Month: November 2015

5 TED Talks Every Woman Needs to Watch


Today my husband and I volunteered at TEDxYouth@Birmingham teaching the basics of reporting to the students at the event.

reporting 101

TEDxYouth@Birmingham was one of more than 100 TEDxYouth events that took place today around the globe. At these events 7th through 12th graders gathered to watch live streams of TEDYouth2015.

A mock interview at our Reporting 101 booth
A mock interview at our Reporting 101 booth

I am addicted to TED. As a high school English teacher I’m constantly looking for ways to use TED in the classroom whether it’s to teach public speaking or persuasive writing skills or to spark conversations about representations of women in the media.

I also frequently watch TED Talks just for for personal inspiration and sometimes just for fun. I even have the TED app on my phone and if I’m in a long line at the pharmacy or DMV, I might pass the time by watching a TED Talk.

This is probably no surprise if you know me IRL, but most of my favorite TED Talks are by women speaking on women’s issues. Here are five TED Talks I believe every woman should watch.

Confessions of a bad feminist — Roxanne Gay

From When writer Roxane Gay dubbed herself a “bad feminist,” she was making a joke, acknowledging that she couldn’t possibly live up to the demands for perfection of the feminist movement. But she’s realized that the joke rang hollow. In a thoughtful and provocative talk, she asks us to embrace all flavors of feminism — and make the small choices that, en masse, might lead to actual change.

Gay’s talk has quickly become my favorite TED Talk of all time. If you’re a woman struggling to reconcile your feminist ideals with your love for ratchet hip hop (raises hand) this TED talk will make you laugh, cry, and shout AMEN! But this talk is about so much more. When I showed it to the girls of my Women and Media class, one student asked, “Can we watch that again? And again?” Another said, “This talk let me know I’m not alone.” And I knew exactly what she meant because that’s precisely how the talk makes me feel, too. This talk reminds you that being a feminist isn’t about following a set of rules, but about trying to make a difference and being intentional and thoughtful in all we do.

I got 99 problems… palsy is just one – Maysoon Zayid

From “I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.

I’m a firm believer in intersectionality and intersectional feminism –the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity; the belief that cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society such as race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity. This TED Talk, however, made me realize that while I’m constantly thinking about the importance of also considering race, class, and ethnicity when discussing gender, I rarely consider ability. This TED Talk urged me to really practice what I preach when it comes to intersectionality.

We should all be feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Thanks to Beyonce you’re probably already familiar with at least a portion this talk. But Adichie’s speech was one of my favorites long before Beyonce sampled it in her hit song “Flawless.” Adichie’s explanation of what feminism is and why it’s needed is, well, flawless!

Why we have too few women leaders – Sheryl Sandberg

From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.

If you’re a fan of Sandberg’s Lean In, you’ll certainly be a fan of this talk, too.

Gloria Steinem and Salamishah Tillet

In an interview from the stage of a TEDxWomen event, feminist icon Gloria Steinem talks with writer and feminist activist Salamishah Tillet about aging, writing, stereotypes and, of course, the feminist movement. This TED Talk will always be special to me because Steinem’s comments on aging helped me understand that sometimes growing up means looking back. Sometimes to become the woman we’re supposed to be, we have to remember the girl we used to be.

What are you favorite TED Talks?

The Birmingham Jane: Elizabeth Hughey Brantley

elizabeth hughey brantley
Photo by T. Scott Carlisle

It all started on a whim. When Elizabeth Hughey Brantley and her husband, Chip, moved back to Birmingham they realized the city where they both grew up was missing something important to them both — a writing center for kids. And so they started one.

They call it the Desert Island Supply Co., a name sure to intrigue kids and grownups alike. DISCO, as it’s known around town, offers free after-school creative writing workshops to kids in the Birmingham area.

“We aim to be cross-disciplinary in our programming, so you’ll see workshops in science, visual art, poetry, music and design,” Elizabeth explained. “But writing is incorporated into everything we do!”

DISCO is located in Woodlawn and also offers weekly, Core-aligned writing workshops in the schools in the Woodlawn High School feeder pattern. “Our goal is to help students become strong writers, creative problem solvers and critical thinkers,” Elizabeth added.

Last month Elizabeth received the SMART award from the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham for her work with DISCO. As a past honoree, I had the privilege of being a hostess at this year’s event and had a chance to chat with Elizabeth about the mission and future of DISCO.

Why do you believe Birmingham needs a program and a place like DISCO?

We all know that kids need to be able to write well, and we also know how hard it is to write, even if you’ve been doing it for a long time! At DISCO, we have an arsenal of tricks, tools, writing prompts and creative exercises to help kids get their thoughts onto paper. There are no grades, and there are no wrong answers. DISCO is truly a place to experiment and explore!

DISCO also hosts a number of community events. Why did you all decide to not only hold your writing workshops but also become a venue for other local organizations?

We raised money through Kickstarter to build out a space on the first floor of Woodrow Hall, and the renovation turned out to be really beautiful. People loved just being at DISCO, and other artists and writers started to think about what they could do there. We’ve had plays, readings, music shows, craft nights, writing group meetings and even a few dinners at DISCO. So, the space just sort of evolved into a hub for Birmingham’s creative community! We want the space to be inhabited. We want creative things to happen at DISCO!

What was it like to be honored at last month’s SMART party?

Encouraging! DISCO is in its third year of in-school and after-school programming. I feel like we’re sort of into our groove, now, but there is still so much we need and want to do. Being a SMART party nominee has given me an energy boost. I also admire what the Women’s Fund is doing for so many women in Birmingham!

What’s next for DISCO? How do you hope to see the program grow and what can people in Birmingham do to help?

Our main goal for this year is to expand our in-school programming. We are currently teaching weekly writing workshops in the 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th grades in schools within the Woodlawn feeder pattern. We also run a journalism program at Woodlawn High School. We are looking for Birmingham area writers to volunteer in these workshops for one or two hours every week. Like every non-profit organization, DISCO also needs money! We never turn down books, especially books kids and teenagers.

Learn more about DISCO at


The Birmingham Jane is a feature recognizing women of Birmingham striving to make the city a better place. Send your nominations to