyone says, oh yeah, that's probably correct then, or even understands the message in the way that the government intended. That's for the reason that people in democratic countries like Australia often see their democratic right to vote freely and in a way that they desire as being a very inherent and important one to them that should not be interfered by the government. That means that this taps into something that people think is a fundamental part of being an Australian living in the Australian democracy. We do not think that people will take as kindly or as generously to the kind of message that the government wants to send.

Rather, most people are likely to understand this as meddling by the government in a way that is unnecessary, as leaning into progressive pressure, and doing so in a way that interferes with Australians from all walks of life. It is not true that a policy alone is enough to counter the kinds of backlash that would occur anyway. But then they say, well, we do in a long term way still counter that backlash, because now girls have positive role models, which means that they are likelier to enter careers that they wanted to despite all of this backlash. And also, we are able to show that, for instance, feminine traits are also good leadership traits, and we diversify what are considered good leadership traits. So, those things counter that kind of backlash in the longer term.

We also think this is not true for a few reasons. Firstly, for the reason that if you are a girl looking for a role model, you are unlikely to feel as much support or encouragement seeing a woman who people around you tell you has been quoted into parliament because she couldn't make it in on her own, people who are constantly getting tweeted out or written headlines about in a way that demonises those women, which we tell you is likely to happen because of that kind of backlash. If you are a little girl looking at that politician you are not going to feel like you want to do the same thing. You are going to be not only scared, but you're going to generally become disenfranchised in that system, and you're not going to want to opt into it. We think that will add on top of the kinds of infighting and conflict that we tell you is going to be particularly bad in this world that the opposition team wants to create.

So, we don't think it's true that just having a role model in parliament is enough. You want those role models to succeed, to be viewed in a way that is positive, or at least largely positive. That is not going to be the case if you quoted them in and everyone's angry at them. That will be a bad thing for little girls to look up to.

And finally, on diversifying leadership traits, we think that, again, that is not going to be as good as they say if it is clouded by all of these negative things. But, we would also note that you can get those kinds of outcomes in a myriad of different ways that don't make the sacrifices this team's model does, things like grassroots education from an early age, things like subsidising media that portrays women in strong leadership roles. We do not think that tapping into the one part of Australian life that everyone universally thinks is incredibly important to remain free and unbiased is the way to achieve that. This team does not think about the consequences of their actions. They chase a number that is empty and harmful. That is why we must win this debate.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah. So, excellent. Remember if you're out there watching this and you're like a high school debater that you don't necessarily have to judge yourself by the standards of someone who's well into university debating and doing pretty well at it. That was exceptional, Em. Thanks for that. I think your old self would be pretty sad right now.

EMILY KIM: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this self is also pretty embarrassed and sad, but it was nice to see it again. It's nice to live back our fun high school debates, and especially that one with Ellie. It's such a weird feeling seeing her on the other side of the bench, because I've debated with her now in university so many times. So yeah, I guess that's also one thing I'd want to say is just like obviously we were very sad at losing that debate. And I just want to say this for the reason that I was like mega, mega sad. And I know that when you're sitting at that table losing those debates seems like the worst thing ever, but literally, less than a year on, I was debating with one of the speakers on that other team. We were having a great time.

So, I think don't forget, it's one debate out of so, so, so many that you will do. One team always has to win. There are no ties in debating. So, you're not losing the debate. It's just that the other team won that time, and I wish I'd viewed it more that way at the time.

TONY DAVEY: Yeah, good lesson. And also, if you're wondering who Ellie is and Em, you should do this. You can go back and watch one of the earlier videos where she does this, but for primary school Eleanor. Primary school Eleanor was in a final, and it's adorable. All right.

EMILY KIM: Oh my gosh. Really?

TONY DAVEY: Yeah. It's quite something. She was the first one. I'll send you a link. All right, I'll see you later, Em.


End of transcript