For City College’s 30th annual Lancaster Public Speaking Tournament, speeches expressing feminist perspectives were the biggest winners.
Caroline Guldbrandsen earned first place for her speech encouraging women to reappropriate the word ‘bitch’ as a means to empowerment, while Tillie McCallick was the runner-up for describing the idea of virginity as a damaging social construct. The event was held Friday night with an audience that filled the Fé Bland Forum in the Business and Communication Building on West Campus.
“This event is important because it allows us to hear student voices,” said Bailey Wilmer, student director of the tournament. “It enables us to reach out to the public and provide commentary on diverse ideas.”
This year’s theme, “Shifting Boundaries,” prompted 270 students to enter their own persuasive speeches into the competition. Of the original 270, five finalists spoke at the event while weaving together facts and visuals displayed on a large screen behind them.
According to a panel of five judges, none were as convincing as Guldbrandsen.
“You could be a perfect bitch like Kim Kardashian. You could have a resting bitch face like Queen Elizabeth II,” she said. “Or you can be Hillary Clinton, a woman often accused of being a bitch because of her ‘manly’ approach.”
Guldbrandsen explained that although the word has historically negative connotations, instead of trying to ignore it women can claim ownership and reframe ‘bitch’ to mean something powerful.
“If being a bitch means that I go after what I want, that I act on my own agenda and that I’m independent,” Guldbrandsen said. “People, I am here today to declare to you all that I am a bitch.”
Other finalists’ spoke on freethinking subjects ranging from the need for support of transgender youth, cases of justifiable dishonesty, and the concept of marriage as an outdated and illogical institution.
While all five contestants received cash prizes, Guldbrandsen took home the most with $1000 and second place speaker McCallick received $500 for her entry.
“Virginity and the emphasis we place on it decreases self-esteem,” said McCallick. “When we think about virginity and we give it a lot of power as a construct, we put people into boxes.”
According to her, the concept encourages gender stereotypes in an unequal and harmful manner, where guys are applauded for having sex while girls are subject to harsh criticism for the same action.
“It’s something we made up,” McCallick said. “It doesn’t define who you are, it doesn’t make you a better person or a lesser person.”
Each speaker was introduced by Cathie Carroll, assistant professor of interpersonal communication, who is retiring this year.
“They all push boundaries, they challenge the status quo and they’re proud to do it,” Carroll said. “That kind of non-conformist talk just really takes me back to the good ol’ days.”
The tournament was sponsored by the Lancaster Fund, Union Bank and the Foundation for SBCC.
“This [tournament] really empowered me. I’m more confident with myself, with my ideas,” Guldbrandsen said. “I’m now able to stand up on stage and formulate a message that I’m really passionate about.”