N.E.R.D.S. (Noble, Empowering, Rad, Dimes)
I accidentally discovered TED about 6 years ago in Palm Springs, CA when I went to the Riviera Hotel for what I thought was going to be a casual night out, but instead, it ended up being a complete game changer.
I found myself having the most intellectual, quirky and fascinating conversations with a large collective of people all wearing red-lanyard badges. Next thing you know I was in deep debates about the science of women’s armpits or laughing up a storm with the “Super Size Me” dude, Morgan Spurlock, who practically risked his life in an attempt to unravel the American obesity epidemic that still is very prevalent today. These people were literally the coolest, funniest, most intimidating nerds I had ever met. In fact, it was the first time I felt like a loser for not being a nerd. It was after this mind altering, next level rendezvous that I became committed to the movement known as TED.
TED is an organization devoted to spreading ideas in the form of ‘talks’ that are 18 minutes or less. These talks deliver groundbreaking, extraordinary, inspirational content in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design, but have also grown to include high-school principals, dignitaries, designers, activists, educators, doctors, refugees, explorers, engineers, social entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, CEOs, and other innovators from all facets and walks of life. Anyone with a particular expertise or trailblazing narrative pioneering the worlds from which they came or revealing new worlds all together; from black holes to virtual reality to even insect porn, are members of the movement called TED.
The talks are free to watch online, but the cost of a ticket to the live conferences are very expensive and range anywhere from $1,500 to $11,000, depending upon the experience and level of access desired. I won’t tell you how much my ticket cost, but what I will tell you is that I was mingling with the giants including: President Jimmy Carter, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, a former President of Ireland and a thousand more who are just as amazing, if not more captivating than the aforementioned. The ones that remain nameless may not be famous; but rest assure, they are doing high-level work such as saving the planet, fighting cancer, kicking the Ebola virus in the ass and playing mind games with the Taliban AND actually WINNING the game. Yes, I bought my way into the glorious world of the brainy, powerful, and techy super-babes. And this heroic Wonderland of super-babes, who I truly believe will one day RUN THIS PLANET, are called TEDWomen.
AT TEDWomen, EVERYONE IS A FEMINIST:
Man or woman, if and when you attend the TEDWomen conference, get ready to be the proudest feminist you’ve ever been. Now if you’re a man reading this and you think you cannot be a feminist, you are absolutely mistaken. Of course you can be a Feminist! And by the way, what evolved man wouldn’t want to be? According to Michael Kimmel (TED Speaker/sociologist), “Men’s sense of entitlement is the source of their resistance to gender equality” and although this may be true, there are most certainly men that defy these odds. President Jimmy Carter (Peace Activist/TED Speaker) is an amazing example of this. He’s nearly a hundred years old and can fire off, from memory, a laundry list of current statistics regarding the leading female inequalities around the world. And guess what, Carter sounded just as pissed off about the gender inequality foolishness as any other modern day feminist.
And look-out ladies, you may even find yourself floating in that funny grey area between, “I love these amazing women!” and “Uh oh! I may love them in a ‘gay’ way.” But hey, in the very eloquent words of Maria Bello (Actress/Activist/TED Speaker), “Gender labels? Gay? Straight? Bi? Trans? How about… ‘Whatever!’” With so many gender preferences including the 300+ preferences people have self prescribed on Facebook when creating a profile, the real question becomes, why even have a label? Why not just love whom you love? “The only labels [we should accept] are the ones we give ourselves,” Maria Bello sums up. So go on girls, love these ladies however you want. I personally love them in every way and I’m pretty sure I can even find a way to love them in a “trans” way too. “Love is love.”
THE TEDWomen EXPERIENCE:
The conference is luxurious, intense, powerful, exhausting and exhilorating. It’s produced to perfection. There is not a step missed or skipped. The nourishment is abundant and flowing including baristas brewing and steeping coffee drinks, a large candy-land assortment of healthy snacks that never seem to end; refrigerated beverages that include constantly replenished cold pressed juices, fructose-free organic energy drinks, coconut water, smart water and almond milk – anything you could possibly desire is there. And the list continues: fresh spreads of thoughtful small bites like Baba Ganouj, chocolate-dipped strawberries, fresh apples, cherries, almonds, kale smoothies, omelets, flatbreads and more…
We were provided with a phone app that was so well designed it pretty much managed my entire experience for me. It sent me reminders of where to be and when. It navigated how to get me to my destination. And the best part was it functioned like What’sApp, directly connecting everyone together with phone numbers, emails and personal bios. The app even allowed us to text with each other even between phone numbers that were international. The experience was freakin’ rad and each day went a little something like this…
7:00 AM – Wake up.
8:00 AM – Morning meet ups in the conference center.
8:30 AM – TEDWomen talks begin. PREPARE TO GET YOUR MIND BLOWN!
10:00 AM – 45 Minute break (meet speakers, mingle with other amazing attendees, etc.).
10:45 AM – Another session of Talks, and in the words of the very hilarious comedian and filmmaker/TEDWomen Speaker, Negin Farsad, another session of “Stand, Cry, Clap, Squat, Repeat. Stand, Cry, Clap, Squat, Repeat.”
12:00 PM – Lunch break, which is not really a break at all because you’re either in a very productive private round table lunch with philanthropists and social entrepreneurs with an agenda. OR you’re using every moment to meet and bond with as many fellow attendees as possible because:
As I stated before, everybody in the building is freakin’ awesome AND you paid a high dollar to “network” with relatively inaccessible people.
2:00 PM – After-lunch session of Talks.
3:00 PM – Another break with more free coffee, more free juice, more meeting of speakers!
4:00 PM – Another speaker session of Talks.
5:00 PM – 2-Hour time-out before dinner.
7:00 PM & Beyond – Dinner and then after-hours socializing, which included a local bar with an open tab for all TEDWomen attendees.
2:00 AM – Sleepy time so that we can be up again at 7:00 AM to kick some conference ass!
Take a look at the speaker highlights below from the 2015 TED Conference I attended:
Memory Banda (activist): At 18-years old she has influenced Malawi’s national campaign to outlaw child marriage. She became an advocate against the customary harmful sexual initiation practices and child marriage after surviving gender-based violence, and after her younger sister was forced into marriage and impregnated at the age of 11. I say Memory for President!
Linda Cliatt-Wayman (high school principal): Wayman put her superhero cape on and transformed Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School from a dangerous and low-performing school removing it from the federal Persistently Dangerous Schools List. She has three mottos: “If you’re going to lead – LEAD!” “So what – NOW WHAT?!” AND “If nobody told you they loved you today, remember I DO”.
Nonny De La Pena (virtual reality pioneer): Pena uses VR in the journalism genre to bring people into the visceral experience of a news story so they can be completely impacted by the importance of stories that seem so abstract and far away; therefor, hard to relate to.
Jane Fonda (actor/activist): Fonda tells us how oxytocin is stimulated and released when you spend time with your girlfriends. Oxytocin is a powerful molecule used to increase pair-bonding, originally between mothers and babies. It is recognized for it’s presence in building trust and love; healing the body; reducing fears; inducing optimism; reducing pain and is also used as an antidepressant. So basically hanging out with our girlfriends makes us awesome! According to Fonda, “Women’s friendships are like a renewable source of power.”
Alix Generous: This awesome college student delivered one of the funniest talks of the whole conference. She has Aspergers syndrome and says, “Aspergers is a real pain in the butt, but it’s also a gift.” She encourages people like her to share their intelligence and insights. She is also a co-owner of the startup AutismSees, which develops technology tools to help all kinds of people to give presentations.
Margaret Heffernan (management thinker): Heffernan does not believe in super chickens. She examines and explores how to make businesses, teams and managers successful. She says in order to build a super successful team or business, the leaders need to invest in “Social Capital” – the social bonding and interactions of those on the team, which provide the team the opportunity to develop trust, social sensitivity, equality and open-mindedness. In those moments and atmospheres of social trust and bonding is where momentum and robustness are born. According to Heffernam, “Conflict is frequent because candor is safe.” Another one of her favorite quotes is, “There will be no stars on this team, because WE NEED EVERYBODY.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (reporter): Lemmon wrote an amazing story about a team of women soldiers on the special ops battlefield. Lemmon said these amazing female soldiers, “live in the ‘and’” – fierce and feminine, Martha Stewart and GI Jane.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro (political scientist): The head of the UN Women’s blockbuster, @HeForShe campaign. What more can I say…
Pardis Sabeti (computational geneticist): Sabeti pretty much kicked the Ebola Virus in the ass. Sabeti was chasing it down during this most recent outbreak. Ebola was hard to keep up with because it changed and morphed so rampantly making it extremely difficult to conquer. At times it felt impossible and members of her core team were dying off from the very virus they were trying to cure. She says “Ebola, like many of us, is fueled by distrust, distraction and division.” Sabeti never gave up and was named a Time magazine Person of the year in 2014 as one of the Ebola fighters.
Sakena Yacoobi (education activist): Yacoobi supported 90 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed all girls schools down in the 1990s. She had a face-off with the Taliban, talking her way out of a beheading with a firing squad many times. She is the badass who, as the comedian Negin Farsad mentioned above put it, “Played mind games with the Taliban and won!”
To sum it up, TEDWomen is a network mecca of empowered women who are the rule, not the exception. So go experience it for yourself and encourage men to go with you. The only way to change gender inequalities is to include and support men in our feminist effort, as opposed to punishing them.
To check out the TEDWomen 2015 talks, please check out the link below. As I always say, “the purpose of life is to learn; to grow and to share the knowledge, ideas and gifts you possess with the world. For, that is the true way to live in abundance and in love. Besides, in the end, you gain nothing by withholding that which will advance humanity and support good-will to all of the creations on this planet.”
Click here for more information on TED TALKS 2015.
– Cris & Amber Willat