MAASTRICHT. “These people have been unemployed for more than 15 years!”, was one of the participants’ motion during the discussion of gender stereotypes in the workplace and measures to break them. This was the topic discussed during the first round of the Maastricht Open, an international debating event organized by the Maastricht Debating Association Rhetorica.
In this third edition, the participants showed off their debating skills in topics they have only heard about 15 minutes before the onset of the competition. They were randomly assigned to speak in favor or against the topic, despite their personal beliefs. Like every year, the event consisted of both novices and previously trained participants.
Moving back to the gender stereotype debate. The debate was tackled from several points of view including political, ethical, psychological and societal perspectives. Some of the speakers discussed the possibility of men to perform poorly in so called “feminine” caretaking jobs, due to their lack of caretaking abilities, which was thought to cause problems in the workplace. While others argued in favor of cutting welfare benefits to those that refuse to take part in feminine jobs, in order to fight gender stereotypes by showing men that jobs are not necessarily gender specific. The participants were working in teams of two, critically thinking, interrupting the speaker when needed, tapping on the tables to support a well formed argument…a true courtroom, except nobody killed no one!
The enthusiasm of the participants was observed in their natural ability to take roles that do not belong to them but on the other hand seriously considering the need to convey their message to the jury. At the end of each round, the jury got busy choosing the winners, which were assigned points and providing them with constructive feedback for a chance to improve in the rounds to come.
After five rounds, a semi-finale and a finale, the winners were announced based on the points collected throughout the rounds: Roel Becker and Lucia Arce from Leiden University and Scheffield University. Additionally, Brian Wong from Oxford University was awarded with the title of best speaker.