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Monday Menagerie #20

A selection of female TED talks to take you through the week.

This weekend I was blissed-out listening to the *TED radio hour while I cleaned house, as I do every weekend I can, and decided to compile 7 days’ worth of TED talks for this Monday Menagerie.


(*The TED radio hour is essentially a radio-ized version of TED talks– they are much shorter, more condensed, and compiled together in a sort of This American Life-esque theme each week. If you like TED talks you will Looooooove the radio hour!)



Louise Leakey

A Dig for Humanity’s Origins

I listened to her talk on the TED radio hour yesterday, and it had me enthralled.  It wasn’t so much about the process of discovery (which is, in fact, quite remarkable) but rather about the realization of how briefly our species has occupied the planet compared to other hominids and so many other species, which provokes the thought of– how much longer will we be here if we keep up our current pace of brutalizing the earth?

(I really like the radio version of her talk even more, and here’s a link to that one)



Neri Oxman

Design at the Intersection of Technology and Biology

“…So why are we still designing with plastics”?  –Says Neri Oxman, at about 8 1/2 minutes in to her talk, and that’s when I start nodding my head vigorously, and realize how much I like this woman.  I don’t truly understand the science or math behind any of this, but it is so profoundly amazing and inspiring that it doesn’t matter.  I respect it, and want to learn more, so much more.  Using science to work in harmony with nature… YES.  (And to create such freaking COOL looking things!!)



Mia Birdsong

The Story We Tell About Poverty isn’t True

“I’m tired of the story we tell that ‘hard work leads to success’…because that story allows those of us who make it to believe we deserve it, and by implication, those who don’t make it don’t deserve it…. What if we recognized that what’s working is the people, and what’s broken is our approach.”

Mia Birdsong gives a strong and beautiful presentation of the “other side” of poverty– from the stories and experiences of the people who are the ones in poverty, but who are innovating and working as hard as any of us.  I feel like there should be SO many more conversations like this, all over the world, about how to help people at the bottom tiers of society.  By watching what they are doing right now, by talking to them, and asking them.  (The last few minutes of this talk are beautifully moving).


Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke of Insight

If you’re a TED-head, then you’ve probably already seen Bolte Taylor’s absolutely fascinating and emotionally transcendent recount of her experience with a stroke.  This was my third time watching it…It is one of the best TED talks I’ve ever seen.  (Some people aren’t crazy about this particular talk because of how emotional and deep/spiritual/existential she gets, but I think that is exactly where the beauty is found.)



Dame Stephanie Shirley

Why Do Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads?

I heard this one, also, on the TED radio hour, about a week ago.  It made me laugh out loud at one part, and she sounded like such a fascinating woman that I came back to watch her entire talk.  I’m so glad I did.  She is a truly remarkable woman to know about, and I think her name should enter prominently into the historical annals of Totally Badass Women.

“I decided to make mine a life that was worth saving.  And then, I just got on with it.” — Referring to her experience of being separated from her parents during the time of the holocaust, and herself being saved by strangers.



Sakena Yacoobi

How I Stopped the Taliban From Shutting Down My School

“Education transforms people.”

This woman is AMAZING!!!!  I am telling you, watch this one.  It’s not just about her standing up to a group of Taliban men, face to face, but also about her story of absolute bravery in a time and place when anyone who stepped out of line (particularly women) were simply murdered for it.  Her experiences and what she did are astounding, but also the takeaway from her story– that education, love, kindness, and understanding can actually and quite literally transform people.




Maryn McKenna

What Do We Do When Antibiotics Don’t Work Anymore?

Another that I first heard on the TED radio hour and had to hear more of.  I have to say, the majority of her talk is very somber and borders on being a downer, but it is absolutely worth listening to her entire talk.

We know that our society relies heavily on antibiotics, but what is so evidently lacking is our respect for them.  This powerful talk by McKenna starts to take us there.  (Listen up, right at about 10 minutes in, it gets very good.)

“Resistance is an inevitable biological process, but we bear the responsibility for accelerating it….We did this by squandering antibiotics with a heedlessness that now seems shocking.



Featured image (at top) by:  Sarah Blake via KDU

All reviews written and opinions expressed are the author’s own.



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