Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Feminist Ted Talks

I love Ted Talks. I love that they disseminate information from very well spoken and incredibly smart individuals on a wide variety of topics. (Confession: Ted Talks even helped me formulate ideas for my thesis)  Thus, when I want to procrastinate but don’t want to waste my time on Facebook, I watch Ted Talks.

I find that this technological platform for sharing mini-lectures is vitally important for contemporary feminist movements. I have learned so much about other feminist movements around the world because of Ted Talks. I also believe that Ted Talks are an inviting forum for those who don’t know much about feminism to learn about it in a “safe” and private environment.

So, I’ve listed some of my favorite Ted Talks pertaining to feminism in the hopes that: 1) you learn something new; 2) you realize that other people are doing the same work you are doing (or want to do); 4) listening to other people’s stories inspires you; or 3) you realize that we still need feminism. Regardless of your takeaway messages I hope that you at least realize that the information is out there as long as you look for it. There are some pretty amazing people in this world doing amazing feminist work.

This talk highlights the importance of acknowledging how far we’ve come while also being realistic on how much more needs to be done. Esta Soler, an advocate fighting against domestic violence, discusses the various tactic and technologies that have been used over the past decades to bring awareness of domestic violence which has engaged the public and policy maker while also allowing women to share their stories. She argues that technology, in essence, has made the invisible visible.
*Warning: there is a clip within the talk that portrays a violent scene that can be quite difficult to watch.

This is one of my favorite Ted Talks. Adichie is a Nigerian writer who warns us against the unintended consequences of the single narrative. Hearing a single story and then attributing those characteristics to an entire people or country manages to deny individual experiences and ignore complexity. This silencing of voices and overgeneralization is what leads to misunderstandings or worse outcomes. The message from this talk is transferrable to multiple issues such as sexism, ageism, racism, classism, imperialism, etc. and is vitally important in this day and age.  

McKenna Pope is a 14-year-old girl who started a Change.org petition to have more gender-neutral toys and ended up being successful. She isn’t the most eloquent speaker I’ve seen (alright I actually just got a little anxious just watching her, but to be fair I’m not even that articulate at age 22). But I still thought it conveyed an interesting message: Anyone can be an activist. She talks about the evolution from starting with an idea, to implementing the idea, overcoming discouragement, and ultimately how she became successful.

Yes, another Sheryl Sandberg talk. There are some very interesting messages within this talk, but also some things that I find problematic. She discusses the impact of her first Ted Talk and how her message has changed the lives of women around the world. She also discusses some important double-standard issues in terms of leadership and why that needs to change. But, a quick disclaimer: this talk is riddled with white privilege and completely ignores intersectional oppression in women’s lives. There are also instances of the “white savior complex.” Still interesting to watch though but just be mindful/critical of what you hear.

Kakenya Ntaiya is a Kenyan woman who tells her story about how she made a difference within her community. As a woman who has undergone Female Genital Mutilation (in her own words) she is an advocate for changing the status of women within her own community. After coming back from the United States, she took it upon herself to start a school for girls that could provide a safe and enriching environment for girls. Overall, her message is that we all have the ability to make our own communities better and if we all do our part, this world can be a better place.  

This is the blurb on the site that better summarizes the talk better than I ever could.  Artist iO Tillett Wright has photographed 2,000 people who consider themselves somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum and asked many of them: Can you assign a percentage to how gay or straight you are? Most people, it turns out, consider themselves to exist in the gray areas of sexuality, not 100% gay or straight. Which presents a real problem when it comes to discrimination: Where do you draw the line?”

I must admit, this video is pretty hard to watch. Sunitha Kirshnan starts off with telling the story of three children who have been trafficked and then goes into her own experience with sex slavery. She offers some insight into how these children, women, and men that have been trafficked can be rehabilitated into society. Overall her message is clear: we need to stop “victimizing the victims” and start treating them like human beings.
*Warning: there are some pretty graphic images   

This is another one of my favorites. Isabel Allende is an amazing speaker and her message is powerful, thought provoking, humorous, passionate, and honest. She discusses many women’s issues globally and explains why we still need feminism. I’d highly recommend watching this video.

Happy Procrastinating!

- Michelle Van Veen '14

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