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 TED.com: 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 TED.com: “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 TED.com: 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?

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week

  1. Barbie finally gets it right.

I actually saw this for the first time last week, but it’s still making me a happy feminist. The new barbie ad is a refreshing change considering the Teen Talk Barbie once said, “Math class is tough,” and computer engineer Barbie asked her male friends for help in coding. I’m well aware that this is Mattel’s attempt to improve sagging sales (Mattel reported its third-quarter earnings dropped 33 percent to $223.8 million) but I’ll take girl power wherever I can get it.

2. The women of the Supreme Court now have the badass portrait they deserve.

A detail of Artist Nelson Shanks’ painting, “The Four Justices”, a 9-foot 6-inch by 7-foot 9-inch oil on canvas portrait of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, top row, from left, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, bottom row, from left, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is seen during a press preview at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A detail of Artist Nelson Shanks’ painting, “The Four Justices”, a 9-foot 6-inch by 7-foot 9-inch oil on canvas portrait of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, top row, from left, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, bottom row, from left, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is seen during a press preview at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Huffington Post recently reported that the women of the Supreme Court are the subjects of a new painting unveiled at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. last week.

The portrait features the SCOTUS’s current female justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, as well as Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired in 2005. (O’Connor made history in 1981 by becoming the first woman ever named to the Supreme Court.)

3. This photo series imagines four black women as a badass group of superheroes.

black girl superheroes

Lifestyle blogger Paola Mathé recently imagined a new group of strong and fashionable superheroes — a squad of powerful black women fighting injustice and crime against their sisters. Mathé describes the squad as “inspiring bad ass dream catchers.” Read the For Harriet piece on the series to learn more about the project and to see more photos.

4. We curly girls get our own emojis! 



Be Blogalicious, a network for multicultural bloggers, influencers and media mavens, has partnered with Dove to launch the first-ever curly girl emojis!

The launch of Dove Love Your Curls Emojis is an extension of Dove Hair’s Love Your Curls mission, which seeks to help women and girls embrace and love their curls by ensuring they see accurate reflections of their hair in their everyday lives.

The Dove Love Your Curls emojis can be downloaded from the Google Play and App Store for FREE! Learn more at Advertising Age

5. Birmingham’s T. Marie King has been recognized by Glamour magazine as a “Hometown Hero”


I am so proud to know T. Marie King, who cofounded Precious Pearls of Promise, a grassroots mentorship program in Birmingham that helps young women ages 14 to 25 become strong and successful. The group meets twice a month for classes that teach communication skills, how to deal with peer pressure, and more. They also take on community service projects together. And to prove I actually know her — since she’s about to be a celebrity and all — here’s a selfie we took last week at a party!

t marie selfie

What made you a happy feminist this week? 

An Evening of Empowerment

women who inspire
Check out the Over the Mountain Journal’s story on the upcoming event An Evening of Empowerment featuring me!


What would you do if you were not afraid to fail?

That’s the question that Girls on the Run Birmingham will explore on Thursday, October 8, Girls on the Run during its Evening of Empowerment. The event will celebrate local “Women Who Inspire” including yours truly!

I am so honored to be among the women who will be recognized at this event. (You can read my interview with Girls on the Run here.)

An Evening of Empowerment will be held at 5:30 p.m. on October 8 at Clubhouse on the Highlands. The evening will include wine, appetizers, and a meet and greet and Q&A with the “Women Who Inspire,” including Molly Baker, the founder of Girls on the Run International. There will also be a screening of The Empowerment Project, a one-hour documentary that celebrates positive female role models.

If you’d like to attend An Evening of Empowerment, you can purchase tickets here. Use the code GOJAVACIA for $10 off your ticket.

On Friday, October 9, the other “Women Who Inspire” and I will have the opportunity to view the film again with a group of middle school girls from across the Birmingham metro area. We’ll also have a Q&A with them after the screening about how we overcame fear to make our dreams come true.

So, what would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?