The Tories held their last debate of the semester on Wednesday, November 30, in the Saybrook Athenaeum Room.
Most parties have a “joke debate” once a semester. Refusing to tag anyone of our debates with a name like that, we merely understand that our last debate was supposed to be the funniest by a good measure. Hence the debate topic from the previous term had been “Resolved: Cupid’s Arrows are Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
The topic this time would be the humorous (though potentially serious) resolution: “The Yale Man is Dead, and The Yale Woman Killed Him.”
I was not exactly sure how to gear up for this debate, and so planned no speech in advance. I listened to a Winston Churchill recording as I put on my suit, not with a mind to employ him in the debate, but merely as a relaxation. I took care to remove the crease in my necktie knot – the little dimple is so fashionable that I had to conclude that it must be in bad taste.
I headed over with five minutes to debate time, knowing that this way I would spend no more than ten minutes outside before someone showed up with a key. The debate was for 7:30, and we would start, with classic Tory punctuality, at 8:00.
When the Athenaeum Room was opened there were four or five of us. The provost had gone out of his way to provide some holiday beverages – he had tried hard to get the famously revolting “Holiday Spice” Pepsi. As this had fortunately been unavailable, the special drink of the night turned out to be egg nog.
We spent twenty minutes or so chatting with each other, noting with interest a very strong turnout that included two guests from the Independent Party (including the President of the YPU), one sometime chairman of the p.o.r., the current chairman of the Libs, the Floor Leader of the left, and various other guests. They no doubt expected that a room full of traditionalist Tories would make this debate topic a particularly lively one.
There were around twenty-five people in the room when the chairman gaveled the debate to order. Our secretary, though she would shortly have to leave for a class, was present at the debate’s beginning. She read the minutes from our previous debate, noting particularly that “Mr. Gelernter gave a speech in the negative…well, his own negative.” It was true that I had been the only one to take the negative in our last debate “Resolved: This House Prefers Tyranny to Anarchy” explicitly refusing to endorse either one.
The minutes were amended on a minor point and approved, and the secretary stood to read the topic of the night’s debate:
“Resolved: The Yale Man is Dead, and The Yale Woman Killed Him.”
The chairman asked for speeches in the affirmative, but none were forthcoming. After a considerable silence, the former chairman offered his services, beginning in a jovial spirit: “I had in fact planned to speak in the negative, but the wording of the resolution is such that it should be pretty easy to twist things around.” The former chairman argued that the Yale Man had simply died away as a result of losing the traditional marks of a gentleman and because of the seeming dissolution of classic distinctions between men and women (other than purely animal).
I began to formulate my own speech in the negative along the lines that not only is the Yale Man not dead, but the Yale Woman couldn’t have killed him anyway. I did not, however, volunteer to give the opening speech in the negative, waiting instead to see which way the debate would go.
The first speaker in the negative, the Freshman Drama Tory (hereafter FDT, if I should find occasion to reference him) claimed that the Yale Man did still exist, merely in a different form, and also seemed to suggest that his new state was not necessarily worse than his old one.
The debate had still managed to stay away from the essential point of what it is to be a man. Another speaker in the negative, the chief whip, approached this point by discussing chivalry. He pinned chivalry exclusively to combat, however, while it is actually religion that chivalry cannot exist without.
I tried to volunteer for a negative speech several times without success. Mr. Johnston, a freshman who sat next to me, was also eager to speak. I must have projected such a burning desire to take the floor, however, that he graciously decided to step aside and let me have it. This was very fortunate indeed, for I planned to mention Mr. Johnston in my speech.
When I was finally recognized for a speech in the negative we were two hours into the debate. Nevertheless, no one on either side had succeeded in being very provocative or, I thought, tremendously daring in his assertions. I planned to make a light speech, keeping the humorous intent of the debate in mind. As it turned out, however, I could not help but say certain things that led me to be asked about certain other things, and before I knew it the intensity of the debate had risen considerably.
My opening speech ran as follows:
“The first point to be made is that the Yale Woman could not have killed the Yale Man – she never had the power to do so. If it were not, in fact, for the Yale Man, there would be no such thing as a Yale Woman in the first place – like it or not, women could have beat their fists on Yale’s gates for a thousand years and they would still not be here, if it were not for the Yale Man’s knuckling under, so to speak.
“Fortunately for us, the Yale Man still lives. This is not to say that he is very well, though. He did his level best to commit suicide in the 70s. The Yale Woman couldn’t kill him – he had to do it himself. He stood at the edge of chivalry with the noose of feminism about his neck and prepared to jump. [You should imagine my pacing the floor at this point, making some rather expansive gestures.] He began to forget love of country, honor, and chivalry – and all the things that make a man.
“But now he is beginning to remember these things again. At a debate three or four weeks ago, the word chivalry was spoken on the Tory Floor and someone applauded it. It was Mr. Johnston. And as long as there are men who will clap for chivalry the Yale Man is not dead.
“I believe even that the Yale Man shall grow stronger, as feminism, a blight on civilization is being beaten back. Feminism is truly the most repulsive disaster ever to have befallen our society. But with the coming death of feminism the Yale Man shall return once again to the glory of his former days. And with that I yield the floor to questions.”
I then went on to field what I believe was the largest number of questions any speaker had been asked at any of the debates that year. Over a dozen questions focused on my view of feminism. In the course of questions I gradually made the following argument:
A woman has a responsibility to raise and take care of children. She has a remarkable natural aptitude for this, and inherently cares about children in a manner which men do not: I have often been at some social function or family gathering where a little kid trips and hurts himself, and I always hear someone say “awwww”, expressing sympathy with the little kid who is crying his head off. In my experience, that person has without exception been a female; women are likely to feel a natural impulse to take care of and comfort a kid, whereas the male reaction is normally to wish that the kid would just shut up and stop making so much noise.
Man’s interests and talents lie in other directions. I do not believe that the feminist suggestion that women have simply been suppressed can explain why it is that the greatest scientists, the greatest chess champions, all the winning drivers of the Indy 500, the greatest fighters and military strategists and so on have been men. Men are naturally aggressive and competitive, and therefore well suited to their duty, which is to provide for and protect their families.
Indeed, no self-respecting gentleman can stoop the level of sending his wife to work – of extracting money from her so he can live a more comfortable life, knowing that no matter how little time she may spend at work, there is no job so small that it cannot detract from the attention the child will receive.
Even if the wife is able to get a better job than the husband, it is still the husband’s job to work. On principle, and for the sake of the children whom the mother is uniquely suited to care for, the family will enjoy a lower standard of living in order that both the wife and husband may accept their responsibilities.
For a woman who is capable of making a good living or who enjoys her work, her sacrifice is doubly great and must be noted. It is not easy to be a good mother. It is likely the hardest job of all, and the most important.
I was asked what I would say to a daughter of mine who would tell that she wanted to grow up to have a career as a doctor, and to find new cures for disease. I would tell her that such an ambition is laudable for her concern for others, but that she has even a higher duty, which is to make sure that her children receive from her all they can, and are properly brought up.
I am truly surprised how cheaply these supposedly noble feminists are bought off. In exchange for money and positions of power in business they turn their backs on their children, and force other women to do the same. Ostensibly fighting for humanity, they sell out for cash.
That is the sum of what I said during question time. As you can see, we were little concerned with the actual topic – the Yale Man status is not discussed. At the same time this session was certainly as closely watched, and as much clapped for and hissed at as any other in the debate. It did take guts to say what did, and while I was at the time exhilarated it was a sad point of reflection later on – today it takes guts to say what everybody knew 30 years ago.
Following my speech there was no volunteer for a speech in the affirmative, and so Mr. Johnston took the floor for another speech in the negative. He argued from a copy of William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale, that, while there was hope for the Yale Man, he had died as an institution. He died not because of anything the Yale Woman had done to him, but because he had become an atheist, and could not survive as such. I enjoyed listening to his speech very much, especially because I often noted in his speeches the same sort of religious strain that was in mine.
Following Mr. Johnston’s speech we were ready for a division on the motion. Our chairman looked around the room for a suitable acting sergeant-at-arms, and selected me.
After a brief comment on the general puniness and non-sharpness of the Replacement Temporary Tory Sword, I divided the body simply, with affirmatives to my right, negatives to my left, and abstentions in the middle. Things were rather lopsided in favor of the negatives – it seemed there weren’t many who could agree with both parts of the resolution, namely that the Yale Man had indeed died and the Yale Woman had been responsible. The final vote: three in the affirmative, twelve in the negative, and one abstention. The resolution clearly failed.
Following the decision, the traditional motion to adjourn to Yorkside was made, seconded, and passed. We nevertheless remained in the room chatting for about half-an-hour before moving out.
There were seven of us left at Yorkside. The subject of the debate was still worth discussion; we continued to kick around various points over milkshakes. There were two ladies with us, one a Tory and the other a sometime chairman of the party of the right. I believe it was the latter who pointed out, as it seemed half jokingly, that if we were indeed gentlemen we would be taking the check. For some reason the idea had never popped up before in this circumstance – usually at Yorkside everyone simply pays for what he himself has. Nevertheless I was eager to rectify this careless oversight, and suggested that we start taking the ladies’ tabs, not only at Yorkside but at our Mory’s lunches as well. There seemed to be a majority in favor of this, and while we didn’t formalize the agreement, we made sure both that night and at our Friday lunch that there was no financial burden on the ladies who honored us with their company. I hope that this will become a continuing tradition so that we can truly be a party of ladies and gentlemen.