12 Feminist TED Talks To Motivate Your Monday

by Dawn Day
Instead of listening to music, or binge-watching Aziz Ansari’s new show on Netflix, take a a little break to get inspired today with these feminist TED Talks by both men and women. From self-esteem to female genital mutilation, hearing about people’s experiences and taking in different ideas are great ways to get motivated to make a difference in your community. Plus, it’s always a good time to  collect more reasons to be a feminist–am I right?
1. “Plus-size? More Like My Size,” by Ashley Graham
Ashley Graham talks about her experience as a “fat model” and being known as being “pretty for a big girl.” Now an activist for body confidence, she calls for people to become their own role models. Her explanation of the problematic “plus-size” label and tale of reclaiming her own body is inspiring—especially as she has defied the boxes that modeling agencies tried to put her in. It’s a great watch if you’re in need of a self-confidence boost! 
2. “If I should have a daughter…” by Sarah Kay
In the first four minutes of this talk, Sarah Kay throws down a spoken word poem that encompasses the heart of what it is to be an adolescent with an insane amount of beauty. She goes on to explain her passion for spoken word, which has opened the door for her to inspire students across the country to express themselves in a new way. After hearing her perform, you’ll be looking for an open mic near by where you can start to share your story through spoken word. 
3. “Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you,” by Meaghan Ramsey
Meaghan Ramsey starts out her talk by showing off a picture of her niece, whom she says enjoys looking in the mirror and giving herself kisses in that magical way that only babies do. But why is it only babies that do this? Ramsey’s talk journeys into the depths of problems presented by low body confidence and self-esteem in the digital age. From more than 10,000 Google searches a month posing the question, “Am I ugly?” to research showing that low self-esteem affects grade point average, Ramsey begs for listeners to take action that will combat a culture with unrealistic beauty ideals. 
4. “The dangerous ways ads see women,” by Jean Kilbourne
The creator of the film series, “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women,” Jean Kilbourne, presents a talk that shows off the shocking reality of advertisements throughout the years. As one of the longest collectors of ads, Kilbourne analyzes the power of images’ impact on children. “No where is sex more trivialized than in advertising,” Kilbourne says. This is an eye opening talk, especially for those who claim that advertising doesn’t have an effect on them. 
5. “Why Gender Equality Is Good for Everyone—Men Included,” by Michael Kimmel
“I’m here to recruit men to support gender equality,” Michael Kimmel starts his talk. This is an amazing talk from a “middle-class, white man” who explains privilege in a way that will break.it.down. for even the he-man males in your life who just don’t seem to get it. 
6. “Inspiring the next generation of female engineers,” by Debbie Sterling
She asks the audience to picture an engineer in their minds. A nerdy guy at a computer, a train driver, or a young guy in a hoodie filled the majority of images in the audience’s mind, with few picturing a young woman like Debbie Sterling as an engineer. With the adversity she faces as a minority in her field, she wants to change the plight for future generations of girls. “I don’t fit in, but I believe that our little girls will.” 
7. “We should all be feminists,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this amazing talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about her life growing up in Nigeria as a feminist. From waiters ignoring her when she walks into a restaurant, to getting questioned at a lobby of a hotel where it is assumed that she is a sex worker, she talks about living in a society where the culture values men more than women. “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice; we should all be angry,” she says. This is a must watch. 
8. “Everyday sexism,” by Laura Bates
Upon having a man grope her leg on a bus, Laura Bates realized that facing sexism had become a “normal” for everyday living. People turned their head, told her, “Women are equal now, more or less.” Then she started her incredible “Everyday sexism” project that garnered thousands of stories from men and women around the world and proved the notion of men and women being more or less equal wrong. 
9. “Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue,” by Jackson Katz
Jackson Katz wants to redefine the perception of violence against women as a women’s issue. He explains the way that men are erased from conversations about domestic violence, and the way focus shifts onto actions of women in the form of victim blaming. “There’s been an awful lot of silence in male culture about this ongoing tragedy of men’s violence against women and children, hasn’t there? We need to break that silence,” Katz says. Watch him ask for adult men with power to prioritize issues of domestic violence. 
10. “The slut, the spinster and the perfect woman,” by Martha Mosse
A feminist performance artist, Martha Mosse presents her research of the labels spinster, slut and the perfect woman. “Once you have recognized gender inequality and the need for feminism, you can’t unsee it,” she says. The power of labels in everyday life are the center of this passionate talk.
11. “Born a girl in the wrong place,” by Khadija Gbla
Khadija Gbla bravely tells her experience with female genital mutilation. Fleeing Sierra Leone as a child, Gbla’s family moved to Australia at the break out of the civil war. What she didn’t know she would find in Australia was the truth about what happened to her when she was a little girl on the ground of a hut with an old woman standing over her with a knife. “These people and their damn clitoris. What is a woman without a clitoris supposed to do with her life?” Gbla’s tells about her painful experience in a humorous way that you need to hear. 
12. “How Islam made me a feminist,” by Zena Agha
Zena Agha’s eloquent explanation of her religion and her feminism is an eye opening look at how modern perceptions of both confuse them as opposites. Agha sees it differently, as her Muslim single-mother raised her to be strong and capable and use her religion to enable her confidence. “Though we have access to more information than ever before, we are in many ways more ignorant than ever,” she says. “Global agendas, miscommunication and a real lack of integration have victimized ideologies, and soiled them.” Agha is inspiring and believes fiercely in her interpretations of feminism and Islam. 
Do you have any favorite feminist TED Talks?
Photo via YouTube/TED.
This post was originally published November 9, 2015
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