Best of TEDxWomen: Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s TEDxWomen Talk on why she created the movie, Miss Representation.

Back in October, GeekMom Laura wrote about Miss Representation, a movie written, directed, and produced by actress and advocate Jennifer Siebel Newsom that analyzes how media shapes our perceptions about gender, and also affects women and girls’ ability to see themselves as leaders or be seen as leaders by others in society.  Having watched the trailer for the movie (below), I was particularly interested in hearing Newsom speak at TEDxWomen–and she did not disappoint.

Newsom refers to media as “the third parent in the room,” and goes on to explain that between television and internet, magazines and billboards, kids typically take in 10 hours of media each day. She makes the argument that this is ten hours each day where children are receiving the message that “the power of women comes from their sexuality, and not their personal content.”

Personally, my favorite moment in the talk is where she describes the advice her agent gave to her 28-year-old self:

He told me to lie about my age and take my MBA off of my resume. They were not valued in a town that exports culture to the rest of the world.

Viewers who are looking to do something constructive with the understandable frustration they’ll feel after watching even small segments of Miss Representation are invited to head over to the movie’s website in order to take action, host a viewing a party, or purchase the media literacy curriculum for their educational program, church, or library.

Newsom  reminds us at the end of her talk, we have power as consumers to change how media portrays women: we can vote for change with our dollars and our media choices.

Best of TEDxWomen: Mary Catherine Bateson

Cultural anthropologist/author Mary Catherine Bateson’s recent TEDxWomen Talk about life after menopause.

At this point, staring head-on into the eyes of my youngest child, I am a hair closer to menopause than I am to breastfeeding and childbirth. It is disheartening, as I age, to realize how our culture presents these two life-changing events. On film and in stories, childbirth is seen as a time of hope and opportunity–the “happily ever after” to our Disney-princess romances–while menopause is most often presented in terms of flop-sweated, hysteria-tinged tragedy. The idea that menopause could be the gateway to a rich, authentic new chapter of life feels largely unexplored.

This was not the narrative reiterated at last week’s TEDxWomen Talks at the Paley Centers in New York and Los Angeles, however. While speakers actually covered a spectrum of ages and life experiences, one message, in particular, rang out repeatedly:


That is a powerful statement, I think. It gets to the root of something that women are told both explicitly and implicitly through the media–that as we age, we become less valuable and desirable, and with that decreased value, opportunities diminish, doors close. Do it all (motherhood, graduate school, bestseller, start-up business) now, at the same time, while you still have some worth! This has some profound effects on our decision-making and prioritizing: by trying to “do it all” at once, women do not acknowledge that motherhood is a full-time job in itself, and so risk feeling overwhelmed, anxious, alienated, depressed, and unsuccessful when they struggle to combine parenting and career.

Perhaps we need to pace our expectations for ourselves and take a longer view of our lives…

In one of my favorite talks from the TEDxWomen Talks, cultural anthropologist and author Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead, elaborates on how, with increased life-expectancies, a new period of “extraordinary opportunity” has been inserted into the lives of women after menopause:

I believe that in this third act, this second-adulthood period, when we have the accrued wisdom of a lifetime and are still active, we can play critical  roles in meeting human problems. One of the biggest problems in this country is short-term solutions: getting ahead of the next election cycle or quarterly report…What I would like to see, is the notion of older adults, especially women, as advocates for peace and justice for the future and future generations…[to create] a sustainable, peaceful, just world…

This added longevity is our major source of hope in the world at this time.

I’ll be adding other talks to GeekMom in the coming weeks–but yes, this one was my favorite!