Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women

Bold and Brilliant. That’s the theme of TEDWomen 2019, and I’m excited about the risk takers, game changers, misfits and mavericks, champions and advocates, entrepreneurs and innovators who will give TED Talks during the conference this December in Palm Springs, California.

I will be among them this year.

Yes, along with curating and hosting and coaching other speakers—which I’ve been doing since co-founding the conference in 2010—this year, I’ll be giving my own TED Talk!

This is gutsy, maybe even dangerous.

Dangerous is one of those words, like power, that is largely defined by negative images and associations, so it was with more than a little trepidation that I decided to title my new book, which is being published in OctoberBecoming a Dangerous Woman. This will also be the focus of my TEDTalk.

A memoir? Yes, partly. It’s also a call to action to all women, and the men who stand with us, to become more dangerous to meet the challenges of dangerous times—in which two young men carrying legally purchased assault weapons took the lives of 31 people and wounded dozens more within 24 hours; in which children trying to find refuge in the home of the free and the brave, are dying in U.S. custody; in which several states, including my home state of Georgia, have passed legislation that sends women back to the dark ages in terms of control over their own bodies; in which everything we write, tweet, post is monetized and potentially weaponized to sell us products and sell out democracy; and in which a climate emergency is threatening the extinction of all living things.

These are dangerous times—but in such times, there is an opportunity for women to step up to these challenges. I believe that when women take the lead and become braver, bolder and, yes, more dangerous,  embracing the risks necessary, we can shift the power paradigm that is holding back the changes needed to secure a safer and more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

I have witnessed women leading this work in some of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

(From top): Christine Schuler Deschryver with 2018 City of Joy graduates; Abigail Disney at Women’s Media Center Awards; Mary Robinson at TEDWomen 2015Meagan Fallone at TED Salon;Kimberle Crenshaw at TEDWomen 2016; andStacey Abrams at TEDWomen 2018.

Their stories of courage and resilience—women literally on the frontlines of conflicts working together for peace, rising up for rights and protections and innovating solutions for their families and communities—demonstrate the power of women to problem solve. This is especially true when women are connected to each other for shared learning and experiences.

Women like Christine Schuler Deschryver, who transforms the lives of survivors of the war being fought on women’s bodies in Eastern Congo…

Like Abigail Disney, who dares to speak the truth and document abuses from Liberia to Disney World…

Like Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president, who is devoting her considerable experience and energy to lead for climate justice…

Like Meagan Fallone, who trains rural women in 91 countries to become solar engineers so they can bring power and connection to their villages…

Like Kimberle Crenshaw, whose work focuses on the intersectionality of all the issues of race, gender, economy and education…

And like Stacey Abrams, who is fighting for everyone’s right to vote.

To elevate these stories, and many more of the women and men that I have met and continue to admire and learn from, I made the daunting (and perhaps dangerous by some definitions!) decision to write a book. Along with my personal stories from the frontlines of media as a journalist, documentary producer, executive and as an engaged advocate for greater representation, access and opportunity for all women, I also include interviews with the women I mention here and many others.

(TEDx Somerville / Creative Commons)

It started four years ago in a writing residency at Bellagio, Rockefeller’s conference center in Italy—and just this week, on South Africa’s International Women’s Day, the finished manuscript finally went to the Seal Press printers to be published October 8. 

I am excited and yes, somewhat apprehensive, about putting my story out into the world. What kept me on this path is my deep belief that in sharing our stories, as women have done for generations, we inform and possibly inspire others. I think of it as a memoir that mentors, sharing what I’ve learned from both my failures and my successes. The book is also an invitation to join me on this journey to becoming as dangerous as we need to be to make the world a safer, more sustainable, peaceful and equitable place for women and girls.

Some friends have observed that I’m living dangerously this year by publishing a book and giving a TED Talk, but I am motivated and inspired by the words of one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, who wrote in the poem “Sometimes”:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

This post originally appeared on Pat Mitchell’s blog. Republished with author permission.


Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women’s stories. She is chair of the Sundance Institute Board, the chair emerita of the Women’s Media Center board, and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and The Woodruff Arts Center. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to the American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council.