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The Empowerment Elite Claims Feminism
February 13, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I can’t think of any feminist who wouldn’t support the innovative work of the speakers I heard at TEDWomen. But this is an incomplete vision of feminist goals being presented as the most vital—and they will almost certainly be the best funded. Meanwhile, the more controversial issues like abortion will be stranded in their wake.
posted by DynamiteToast (66 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Soon after, I discovered that TED and TEDWomen have never featured a talk on abortion. When I asked around, the consensus was that the omission was simply an oversight. But it turns out TED is deliberately keeping abortion off the agenda. When asked for comment, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion did not fit into their focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.” “Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained.

That explanation/excuse is absolutely terrifying.
posted by dng at 8:57 AM on February 13 [78 favorites]


Women's reproductive health and choices are not issues of justice, inequality, and human rights?

That's an...interesting perspective.
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on February 13 [30 favorites]


This, this, this: "But trying to mold feminism into an identity that anyone can claim, no matter what they believe about women’s rights, is a mistake. Whereas feminism used to be an active belief system that challenged patriarchy, it is now (at least in the public imagination) “anything a woman chooses to do”—even if those actions directly contradict feminist values."
posted by Wordwoman at 9:02 AM on February 13 [37 favorites]


"Interesting perspective" indeed.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:02 AM on February 13


TED talks are just places where the educated go to hear their own beliefs reaffirmed. In other words, they're just tent revivals for people with master's degrees. To expect anything more from them is expecting way too much.
posted by dortmunder at 9:07 AM on February 13 [60 favorites]


[Totally fine to not RTFA but don't make other people read it for you and give you a book report.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:10 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Women who can travel and drop $1K on a conference ticket don't have to worry about the availability of abortion. They can always simply go to where it is available.
posted by srboisvert at 9:10 AM on February 13 [31 favorites]


From one perspective, access to safe abortion is a class issue. I hate to use the cliche, but the 1% could always get safe abortions, in my lifetime.
Attendance of a TED talk is very class stratified. Why would that audience want to hear about Poor People?
On preview, what srboisvert said.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:11 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I think it's important that Valenti's article touches on the ongoing marginalization of feminists of color, especially in light of that utterly toxic article by Michelle Goldberg accusing FOC of being "bullies."

And not covering abortion? What the who now?
posted by Kitteh at 9:14 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Everything is a class issue.

EVERYTHING
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:17 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Prolly a recognition of general access to abortion having about 50% support among women... and of course TED women are of the class that makes or at least ignores laws.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:26 AM on February 13


NARAL has a response in a letter to TED.
posted by emjaybee at 9:30 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


There has been at least one other instance where TED has been tone deaf to class issues. It wouldn't surprise me if there are more. TED is "middlebrow megachurch infotainment."
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:31 AM on February 13 [15 favorites]


"TEDWomen and feminism are not synonymous"

Shit, glad someone pointed that out for me.

It's safe to say 'Fuck TED' from top to bottom, and you'll miss nothing your brain couldn't get better elsewhere.
posted by colie at 9:34 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Fine then, if it's not an issue than they won't mind if everyone agrees to never fuck another noodly middlebrow start-up tech dork again.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


TED talks are just places where the educated go to hear their own beliefs reaffirmed

Rather like NPR, then?
posted by spitbull at 9:39 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I often find that this is a larger TED issue. A bunch of smart people who are good at explaining things and/or conceptualizing problems get up in front of a room of smart people and say "You know, the problem we have of ________ can be better addressed by ________. Here's a small pilot study where it looks like ________ could have some really huge impacts into the entrenched problem of _________" and people nod knowingly and then go off to the next high powered conference and maybe go back to their workplaces to see if that's a possibility.

I've always wondered about what happened with some of these ideas. If the problems are solved, why do we still have them? And it turns out a lot of these problems are harder than just "Oh it's simple, see..." The people who were going to make machines that would help people make their own eyeglasses in Africa and other places (TED)? Trouble with reliable electricity, raw materials, etc. Which, hey we knew were problems from the outset.

The problems of abortion are not just problems we can fix by thinking about them differently, it takes some real reworking of society, difficult unfun unglamorous work, to even get started much less gain traction. No surprise TED wants to avoid that, and to me that just highlights the dilletante nature of what TED has become (or maybe always been? I felt that they were more interesting/useful once upon a time).
posted by jessamyn at 9:40 AM on February 13 [44 favorites]


Rather like NPR, then?

A lot like NPR actually, but with a slightly narrower focus.
posted by jessamyn at 9:44 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I don't see the utter toxicity in that article, Kitteh. The article is trying to talk about something happening in social media that is real. If she comes to different, even the wrong conclusions, is it appropriate to silence the dialogue entirely by referring to an article with such extreme language?

Learning is iterative and leads to eventual consensus when there is disagreement OR it leads to factionalism, which decreases the power groups have to act in the world.

Oh, yeah, and TED is bullshit. I can't speak to these programs, but the series of talks they gave to alternative energy solutions 5-7 years ago was worse than bad. Pseudo science and junk.
posted by n9 at 9:49 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


NPR has a lot more nuance and depth, and isn't so fixated on unrepresentative pilot studies.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:50 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Single page view for my fellow click-haters.

Jessica Valenti is a pretty dang outstanding human being; her essay on Abortion and Magical Thinking is well worth a read. It does a good job teasing out some of the details that help explain exactly how and why abortion access is unquestionably a human rights issue:
A man filmed himself asking protesters outside women's health clinics whether they thought abortion should be illegal. Unsurprisingly, all said yes. But when he asked how much jail time women who had abortions should be punished with, the response was crickets. These activists—committed protesters—seemingly never realized that if abortion is made illegal, women who procure the procedure would become criminals. And no matter how much these protesters waxed compassionate about women being the pawns and victims of abortion providers, it doesn't change the fact that women will go to prison if Roe is overturned.
Not exactly the stuff that state tax bills are made of, eh, Ms. Stoetzel?

A discussion about the intersection of class and gender is maximally near and dear to my heart, so this seems as good a place as any to give props to Fund Abortion Now/National Network For Abortion Funds, who are working toward the day when no woman will ever again be forced to carry a pregnancy to term due to her financial status. Forget about TEDWomen, they'll render themselves irrelevant soon enough if they insist upon maintaining this level of haughty cluelessness and myopia -- if this topic gets your hackles up, go throw the NNFAF folks a few bucks instead.
posted by divined by radio at 9:54 AM on February 13 [25 favorites]


I don't think this is about TED as much as it's about a wider issue in which 1) "feminism" is a label anyone can get away with applying to anything, even explicitly anti-feminist ideas, and 2) a lot of feminist discourse is still dominated largely by white cisgender upper/upper-middle class educated women in affluent/urban parts of the developed world, who may be a bit oblivious to the experiences and needs of and may not share the goals of, basically, everyone else.
posted by byanyothername at 9:55 AM on February 13 [12 favorites]


If she comes to different, even the wrong conclusions, is it appropriate to silence the dialogue entirely by referring to an article with such extreme language?

How is Kitteh silencing the dialogue completely by offering her take on it? Unless she's secretly the publisher and kills the piece entirely, I can't see how saying out loud that she thinks it sucks is silencing the dialogue. Nor do I think calling it toxic is exactly extreme. Hell, I clicked through and will read the piece in a bit.

Anyway. I think if something like TEDWomen wants to focus on issues X, Y, and Z, and not issues 1, 2, and 3, that's fine - nobody should be required to do everything. But if you sell your group as all-encompassing of issues pertaining to [thiskindofpeople], you shouldn't be too surprised if people ask you what's up with not addressing issues 1,2, and 3.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I find the comparison with a tax issue hilarious... I would personally love to see a feminist economist talk on income splitting as a tax policy (recent newsworthy item in Canada as our finance minister just about-faced on it!), as there is certainly a feminist argument against that policy.

Childcare, parenting and tax policy; the campaign to stop the Goods and Services tax from applying to tampons; Revenue Canada tax investigations into charities used as political silencing; heteronormativity, marriage and tax; oh the tax policies I could suggest for feminist ted talks!

They could start by inviting Marilyn Waring!
Or how About a panel of these scholars about their book on feminist analysis of tax law.

Ah well, don't worry your pretty heads about tax law and abortion. Neither are the concern of a proper lady. ;).
posted by chapps at 10:29 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


(Are there other taboo talks at TED in general I wonder...)
posted by chapps at 10:31 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Well there was this "We didn't post your talk because it's politically touchy" one. (mefi link)
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Why does the name "TEDWomen" make me wince a little?
posted by Ratio at 10:40 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


It does seem like reducing that Michelle Goldberg article to just accusing FOC of being "bullies." actually kind of supports Goldberg's point, but I'm not sure how that could reasonably be described as silencing.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:41 AM on February 13


There has been at least one other instance where TED has been tone deaf to class issues.

For example, TED exists as "let's pick the brains of the elite" and not a format about representative people. It's always been about technocrats and their cousins.
posted by mobunited at 10:46 AM on February 13


Ah well, don't worry your pretty heads about tax law and abortion. Neither are the concern of a proper lady. ;).

I got the impression that

“Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained.

is not saying that state tax bills aren't relevant to women in particular, but that state tax bills don't fall under TED's purview. With this quote it seems that Stoetzel believes that abortion similarly is not under TED's purview.
posted by Jpfed at 10:52 AM on February 13


rtha, read the article and explore the twitter storm that followed the publication. There is quite a bit of context to it -- more than I understand or would attempt to summarize. There has been every response from death threats to extreme language to the author and the story, including the assessment of "utter toxicity" resulting from an article that simply pointed out a negative circumstance and made *an* analysis, perhaps not the best one.

Of course I concur that anyone is free to their POV, including me—I just indicated that I find the use of extreme labels of that particular article odd, I don't understand them, and that I feel that it is a force seeking to silence the points made by the author rather than engage them. It reads similarly to identity politics conflicts in the left in the 80s and 90s to me... my bias at work, I'm sure, but I keep asking for why the response is "this is toxic" (i.e. it would be better if it was never written) rather than "I believe that she is wrong/racist/etc" (what would seem to be productive dialogue.)

Anywho -- severe off topic to this thread at this point, I guess.
posted by n9 at 10:56 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


TED is stupid anymore. It's a bunch of self-promoters blathering on about how their particular area of interest is going to change EVERYTHING and it'll all be unicorns farting rainbows. Of course they don't want to talk about abortion - that's too close to reality and requires heavy lifting.
posted by Mister_A at 11:02 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Abortion is not an issue on which audiences are open to much in the way of persuasion, or about which advocates or experts have anything surprising or unexpected to say, so it makes perfect sense not to have TED talks about it, even if TEDWomen were institutionally pro-choice. That TEDWomen is apparently not institutionally pro-choice is the most interesting thing about this situation.
posted by MattD at 11:04 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm honestly shocked to hear this from TED, and seriously disappointed.
posted by agregoli at 11:09 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


WHat? Really? I could give you a surprising and informative talk on abortion, given a couple of weeks to prepare. Really, man. It's a failure of imagination, not a problem with the galvanizing source material.
posted by Mister_A at 11:10 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


TED talks are just places where the educated go to hear their own beliefs reaffirmed.

I've never understood the TED hate. Some talks are interesting, some aren't. Like a box of chocolates. As a concept, I would have thought it was exactly the kind of thing that forward looking internet enthusiasts would love. Access to all this stuff without having to pay the admission price- what could be better. Plus you can leave anytime you get bored - You takes your pick, you take your chances. I've been educated and entertained by it. Also bored and irritated. Just like Metafilter.

I could give you a surprising and informative talk on abortion, given a couple of weeks to prepare. Really, man. It's a failure of imagination, not a problem with the galvanizing source material.

Well, if TED doesn't want it, there's always Youtube. If you can bridge the gap between "Abortion is a woman's fundamental right" and "abortion is a moral abomination" a lot of people would be seriously interested to hear it. (Believe it or not, I don't mean that snarkily.)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:19 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I've said this before, but I think there has also been a general co-opting of feminism over the last decade or two by people who are far more interested in the success of specific (often wealthy and white) women rather than improvements of the situations of women in general. It's kind of like the reverse of the movement to drive women of color and lesbians out of groups like NOW in the 70s -- the same effect, more or less, by only focusing on elite issues that will help "empower" women who are already fairly empowered rather than address broad issues that would help many women.

That's not the feminism I grew up with.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:20 AM on February 13 [33 favorites]


I would present it more as a public health story, I think, rather than a ALWAYS GOOD or ALWAYS SIN take. But give me two weeks and the TED stage to work on it.
posted by Mister_A at 11:22 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


A surprising number of people are often surprised to learn that banning abortion doesn't actually make the numbers of abortions go down all that much. A surprising number of people are surprised to learn all kinds of things about how women's reproductive systems actually work. A surprising number of people are surprised to learn that having a lot of sex doesn't mean you need to take more birth control pills.

Too many people seem happy to remain ignorant about some basic facts because abortion is a politically controversial issue, and I think that sucks.
posted by rtha at 11:23 AM on February 13 [24 favorites]


^^^What She Said^^^
posted by Mister_A at 11:25 AM on February 13


I've never understood the TED hate.

TED really has itself to blame for that. Mosey on over to ted dot com.

"TED: Ideas worth spreading
Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world
"

It's like a guy wearing a T-shirt that says, "BEST LOVER EVER." If that's really going to be your tag line, you'd better deliver on a consistent basis.
posted by xigxag at 11:31 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I've never understood the TED hate. Some talks are interesting, some aren't. Like a box of chocolates. As a concept, I would have thought it was exactly the kind of thing that forward looking internet enthusiasts would love.

I did love it, with great enthusiasm. Then either it went downhill, or I wised up (I'm not sure which, probably both). More specifically, by "wised up" I mean that in hindsight the rush of the moment wasn't there - a rush of exciting ideas presented in a way to push all my buttons and make me feel like I'm engaged, but at the end of the day, unlike with some other activities that push those same buttons, I wasn't wiser or more knowledgeable or more accomplished.
The priority of the talks seems to be to make the audience feel good. Fluff. The talks just seem like empty calories. Delicious empty calories.
posted by anonymisc at 11:42 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


I've said this before, but I think there has also been a general co-opting of feminism over the last decade or two by people who are far more interested in the success of specific (often wealthy and white) women rather than improvements of the situations of women in general. It's kind of like the reverse of the movement to drive women of color and lesbians out of groups like NOW in the 70s -- the same effect, more or less, by only focusing on elite issues that will help "empower" women who are already fairly empowered rather than address broad issues that would help many women.

That's not the feminism I grew up with.


I can't favourite this hard enough. ~ whatever is the current trendy term for financially and professionally independent women who are not caucasian (why should I call myself a person of colour, it implies there are people with no colour, whereas everyone has melanin, just at differing levels, here in finland they calls themselves blue )
posted by infini at 12:27 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Oh and TED, I've had an abortion. Without grief. Deal with it.
posted by infini at 12:28 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


TED talks are just places where the educated go to hear their own beliefs reaffirmed. In other words, they're just tent revivals for people with master's degrees. To expect anything more from them is expecting way too much.

My nearest NPR station airs The TED Radio Hour on Wednesdays and A Prairie Home Companion on Saturdays, and they're pretty much the same show except for the occasional dobro.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I've never understood the TED hate.

Have you ever read "Radical Chic" by Tom Wolfe? It was about the cultural capital that wealthy Park Avenue types derived by associating themselves with the Black Panthers, even though the interests of the Black Panthers were, needless to say, wildly divergent from their own. TED reminds me a lot of "Radical Chic."
posted by Dr. Send at 1:06 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the article is less about TED and TEDWomen in particular, and more about this insidious creeping popular definition of feminism--or "women's empowerment"--that has to do with "choosing one's choice". Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between real life and this Onion article: Women Now Empowered by Everything a Woman Does.

If the only qualification for being a feminist is declaring yourself one, then it renders the term meaningless.

If you say you're a feminist but you actively work to suppress women's rights, you're not a feminist!

If you advocate the perpetuation of societal structures that perpetuate systemic sexism, classism, and racism, you're not a feminist!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:07 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


Have TED Talks Jumped the Shark?

When TED Lost Control of Its Crowd

We need to talk about TED
Science, philosophy and technology run on the model of American Idol – as embodied by TED talks – is a recipe for civilisational disaster


The trouble with TED talks
In the cult of TED, everything is awesome and inspirational, and ideas aren’t supposed to be challenged, says Martin Robbins.


TED talks are lying to you
The creative class has never been more screwed. Books about creativity have never been more popular. What gives?

HBR, Salon, The Guardian, The New Statesman, these are not ranting blogposts
posted by infini at 1:11 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


-- Ah well, don't worry your pretty heads about tax law and abortion. Neither are the concern of a proper lady. ;).

I got the impression that

---“Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained.

is not saying that state tax bills aren't relevant to women in particular, but that state tax bills don't fall under TED's purview. With this quote it seems that Stoetzel believes that abortion similarly is not under TED's purview.


Jpfed, I agree I was being glib ... and I have no problem with TED jurying their talks to make sure they are good. However, any intellectual pursuit that cuts out a possible topic for discussion is not very worthy, I think. A great thinker, such as TED hopes to bring to the stage, can make *anything* a worthy talk, I believe. I don't think they should take in just any abortion talk, but a great talk? For sure!
posted by chapps at 1:46 PM on February 13


It's not just that TED has sometimes bad or cranky lectures. It's that it actively contributes to the sustenance of the worst excesses of capitalism. Being a participant requires that you have swallowed the opposite of understanding how the world might be different. Foucault would have written ten books about it.

Marx is very clear about things that take on the appearance of their opposites. If you are, like most of us tapping away here, not a proletarian then challenging the very existence of TED is one of the important things you can do in the class struggle.
posted by colie at 1:51 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Off topic, but I feel like a lot of the 'creativity' crap out there isn't for the ACTUAL creative people, but rather for the people who want to manage/co-opt wage-enslave us to build their crap vision of some fucking stupid 'world-changing' app that they think they can get financed because they went to Wharton or some shit.
posted by Mister_A at 2:02 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


, it is now (at least in the public imagination) “anything a woman chooses to do”—even if those actions directly contradict feminist values."

You know I really don't think it's so simple as that. Witness the opprobrium Muslim feminists that want to wear hijab or niqab, or do other things that don't align to white, western, middle class ideas of liberation receive. This applies to feminists of many ethnicities and faiths I might add.

We can't just say, "what you believe isn't feminism" because what constitutes as feminism, empowerment if you will, is different in different cultural and social contexts.

Feminism should, and is, big enough to accommodate this diversity, and I get suspicious when people attempt to place certain things outside it. There is, after all, a very long history of white people telling non white people that what they think is invalid and they just don't know any better.

For me, feminism equals the freedom and means to choose; I don't feel it it's anyone's place to enforce the choice, or tell those I disagree with that they are just tools of the patriarchy.
posted by smoke at 2:25 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


This makes me think though, who REALLY funds ted? Chris Anderson and the Sappling foundation run it, but where is the money coming from besides entry tickets? is it really self funding?

I don't have time to do a ton of internet digging, but i really get the feeling that this is some koch brothers kind of shit and like mythebusters and RFID, someone higher up said "yea, you're never allowed to talk about this list of specific things".
posted by emptythought at 2:39 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I must agree with smoke on this point. When I go into rural India, I wear a veil/scarf, for reasons ranging from "OMG its 47 celsius and the hot sand winds are blowing in from the western desert" to "I'd feel half naked without it because EVERY one else wears one" and little to do with my liberation or otherwise. Those that seek to have me prance around half naked or sleeveless in the name of freedom must ask which media's conditioning influence taught them that less clothes = more freedom?

True freedom is indeed the freedom to choose. To choose one's choice of dress, profession, education, husband, lifestyle, religion, values, whatever.

Call it people's liberation, not women's...

I fear this mainstream mediated culture is trapped in its own Madison Avenue crafted consumption driven lifestyle that seeks to pigeonhole and segment demographics into easily digestible and marketable chunks.

True freedom is when you cannot be bought. And don't think those who speak on "women's lib" or whatever the new fangled terms are, like the fancy CEOs, haven't sold their integrity for all that they espouse their "empowerment".

True freedom is when it doesn't matter what the labels are or the definitions or what "they" say... because there will always be those who say and sneer. Then weep tomorrow because nobody gave them a teddybear/hearts/flowers/roses/whatever instead of earning their own esteem and worth on their own two feet.

I respect the words of this 21 year old starting her own soap factory more than a blonde running a Web 2.0 joint.
posted by infini at 2:41 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


TED has become (and maybe always was) about the elite patting themselves on the back. How can they pat themselves on the back after an abortion talk? Call the talks/conferences a positive feedback loop, call it a circle jerk -- potato, potawto as far as I'm concerned. Abortions aren't good wank-off material, so they're not going to be included.

Anyway, I think that (in the US, at least), "feminism" has been (forcibly) absorbed into the status quo. All the parts of "feminism" that aren't easily compatible with the status quo are dismissed and villified just as much as ever, and the parts of it that are compatible are lauded.

I think that what happened to American feminism is what happened to a lot of American rights movements, including movements for rights for black people and gay people: first comes the reduction of a rights movement into an identity movement, then that identity is commodified in order to exploit the market share it represents, and then that group is granted the rights necessary to increase its value as a market share. What we're left with is a bunch of people working and paying to be part of an identity that is less and less self-defined and more and more meaningless.

It's not a problem for me that the mainstream feminist movement is interested in issues that I personally don't find particularly salient and isn't interested in the issues that I personally think are salient, because hey, who am I to set the agenda for a whole group? But I don't think that's what's at issue here, actually. I think what's at issue is that feminism is now just a mask that the same old elite wear in order to get my attention and my money (cough TEDWomen cough), and I find it insulting and fear that it undermines the entire movement. An analogy right out of Animal Farm is on the tip of my tongue but...well, it'll come to me.
posted by rue72 at 3:01 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Ratio: "Why does the name "TEDWomen" make me wince a little?"

For some reason the first thing that came to mind was Ted Baxter ineptly blustering through, tripping over his own ignorance... and then being taken to task by Mary Tyler Moore ... and Georgette. What I'm trying to say is, Ted Baxter had trouble with intimacy.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:03 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The fetishization of the "creative" class seems sort of tied to the view that people should do stuff for free or cheap for "exposure". After all, if you're following your passion and doing work you love, who wants to cheapen that with all that filthy lucre?

On the flip side of glurge-ridden 'pro-creativity' TED talks, I adore Mike Rowe's exceptional TED talk about work, and about *not* following your creative urge and instead going off and working hard at something.

As for feminism, I want a more revolutionary feminism in my feminism. I want more intersectionality and I want my revolutionary feminism to pay attention to issues faced by women who *aren't* like me - women of different races, cultures, and classes - more than I want to focus on ways that it can be EVEN MORE AWESOME to be upper middle class, middle aged, white, privileged, and living in a liberal coastal city in the US.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:06 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Smoke and infini, I definitely agree with you. Even as I wrote my frustrated comment I knew it was problematic, because there is no real way to say "this person is a feminist, but this person is not a feminist" without falling into bad traps like the ones you both outlined. I guess I am just frustrated at simplifications of what feminism entails--and I agree with you, choice IS an important part of feminism. I think choosing to wear hijab CAN be a feminist choice.

And smoke, I particularly appreciated this part of your comment: "For me, feminism equals the freedom and means to choose." The means to choose is the second and very important aspect that sometimes gets left out of discussions of women's equality.

There are many, many women all over the world who technically have the freedom to choose something, but the economic realities of their situation mean they do not have the means for real choice to be possible. For example, where I live--Canada--abortion is legal. However, many women do not have access to abortions because they live in rural, remote places and don't have the economic means to travel long distances to get to a hospital or clinic that performs them. Those affected are often women of colour--usually aboriginal (Native Canadian). So saying, "Canadian women have the freedom to get a legal abortion" is only half of the truth--it misses out on the very real economic, geographic, and racial realities of women who, despite having the freedom to get an abortion do not have the means to access one.

I just get very frustrated when feminism gets boiled down to a matter of individuals' freedom of "choice" while missing out the other part: the need to remove systemic barriers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:09 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


Why does the name "TEDWomen" make me wince a little?

Every little tomboy dreams of growing up to be a fine tedwoman someday.

If you say you're a feminist but you actively work to suppress women's rights, you're not a feminist!

But you might be a redneck!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:27 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Uh, I feel I should make it clear that I made my last comment based completely on the similarity of the structure of the quoted comment to the "If you... you're..." structure that Jeff Foxworthy uses in his "You might be a redneck" jokes, and didn't notice that the link was about Sarah Palin until after I had commented.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:37 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


TED responds
There have been reports online today that TED has “a policy against discussing abortion.” We’re happy to confirm that that is not true. We’re listening carefully to the community’s concern, and we agree that abortion and reproductive care are core issues of social justice and human rights.

In one story, our colleague Kelly Stoetzel is quoted as saying: “Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill.” Kelly’s quote was taken out of context. TED doesn’t take a position on issues. That’s not what we do.

jessica valenti responds to the response
I am angry and disappointed that TED would malign my work and reputation rather than take responsibility for their words and work. I asked a TED staffer a direct question about why there had never been a talk on abortion, and I got a direct answer.
[...]
There was no misrepresentation or gotcha quote-grabbing. In fact, it is the TED staff that is now using Stoetzel’s quote out of context and in partial form.
posted by nadawi at 9:24 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


If you advocate the perpetuation of societal structures that perpetuate systemic sexism, classism, and racism, you're not a feminist!

No. Third Wave feminism is not the only feminism, and it's attitudes like that that turn people away from the movement in the first place. Yes, you can support income inequality and still be a feminist - as long as you want men and women to be equally unequal. You can engage in misandry and still be a feminist.

Now, there's room to talk about which forms of feminism are achieving dominance and pushing the others out, but that's not the old "Your feminism sucks, you're not a feminist." Feminist is a self-identification: no one has the right to tell any woman she's not a feminist, because it is something she chooses.
posted by corb at 9:47 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


it's attitudes like that that turn people away from the movement in the first place.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out!
posted by Wordwoman at 10:15 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


it's attitudes like that that turn people away from the movement in the first place.

Please consider not starting this here.
posted by jessamyn at 10:20 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


TED doesn’t take a position on issues.

LOL, it sure doesn't, since that would mean it had some kind of meaning or existence outside of maintaining existing class and power relations. TED is the most intricately polished example of class warfare.
posted by colie at 12:27 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


"In the last three years, the United States has seen more abortion restrictions enacted than in the entire previous decade"

The Stealth War on Abortion: While more Americans support upholding 'Roe v. Wade' than ever, the Tea Party and the Christian right have teamed up to pass hundreds of restrictions eviscerating abortion rights in GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country
posted by homunculus at 10:03 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


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