Friday, March 27, 2009

Isabel Allende: Tales of passion

Isabel Allende: Tales of passion is a TED talk by Isabel Allende.  I had never seen her talk prior to this, and she is very funny.  I did not expect this.   Isabel reminds me of my Aunt Godmother. 

Between funny stories about flag-bearing, the Olympics, and Sophia Loren, Isabel tells tales of extraordinary strength and makes a very strong case for feminism today. She introduces herself as such: 

"I was born in ancient times, at the end of the world, in a patriarchal, Catholic, and conservative family.  No wonder that by age 5 I was a raging feminist. Although, the term had not reached Chile yet -- so nobody knew what the heck was wrong with me. I would soon find out that there was a high price to pay for my freedom and for questioning the patriarchy, but I was happy to pay it because for every blow that I received I was able to deliver two."

Isabel's daughter Paula insisted once that feminism is dated.  They had a fight. Isabel rebutted that feminism is dated for privileged women like her daughter, but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world:

"Who are still forced into early marriage, into prostitution, into forced labor.  They have children that they don't want or that they cannot feed.  They have no control over their bodies or their lives.  They have no education and no freedom. They are raped, beaten up, and sometimes killed with impunity.  For most western young women of today, being called a feminist is an insult. Feminism has never been sexy. But let me assure you, it never stopped me from flirting. And I have seldom suffered from lack of men. 


Feminism is not dead, by no means. It has evolved. If you don't like the term, change it... the name doesn't matter, as long as we understand what it is about, and we support it.


Although women do 2/3 of the world's labor, they own less than 1% of the world's assets. They are paid less than men for the same work, if they are paid at all, and they remain vulnerable because they have no economic independence and they are constantly threatened by exploitation, violence, and abuse. It is a fact that giving women education; work; the ability to control their own income, inherit, and own property benefits the society.  If a woman is empowered, her children and her family will be better off.  If the family prospers, the village prospers, and eventually so does the whole country.

The poorest and most backwards societies are always those that put women down. Yet this obvious truth is ignored by governments and also by philanthropy. For every dollar given to women's programs, $20 are given to men's programs.


In this case, the trickle down effect which does not work in economics, works perfectly. Abuse trickles down from the top of the ladder to the bottom. Women and children, especially the poor, are at the bottom. Even the most destitute of men have someone they can abuse: a woman, or a child.  

I'm fed up with the power that a few exert over the many through  gender, income, race, or class... We need a critical number of women in positions of power, and we need to nurture the feminine energy in men. I'm talking about men with young minds, of course. Old guys are hopeless, we have to wait for them to die off."

Those are the weighty, hefty bits with statistics and fighting words. Isabel sprinkles those amongst human stories which are much more interesting, but which I'll leave up to the video. This is one of my new favorite talks. 

(From my iPod)

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