Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"A Call to Men" at TED Women preaches to choir

I'd heard about the TED Women conference months ago, and just like our towns Bikes Babes and Bling women-specific bike festival (an analog to the "regular" Bikes, Blues and BBQ), it puts a bad taste in my mouth. There's already TED-- so is regular, default TED mean men? Why can't they just get more female speakers normally? And why do women talking about their lives have to be relegated to their own conference? Men talk about their lives all the time-- but their lives are the norm, of course.

I'll admit, the only video I've watched so far is Tony Porter's "A Call to Men", because it was very front-and-center on the page and I was curious why a man talking about what men should do was so central in this women's ghetto.

Yes, good point, all of them, but what does this guy want? A cookie?  We already know and agree with what he's saying, so is this just masturbatory?  I think this talk would have made a lot more sense and actually done something to further the ideas if he'd done this talk at TED (Men).  This is an example with what's wrong and what TED is refusing to fix: if you set women aside and only have those issues be discussed in that homogeneous audience, the people who need to learn the lesson never hear it.  Porter tells an anecdote about a boy who said if his coach called him a girl, he would be destroyed.  Then Porter goes on to say that if this is how a young man would feel being compared to a woman, what the hell are we teaching them about women?

Well, when you set women aside in their own little TED Women conferences, you're teaching TED Men that women don't deserve to be and talk about themselves in the default setting.

Also, I am not saying that what Porter is saying is wrong.  I like him, I like his stories, and to have him going around talking to young men makes me feel pretty good.  I just think the placement in this already wrong-headed (to me) situation wasn't the right choice.  I guess the one who wants a cookie are the male TED organizers.

Would I ever want to give a talk at TED? OMG yes, if I had anything that awesome to say.  So many intelligent, creative people (PEOPLE, gender-neutral) people speak at those conferences, and it would be an honor.  But I think I'd feel slighted if I was put in TED Women instead just because of my lady-bits. Which, this separation says are not the right bits.

****DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS on this video.  For a talk on discrimination, there is a lot of people practicing it in there.  I'm not familiar with the comments on TED's website, but it looks like they are not a friendly place.


  1. I really wish someone would argue with me. That's what I need when I have an idea that's not fully formed.

  2. Ooh. I just saw this. Argument coming up in just a bit.

  3. Hi, Lady D here from Tiger Beatdown. It stings, but what you've said here rings true. I've always been a fan of TED and I've eagerly watched these videos for TED Women as soon as they've posted them.

    I'll admit, I was happy to hear of a TED Women - but you're right, it sets these issues apart, as if TED decided to have a 'Style' section. But outside of the event itself, the great thing about these videos is that they become part of a larger community and disseminated based on tags and subject headings rather than being relegated to one little area. I hope that someone watching a video on, I don't know, education might just get Porter's lecture as a 'suggested video' and (dreaming big here) a mind will be blown.

    As for comments, TED has always had its trolls- usually people who want to argue over minutiae. I never considered it a triggering place, though, until Elizabeth Gilbert did a lovely talk about 'genius'. Whoa, staring into the abyss, I tell you. So when TED Women came up, I predicted that this train wreck might occur. I'm sorry to see that it's true - but perhaps it will awaken this group of techies to the realities of being a woman online.


  4. @freezy- Bring it.

    @Lady D- My post was a little overly-negative, I know. It wasn't against any of the speakers or topics, just the "style section" aspect (excellent phrase) of it. I need to do some more reading to get more insight into what the organizers thought it was a better idea to have a separate conference than to integrate these videos into the "regular" conferences. I bristle writing that.

    See, now I'm going to go to the Gilbert video and ruin my day. I almost had to put my head on the desk after reading Sady's post yesterday. I tried to explain to a male friend the intricacies of navigating the web and having a voice without getting rape threats. He's a dear person, but he couldn't get past his experience of being able to do/say whatever he wanted and having a riot shield piener.


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