The video posts from last week’s TED Women are beginning to appear on TED‘s website. My brain is still swimming from all the wonderful talks I saw, but two of the first to be posted are from Tuesday’s session, which I didn’t see.
One of the few men to speak was Tony Porter. (There was another man who spoke on Wednesday, when I attended TEDxTribecaWomen. He was terrific and I’ll share it with you when it’s posted on TED’s website.) He tells some very personal stories about growing up and what he thought manhood is supposed to be—and how he later changed his mind. As I suspect is often the case, part of his realization came from being the father of a little girl.
It always amazes me that young people today (those in the developed world, anyway) are growing up surrounded by computers and don’t even realize how recent this is. Yet I can sympathize; I felt the same way about the space program, until I realized that the first unmanned spacecraft had been launched only a few years before I was born, and the first American in space (Alan Shepard, in a sub-orbital test drive) when I was a baby. As youngsters, we tend to assume that whatever existed in our earliest memories has always existed.
I majored in English, but dated a Computer Science major. One evening he knocked on the door of my dorm room and found me banging out a term paper on a manual typewriter. “You’re living in the Dark Ages!” he announced, and a few days later he again turned up at my door, this time with a little card that said I had an account at the computer center. He taught me word processing–very primitive–on a terminal hooked up to a mainframe. But I was probably the first English major to turn in a paper composed on a word processor. Being able to edit without retyping a page or using Wite-Out was huge.
Yesterday I attended a TEDxWomen event in New York City. With a group of other women (and a few men) I watched a full day of TED Talks by and about women—and by a few exceptional men. I wanted to blog about it, but it was too much to put together overnight. Eventually I’ll write about the day, either singly about some of the Talks or collectively about the event. But the penultimate Talk has inspired me to tell a different story.
The next to last speaker was Caroline Casey, a woman who lived the first seventeen years of her life not knowing she is legally blind. Somehow her parents were able to make her believe she could do anything that any of her fully sighted friends and classmates could do.
I happened to attend a college that had an unusually high number of disabled students. Once upon a time, before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Marist College built most of it classroom and dormitory buildings to be wheelchair accessible. After a while it became background. The first time I saw a student who had no arms in the cafeteria, it was a shock. After a while, it became routine. One night in the campus pub he beat me at a video game. Still later, I realized there were students with disabilities that were not visible.
Recently there was a stink on the Internet about a woman named Clarabelle Rodriguez who tried to purchase a pair of designer eyeglasses online and got ripped off by an unscrupulous vendor. When she complained that the glasses were knock-offs and demanded her money back, the vendor not only refused to issue a refund but threatened her.
Somehow, Google got blamed. Poor Google! Life can be hard when your name becomes a verb meaning “find everything in the world.”