The brave [me] us
I have long been a fan of TED, the non-profit devoted to #ideasworthspreading, so when I heard the independent TEDx Barcelona Women was hosting an event back in November, I did not hesitate to attend.
This year's topic: The Brave Us, a continuation to last year’s theme, The Brave You. A topic was chosen to celebrate women and what makes us unique, different, powerful. A topic that picks off movements such as #8M, #MeToo, and #YoSiTeCreo. Movements that have in various ways shaped 2018, movements that have given a voice to silenced voices, that have shed light on untold stories, that have brought women from all backgrounds together. This year’s edition brought together women from all over the world, who converged in Barcelona, both who were attending the event and who was presenting at the event, including Iria Marañon, Krizia Nardini and Charlotte Webb.
From the moment I entered the room you could feel the excitement, the energy that buzzed off everyone in attendance as we sat, expectant and ready to listen, share and connect. We began with a very heartfelt welcome from Clara Montes, who has been hosting these events for over 4 years, as she went over the agenda for the evening excitement grew, not only were we going to be in the presence of great women in Barcelona but also were going to be able to connect to the TED Women 2018 live from California, listen to a performance from Gigi McFarlane and end the night with a comedic relief thanks to the improv show from Maialen Fernandez and Angel Galan.
TED is known for setting the stage for thought-provoking ideas, ideas that make you question what you know, make you want to learn more, make you want to take action. I have to say one of my favorite #ideasworthspreading from the TED Women 2018 live stream was the idea that empowering women and giving them equal opportunities can help curve climate change as they are inextricably intertwined. How is this you might be asking yourself…well, let me tell you how. In her TED Talk Katharine Wilkinson, author and advocate shared the research of her second book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan to Reverse Global Warming. According to her research women and girls are severely affected by climate change, but what happens when we strive for gender equality is equally important as it can help reduce carbon emissions and address global warming. She outlined three ways in which this can be accomplished, the first is to support women smallholders (women who grow food on small areas of land with little resources). Women have been shown to yield crops that produce up to 30% more than men, so by giving women access to resources, they could be farming more in smaller plots of land, which in turn could help curve deforestation. The second thing we need to do is to educate girls; this one is simple, educated girls can have more control over their finances and health, providing them with options, adaptability, and strength. Last but not least, women need to have access to family planning and reproductive healthcare. By doing this we could reduce the rate at which the world’s population has been and is increasing over the past decade.
This was the final talk we watched from the live stream, and for me probably the most memorable. Once we had concluded this part we got to watch an amazing performance by Gigi McFarlane and then it was time to watch the women in Barcelona take the stage. Iria Marañon, author and activist, shared with us how to educate in feminism. In her talk she discussed how stereotypes are ingrained from early childhood and the only way in which we can truly achieve gender equality is by raising children free from these stereotypes. For Krizia Nardini her research around social change, gender relationships, masculinity, and our society have led her to seek for (the) real men. Through her research, she is constantly questioning what real “manhood” is supposed to look like and how some men have decided to join the fight for gender equality. But for me, the one that stood out the most was Charlotte Webb’s talk.
Dr. Charlotte Webb’s talk began with a peculiar tone; told from a first-person perspective she began telling us the story of the internet. How from its inception it has been learning from its interactions, well, with people. In them, the internet has learned the biases and assumptions held by people and has, through this learning, become a mirror of the society we live in. This has made the internet prone to online bullying, hate speech, homophobia, racism, sexism, etc. But what if we could create a feminist internet? One where no one is excluded and where everyone feels safe. So can we actually make the internet feminist? This actually boils down to each and every one of us, and how and what we consume online. We can choose to consume content consciously, to take a stand against online abuse, to support best practices for women in tech and together create an internet that does not tolerate abuse of any kind and where no one is left behind because of who they are.
Not only did this event bring together great ideas, ideas that aim to create a more feminist world but it also brought together a great group of women, brave women who are actively working to create this world. As important as it is to acknowledge brave women coming together, I think its also important to acknowledge our bravery on an individual level. I can say for myself that as I look back upon this year, brave is the word I would choose to describe myself. I have grown immeasurably this past year and accomplished things that I had once only dreamed of, including successfully completing my master degree. I have fought valiantly for things I considered to be fair; I have stepped outside my comfort zone more times than I can remember; I have learned to unlearn and learn back again; to exercise patience; to find and speak (or write) my voice; to enjoy the pleasure of my own company and listen to my inner voice; to love and nourish my mind, body and soul; to lift up women around me instead of compete against them. This has been a year that has helped me recognize my strength and determination and because of it, I have found women who are equally if not braver, to surround myself with. It is in this shared bravado that we will work to create a more feminist 2019!