Modernization Hub

Modernization and Improvement
Liza Donnelly: Drawing upon humor for change

Liza Donnelly: Drawing upon humor for change


(Laughter) I was afraid of womanhood. Not that I’m not afraid now, but I’ve learned to pretend. I’ve learned to be flexible. In fact, I’ve developed some interesting tools to help me deal with this fear. Let me explain. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, when I was growing up, little girls were supposed to be kind and thoughtful and pretty and gentle and soft, and we were supposed to fit into roles that were sort of shadowy — really not quite clear what we were supposed to be. (Laughter) There were plenty of role models all around us. We had our mothers, our aunts, our cousins, our sisters, and of course, the ever-present media bombarding us with images and words, telling us how to be. Now my mother was different. She was a homemaker, but she and I didn’t go out and do girlie things together, and she didn’t buy me pink outfits. Instead, she knew what I needed, and she bought me a book of cartoons. And I just ate it up. I drew, and I drew, and since I knew that humor was acceptable in my family, I could draw, do what I wanted to do, and not have to perform, not have to speak — I was very shy — and I could still get approval. I was launched as a cartoonist. Now when we’re young, we don’t always know. We know there are rules out there, but we don’t always know — we don’t perform them right, even though we are imprinted at birth with these things, and we’re told what the most important color in the world is. We’re told what shape we’re supposed to be in. (Laughter) We’re told what to wear — (Laughter) — and how to do our hair — (Laughter) — and how to behave. Now the rules that I’m talking about are constantly being monitored by the culture. We’re being corrected, and the primary policemen are women, because we are the carriers of the tradition. We pass it down from generation to generation. Not only that — we always have this vague notion that something’s expected of us. And on top of all off these rules, they keep changing. (Laughter) We don’t know what’s going on half the time, so it puts us in a very tenuous position. (Laughter) Now if you don’t like these rules, and many of us don’t — I know I didn’t, and I still don’t, even though I follow them half the time, not quite aware that I’m following them — what better way than to change them [than] with humor? Humor relies on the traditions of a society. It takes what we know, and it twists it. It takes the codes of behavior and the codes of dress, and it makes it unexpected, and that’s what elicits a laugh. Now what if you put together women and humor? I think you can get change. Because women are on the ground floor, and we know the traditions so well, we can bring a different voice to the table. Now I started drawing in the middle of a lot of chaos. I grew up not far from here in Washington D.C. during the Civil Rights movement, the assassinations, the Watergate hearings and then the feminist movement, and I think I was drawing, trying to figure out what was going on. And then also my family was in chaos, and I drew to try to bring my family together — (Laughter) — try to bring my family together with laughter. It didn’t work. My parents got divorced, and my sister was arrested. But I found my place. I found that I didn’t have to wear high heels, I didn’t have to wear pink, and I could feel like I fit in. Now when I was a little older, in my 20s, I realized there are not many women in cartooning. And I thought, “Well, maybe I can break the little glass ceiling of cartooning,” and so I did. I became a cartoonist. And then I thought — in my 40s I started thinking, “Well, why don’t I do something? I always loved political cartoons, so why don’t I do something with the content of my cartoons to make people think about the stupid rules that we’re following as well as laugh?” Now my perspective is a particularly — (Laughter) — my perspective is a particularly American perspective. I can’t help it. I live here. Even though I’ve traveled a lot, I still think like an American woman. But I believe that the rules that I’m talking about are universal, of course — that each culture has its different codes of behavior and dress and traditions, and each woman has to deal with these same things that we do here in the U.S. Consequently, we have. Women, because we’re on the ground, we know the tradition. We have amazing antennae. Now my work lately has been to collaborate with international cartoonists, which I so enjoy, and it’s given me a greater appreciation for the power of cartoons to get at the truth, to get at the issues quickly and succinctly. And not only that, it can get to the viewer through not only the intellect, but through the heart. My work also has allowed me to collaborate with women cartoonists from across the world — countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Argentina, France — and we have sat together and laughed and talked and shared our difficulties. And these women are working so hard to get their voices heard in some very difficult circumstances. But I feel blessed to be able to work with them. And we talk about how women have such strong perceptions, because of our tenuous position and our role as tradition-keepers, that we can have the great potential to be change-agents. And I think, I truly believe, that we can change this thing one laugh at a time. Thank you. (Applause)

100 comments on “Liza Donnelly: Drawing upon humor for change

  1. I bet Rolex has a separate 'sister' company, called "Rolex for Women." That's not separatist at all. Just like TED Women isn't separatist. Glad we have TED Women to help bring the genders together under one roof and into one room. A place where gender has no bearing on how much of a voice you have…

  2. @Darvinisti "…that either refutes one of my claims or improves it."

    The claim that the mostly female audience would not comprehend normal TEDtalks" or the claim that TED is allowing these TEDwomen talks just to get laid? 😉

  3. I found the humor enjoyable. But she's a run of the mill liberal feminist. Feminism is a short-term unsustainable design, which eventually leads to plummeting birth rates, which eventually leads to nations being conquered or hollowed out by foreigners. Her own parents are an example of the failure of feminism, they divorced. I doubt this woman has any children. Oh and isn't it funny how women so easily just agree with each other in these tedwomen talks?

  4. I found the humor enjoyable. But she's a run of the mill liberal feminist. Feminism is a short-term unsustainable design, which eventually leads to plummeting birth rates, which eventually leads to nations being conquered or hollowed out by foreigners. Her own parents are an example of the failure of feminism, they divorced. I doubt this woman has any children. Oh and isn't it funny how women so easily just agree with each other in these ted women talks?

  5. Let a man be wary of a woman's ability, and not her dependance on waxing eloquent. If women individually want to compete for a role, let her do it on the basis of merit and character rather than deservedness and injustice from some other culture in some other time. This is now. Let a woman compete now for what she desires to be now. As for this feministic rhetoric, I will ignore a the sexist parts of this speech and take in the valuable parts.

  6. @mazdaplz bullshit i never think of myself as a superior to women its modern world we live in and all of that crap from the past is not releavant to me thats why i get mad at it its just doesnt feel releavent like women are better or men are better and ll of that bullshit

  7. @yiotos Bullshit i think that all of the women crap is long forgoten since women got to vote i think that evryone are equal and saying something like "woman woman…." or "men men…" is total bullshit and its just annoying

  8. Respond to this video… what issue ??? i think since they got to vote that is issue sould be long forgoten and talking about one gender eing better that another is total bullshit and unrealevant to our community… or atleast to me and most of us

  9. @sashakid Men think it, but just don't discuss it as much because frankly we're too lazy to care. We know we got power and don't have to struggle with speeches like these to optain it. 🙂

  10. @Frottjeif I would love it! As a man it's so difficult to meet atheist women, who are (most of the time) way much independent and self-conscious than the average woman. When you live in a place where 98% of people are Catholics… it's pretty lonely! :S

  11. this is funny because this is sexist in itself , stupid women . you cant be sexist if your a woman and you cant be racist if your black. stupid hypocrites !

  12. She wasn't saying that men are inferior– only that women tend to have a different role in society than men, and therefore tend to have certain knowledge that men tend not to have. That's not sexist– she's merely observing a trend.

  13. I feel like women don't stay in there tight groups, gossip about other girls, and wear pink because they are forced to, but because that's what they enjoy to do.

  14. This is sooooo scary! A woman! Talking to other women! About something other than a man! I sense a violent feminist revolution; arm yourselves, able men!

  15. @TheErickaJane
    It's not whining, it's dissent.

    Stop belittling our right to dissent, lest you come across as a fascist. And it's not "for" women, it's "for" feminists. Different story.

  16. This is ridiculous. Women are on the ground? They know the traditions? So men are not? Is she saying that only women have a set of cultural rules for behavior, that they would rather not follow? What! How does any of this apply to women and not men? Why is all this gender discrimination being tolerated by TED? Who do these feminists think they are?

    This is so massively hypocritical. Men cannot get away with claiming exclusivity on any point.

  17. @bentothetenthpower I for one will not tolerate this foolishness in my own life. If I hear anyone talking about the superiority or exclusivity of their group in person I will call them down. If I hear any crap about how much better women, or white people, or christians, or whoever is than the next bunch I will seriously shout the hateful asshole down.

    I call upon the rest of you to do the same. Too often those of us who have moderate thinking also have a moderate voice. Up with tolerance!

  18. I get that this is a little sexist but she has a good point. There's always these stupids standards that both sexes "have" to be in in-order to be okay with society. I've always just been myself and been condemned for it, even IN COLLEGE! It's so annoying and childish. But I just stopped giving a f*ck. I think people should just be themselves. Seriously.

  19. @iAMsoBEAST1 some do and some don't. But she does have a point though. I don't think it's sexist. I see this stuff everywhere. People are just afraid to be themselves.

  20. @TheErickaJane Well, I never thought everyone would get it. My point was to stop comparing and distinguishing between men and women altogether, taking into account that such comparisons are more often seen in members of the feminist movement than elsewhere. No sexes, just human beings. Still, if blame-seeking is your sport of choice, go ahead, knock yourself out!

  21. Don't try and tell me that girls and boys are the way they are only because we socialize them. If you give a your child a barbie and a dinosaur, I guarantee you that a boy will take the dinosaur and a girl will take the barbie 99 times out of 100, because boys and girls are inately different from each other.

  22. This wasn't funny. You should quit your job and do something where you aren't a detriment to your gender's progress. This kind of feminist bullshit helps no one; least of all women.

  23. @PisicutaSiMatei Oh please… This video has no relevance to sexism at all. It's more about people not wanting to be themselves because they're embarrassed by it or something. Personally I kinda like anime but am I gonna go around and tell all my friend, who hate anime, that I like it, no. It's the fear of being judged for what one does and women aren't the only ones who have to deal with this feeling, so please, don't make any judgments as to why people dislike a video.

  24. @unkaodya Not at all, just for those that want to go with those type of groups, one with an atheist focus would be a great one.

  25. I've only seen a few ted-woman talks I have enjoyed. Like the majority of ted-talks with woman, this was not one I liked.

  26. @iAMsoBEAST1 "Personally I kinda like anime but am I gonna go around and tell all my friend, who hate anime, that I like it, no."

    I do. (as with many other interests of mine)

    "women aren't the only ones who have to deal with this feeling"

    True, but they are one of the few groups, that experience it, to such a high degree and just because there are other groups, in need of change, doesn't mean you shouldn't make any efforts, just because it's not directed at ALL the groups that are affected.

  27. @BaileysBeads "Everything else in TED is TEDMen"

    No. That is utter and complete nonsense.
    Many women have spoken at regular TED talks, and there is nothing that stops women from being speakers at regular TEDs.

    There may be things that hinder women from gaining such education and success, as is necessary for a speech from them to be of high quality (not that all TED talks are… like Brenda Laurel, who spouted sexist drivel and made pathetic games), but that's a completely different issue.

  28. @ZarlanTheGreen That's no problem, men spoke at TEDWomen.

    What I'm trying to convey is that TEDWomen so far has been mainly tripe. It would be awesome in the 70's perhaps 80's but right now they're just lagging way behind the current emancipation that they come across as a bunch of disgruntled ladies still stuck in their victim role.

    I hope this was a one time event and that TED is a tad more selective about who they invite on stage to speak about women's rights in the regular shows.

  29. I have dated three women that each had two children; an older daughter and a younger son. Each mother doted on the son and spurned the daughter.
    Women- men will continue to oppress you as long as you oppress each other.

  30. @BaileysBeads "That's no problem, men spoke at TEDWomen."

    Really? That makes no sense.
    It would, if TED women was just about women's rights/issues, but it isn't, so…
    Still that doesn't affect your claim that everything else is TEDmen, or my saying you're wrong about that.

    "What I'm trying to convey is that TEDWomen so far has been mainly tripe."

    By saying that everything else in TED is TEDMen? That means you're saying that men are inherently better than women, thus making you a sexist.

  31. @BaileysBeads …though with that said, I do agree that most of the talks from TEDWomen haven't been too good. (many regular TED talks aren't too good either, but most are)

    "and that TED is a tad more selective about who they invite on stage to speak about women's rights in the regular shows."

    Well… They have occasionally invited foolish and/or despicable people.
    People like, for example, Brenda Laurel, Rick Warren and Elaine Morgan. (all three, being both foolish and despicable)

  32. Decent talk, not great, not as bad as many of the other TED women talks.
    The rolex ad at the end was actually one of the better ones i've seen the past few years. It did not make any mistake i could identify in the content or the desposition of it, and as an ad for the brand itself rather than a spesiffic model, i don't find the lack of relevance to me as a consumer critique-worthy. I wish more ads were made of the same standard, and this one has my approval.

  33. @ZarlanTheGreen But your not getting the point. Yes, you should expect somebody such as a women who want to be a comedian, but its not my job to admit they are a comedian. They have to do that on there own. The reason they suffer to such a high degree is because they so very self conscious. They're the ones who have to get over the fear of being judged and be themselves. It's a personal journey and in no way is the fault of others…

  34. @gulllars

    The Rolex ad *is* magnificent. ^^

    And it's successful; every time I see the ad, I get a certain desire to purchase a Rolex wristwatch. 🙂

  35. @SickBang

    That doesn't change the fact that our culture is rather oppressive when enforcing it's gender roles. Donnely just gave the focus on the issues that women are facing, she did not make any claims about men. In fact she didn't even mention men in her speech, but here you are, all defensive as if you had just heard the most sexist talk in the history of mankind. Please be more observant and objective, and don't jump into hasty conclusions without considering alternative explanations.

  36. @ZarlanTheGreen I feel justified in being sexist, it feels I have to be that way to offset the sexism in TEDwomen.

    TEDWomen is an insult to both genders.

  37. @khatack remember that next time you decide to tell a man to "man up" (aka shut up and take it).

    liza has no need to mention men specifically. since there is only man and woman (for the most part), it is inherently implied that her comparison is to men. When a woman in a women's convention says, "As a woman" it is synonymous to "As a human that is not male."
    Men, btw, go through exactly the same things as she discusses. There is nothing 'more' special about women's experience. only different.

  38. @iAMsoBEAST1 The society that brainwashes them, from infancy, is not a factor at all, then?
    Their fear of being judged is an issue, but that doesn't mean that those who judge aren't also a problem.

    Not to mention the tangible losses, one can get from not conforming:
    Not getting certain jobs, friends and access to certain places…
    Having to endure whole groups of people mocking/looking down on you… (ignoring it decreases the negative effects that has on you, but it never eliminates them)

  39. @ZarlanTheGreen It's the job of the society to be accepting, as I said, but there not the ones who have to make the bold outing of their true selves.

  40. @iAMsoBEAST1 I'd like to add that your comment that "It's a personal journey and in no way is the fault of others…" is not only wrong (as I explained), but also an insult to any and all, who are mocked, looked down upon, bullied or shunned unjustly.

    If your bullied, like I was, the bully has no blame?
    If a group says that homosexuals are an abomination and should die, they hold no blame?
    Please watch watch?v=ax96cghOnY4 (from your logic that video is wrong)

    That makes you utterly despicable.

  41. @eragonlover1
    If I said
    "Men tend to have a different role in society than women, and therefore tend to have certain knowledge that women tend not to have."
    (when talking about, say, a predominantly male job.)
    Would that be sexist?

    I'm not trying to imply anything… I'm honestly curious.

  42. @iAMsoBEAST1 "It's the job of the society to be accepting, as I said"

    No you didn't. You said "and in no way is the fault of others…"
    I.e. you said the society is not at fault, in any way.

    "but there not the ones who have to make the bold outing of their true selves."

    They are responsible for being true to oneself to be a "bold outing" and make being true to oneself, detrimental in many ways.
    Why should that not be addressed?
    Why is only the ones who are unusual to blame, for this problem?

  43. @SickBang "so it's not men, telling woman to do stuff like this"

    Which she specifically mentioned. She notes that the primary ones to judge women, are other women.
    …and nowhere does she say or imply, that similar things don't happen to men, nerds etc. etc.

    If I see sexism against men, in a TED talk or elsewhere, I generally don't let it go unchallenged (with sexism against women, I often don't need to, but I often do the same).
    On this video, I have only seen it in the comments section…

  44. @Cradle2Venus

    She concentrated her speech on the issues that women face, the whole speech had nothing to do with men. It is true that men face similar problems, but there are so large differences that it's better to concentrate only on one group at a time, not both.

    And watch the talk again, there is no comparison whatsoever between men and women in her speech. You're the one doing the comparison.

  45. @khatack aside from biological the differences in the sexes are not "so large", men just aren't compelled to constantly express about all their problems the way women tend to do. I have 5 sisters and a large number of female friends and family. I am in no way sexist. I'm also not saying her points are invalid or that she is being sexist, but that they largely apply to both sexes.
    As i said before, the comparison is inherent in the speech. She doesn't have to say 'whereas men are/nt"

  46. theres a great line in "the departed" when he says you cant be respected if ur given it! You have to take it!…….. and thats the biggest problem for most woman…… the ones that do take "it", are mostly tom boys…. witch is a bit ironic.

  47. @Paulginz I would initially be offended and take it as a sexist comment, but then if I thought about it, I would say that I my comment was badly-phrased (in that I should have said perspective instead of information).

  48. @Cradle2Venus

    No, the comparison isn't inherent. I'm not sure what manner of communication you're used to, but in the scientific world people tend to use exact words, and thus there is no information hidden between the lines so to speak. Don't pretend that you can get inside the head of someone you don't even know, and instead consider their message with unbiased neutrality.

    And she doesn't have to say "whereas men aren't" because that's not even true in most cases.

  49. @heeh2

    That is only because you don't have a strong enough finance for that. If you had a couple of million dollars on your bank account, believe me, you would spend a lot of money on seemingly trivial status symbols such as a Rolex wristwatch.

  50. @ninjatoothpaste as a general rule, if you see a woman's picture in the TED video thumbnail, just dont click it. Thats why they separated the women out into the TEDwoman conference, they're simply not as good

  51. What is expected of women is to protect their eggs, protect their virtue, protect their genetic heritage as all mammals should do. Now divorce is rampant and 40% of all white children in HS graduate families only have one parent. Women have failed society. Men have not changed. Women have changed, sadly, for the worst. Corporate and government win. Families and children lose because women have become men, money makers, chasing money. Society suffers. Too bad.

  52. @jackgoldman1 Dude, what decade are you from? "Protect their virtue"? "Protect their genetic heritage"? You speak as if society had worked well up until the point women decided they didn't want to be treated like brainless baby factories anymore. How silly. Happily, though, your view represents a dead culture, and I spit on that culture's grave.

  53. Wow, the anti-feminists here really don't get it. Her talk is all about exposing the ridiculousness of conventions that women impose on themselves. True, we could have done with a little more elaboration on how that works, exactly, but TED talks are short.

  54. @bleepbloop01 how could anyone survive in this world without the freedom to dive 40,000 feet into the ocean anytime you want and still know what time it is.

  55. I was asking myself what was so funny about these comics…then I saw that almost everybody in the crowd was a woman…

  56. @karlsmith00 Wow that was some time ago. Curious, why do you think men find wife-beating and child rape funny? I sure as hell don't and if you think that then you perpetuate the typical "women are victims, men are perpetrators" mantra that contributes to the inequality of the sexes. I admit my comment was on the mean side. They were cute comics, just not hilariously funny like the audience obviously thought. And you know what? Thats ok. Maybe you should read more comics like that and lighten up.

  57. @karlsmith00 You obviously care what I think for some reason. But please insult me with more unfounded and inaccurate accusations. Please, more! ; ) Whatever makes you feel better.

  58. @strappinggermanlad

    You just don't get it…a Rolex watch was the first to have the date on the watch AND to spell out the month on a watch. That's ground-breaking stuff that you little mind can't grasp.

  59. Life sucks. My good friend has begun going out with a 10 simply because 2 months back he signed up to a website called Master Attraction (Google it if you wish to learn how.) I'm so jealous because I would like to fall in love as well. I'm going to take a look at this Jake Ayres man's information and discover if it can help someone like me. Odd thing is, he previously had NO joy with females. How does one transform that quickly? His lady's a banging model…

  60. Satire really is an effective tool when progressing change in a democratic society, as it gets people to lower their guard and laugh at silly ideas that have become traditions …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *