If you're looking for a way to become educated on a topic you're interested in, or to totally break into a new subject area with which you have no experience, look no further than TED and TEDx Talks — where brilliant, articulate, and innovative people discuss their ideas, inventions, and experiences with the world. When I was 16 years old and newly becoming acquainted with the idea of feminism, I watched several TED and TEDx Talks that informed how I thought about feminism for many years to come; many even introduced me to resources I could turn to in order to learn more.
If you've never seen one before, I like to think of TED or TEDx Talks as abbreviated lectures. Since they generally last between 10 and 30 minutes, TED Talks are easy to consume during a quick break in the day or while you're driving to work; however, they're also fun to watch in succession when you're feeling particularly thirsty for knowledge on a particular subject. Many of the TED Talks on feminism or feminist topics that have inspired me are given by women in different countries, from different cultures, among different age groups, and working in industries that aren't generally associated with feminism. They're eye-opening in the best ways, and they're well worth a watch.
Check out these five TED and TEDx Talks that are both a great way to break into feminism and a wonderful tool to refine and refresh your knowledge. Because knowledge is power, am I right?
1. "Faith & Feminism" by Dr. Al Anoud Al Sharekh
In one of my favorite TEDx Talks, Dr. Al Anoud Al Sharekh takes us through her journey with feminism and her interactions with it through the perspective of an Arab upbringing. From her early days at Wellesley College when she first experienced gender-related culture shock, to the first time she experienced anger at having her rights voted against in Kuwait, Dr. Al-Sharekh sheds light on all the ways fighting for women's rights is different in Arab culture, in Arab countries, and within Arab politics. She also touches on the universality of the movement of feminism and how, despite cultural differences, feminists everywhere have similar goals at their core.
2. "A Teen Just Trying To Figure It Out" by Tavi Gevinson
In this seven-minute TED Talk, Rookie's editor-in-chief Tavi Gevinson talks about what it means to be a woman in pop culture, why one-dimensional female characters are so problematic (and just how often we encounter them), and how we can empower teen girls to help them figure out who they are without putting them down along the way. One of my favorite points she makes is about how women are told they can't have it all: They can't be smart and pretty, they can't be into fashion and be feminists, they can't care about clothes outside of the context of the male gaze. Gevinson dismantles these ideas and talks about the steps she took to create an environment for teen girls to thrive and honestly talk about their flaws and strengths.
3. "The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women" by Jean Kilbourne
In this abbreviated version of her movie Killing Us Softly, Jean Kilbourne discusses the power of image and how women are systemically put down, discouraged from being themselves, and shamed through advertising. If this is your first foray into feminism, I would highly encourage watching this video and then picking up a magazine to see exactly what it is she's talking about — namely, how Photoshop is used to change women's appearances in the name of making a sale and how advertising encourages people of every gender and background to view women in a certain, incredibly specific way.
4. "How Islam Made Me A Feminist" by Zena Agha
So far, we've seen talks about feminism as it relates to teen girls, women in the media, advertisements, and a non-Western culture. In "How Islam Made Me A Feminist," we see the relationship between feminism and a religion that people often perceive to be the most anti-feminist religion out there. Agha talks about misconceptions people have about Islam, as well as misconceptions people have about feminism, and how the combination of the two can be a dangerous thing.
5. "Plus-Size? More Like My Size" by Ashley Graham
In this talk, Ashley Graham, the badass model and body positive activist who was just featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated , discusses some of the more problematic aspects of the fashion industry and how we can become our own body positive role models. Graham urges the audience to start considering what it actually means to be a model, and what it means to be a model today. With the conversation about body positivity becoming more important everywhere from the modeling industry and Hollywood to our everyday lives, Graham's feminist and body-positive perspective catalyzes an important discussion.