A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

Sorting through boxes of old stuff, I found (amongst many other gems) some of my speeches from our Sixth Form debates at school. Not having had much to write about of late, I thought I’d type them up and put them on my blog to let old school friends see them, and to have them preserved for my own nostalgia.

As much as some parts make me cringe in embarrassment, I’ve resisted the urge to edit them; they are exactly as I presented them to my class back in 1999, aged about 17 years old. 

The debates were conducted in an official way, with a teacher as the chairperson, two teams with three speakers, a period of open debate, and a concluding speech from each side before the chairperson delivered the verdict. Despite this, they were informal and generally quite good fun, since we all knew each other and half the time didn’t remotely agree with the view we’d been assigned to argue. 

Debate 1: “This house believes that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”


Happily, I was assigned proposition. Phew! And note, for this one, that I went to an all-girls school. The poor chairman was the only man in the room, and was also my A-level French teacher and form teacher. We won the debate in spite of this. ;)

Mr. Chairman, members of the opposition, members of the house; I propose the motion “This house believes that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”.

Mr. Chairman, quite frankly I am appalled by the fact that we are seeing here today three modern young women who, for various reasons I can’t fathom for the life of me, are about to stand up and oppose the said motion. Now, no doubt they have their “reasons” for believing that we, young women ourselves, can’t possibly survive in this big, bad world without a man to look after us. Of course they have beliefs that without the companionship of a caring, generous, romantic, sensitive, mature, good-looking, considerate, thoughtful male – stop sniggering, girls, I’ve heard that they exist! – life simply has no meaning or purpose. Perhaps some members of our opposition here today would just… pine away without a man in their life?! After all, they feel that we “need” a man, don’t they?

And to those poor, misguided souls, may I just say: what century are you living in?!!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t lead a man-free life, and haven’t gone out of my way to avoid members of the opposite sex. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy and girl fall in love… it happens all the time. “All you need is love”, declared the Beatles, and I quite agree. We do need love.

But glancing around at everyone here today, I’m not seeing any particularly attention-starved, unloved wee darlings desperately in need of affection. Still, in case you’re having a particularly bad day, here comes the pep talk: YOU ARE LOVED. Your parents love you. Your friends love you. Your family loves you. Your pet dog/cat/terrapin loves you. Great Aunt Jemima who sends you a pound coin in your Christmas card every year loves you. And in the case of some people I’ve met, YOU might even love you!

So yes, I need love. And you know what? I’ve got love.

Yet they think a woman needs a man. We think they need to get out of the Dark Ages! Don’t they realise what they’re doing by saying that a woman can’t possibly get by in life without a man by her side? They’re undoing decades of hard work by people trying to demonstrate that females are every bit as capable of fending for themselves as males are.

Let’s bring back the days when fathers chose suitable young men for their daughters! Let’s go back to the times when a wife was a man’s possession rather than his equal! Because if you say that you NEED a man, you are saying that you aren’t capable of coping with life by yourself. And if you’re saying that, then either you agree with those unbelievably chauvinistic views, or you’re clinically a complete and utter nervous wreck in need of looking after. And honestly, I’m not sure which is worse!

Seriously, though. We’ve all been brought up in a society where the natural order of things is that you get married, have children, and live happily ever after. Maybe, then, we can forgive these – sorry to say it – naive girls for thinking we all “need” a man in our life. It’s been drilled into our minds since we were 4 years old and taking our Barbie dolls out on dates with Ken.

But we here in the proposition say it’s time for you to stop doing things out of tradition and start to think for yourselves. You’re about to leave school, and probably home too, to take control of your own life. Now, I’m afraid to say that if you’re planning on doing that while thinking at the back of your mind “need man – must find man – got to have man”, I really don’t think you’re going to get very far!

As Rebecca will discuss later, “need” and “want” are two very different things – yet I think that the opposition may have got them mixed up. I know that I, for one, like the thought of maybe meeting the man of my dreams some day. I like the idea of romance, the pleasure of sharing your life with a partner. But I can tell you now, I’m not going to spend my life in a desperate search for one. If it doesn’t happen, so be it. My life won’t fall to pieces.

Like most girls my age, I’m looking forward to my future. I’m looking forward to going to university, to travelling to other countries and seeing a bit of the world, to finding an interesting and worthwhile job, and to forming friendships with people I’m going to meet along the way. Does any of that sound to you like I need a man to make it happen?

Maybe, somewhere in the course of all that, I will meet a man I want to settle down with. But maybe I won’t. It’s just something that might happen, not something that has to happen. My life will hardly be empty if it doesn’t.

So, Mr. Chairman, a woman does indeed need a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Members of the house, I urge you not to let these poor, misguided people here convince you that you are worth any less without a man, or that your life won’t be complete until there’s a wedding ring on your finger. Being single is not a crime, and I can assure you that society will not fall apart if you reject the idea that you “need a man”. You can live your life the way you want to, whether that means you want a man in it or not… and – with apologies for ending on a cliché – you go, girls!