TED Talk “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women,”: Speech Summary, Text, & Analysis

March 19, 2023

13 min read

Pat Mitchell delivers an excellent speech on the power of women.

In Pat Mitchell’s inspiring 3-minute TED Talk, “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women,” she examines what it means to be a powerful woman in dangerous times and how we can use our collective power to create positive change.

TED Talk “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women” Speech Summary

Using Yoodli, a free AI speech coach platform, we analyzed Mitchell’s speech to get in-depth insights. You can get started at http://www.yoodli.ai and view the speech here.

  • Declaring, “I am a dangerous woman” still feels a bit dangerous, but it feels right.
  • We are living in dangerous times and such times call for more dangerous people.
  • Becoming dangerous means speaking the truth when silence is a lot safer, speaking up in rooms for those who aren’t present, and challenging the cultural construct that encourages us to compete, compare, and criticize.
  • Needs opportunities to claim power, use power, and share power.
  • Bella Abzug’s idea: “In the 21st century, women will change the nature of power rather than power changing the nature of women.”
  • Have observed women climate leaders working behinds the scenes, out of the public spotlight, to keep global climate negotiations moving forward
  • It’s time to play the women’s card, race card, and all other cards to advocate and agitate for fairer and truer and more equal representation in every room and at every table
  • It’s time to change the nature of power by dismantling some of the barriers that remain for those who follow.
  • Leverage the power of media and technology to elevate each other’s stories and ideas; practice civility; and seek the truth.
  • Allocate more of our philanthropic dollars, our campaign donations, and our investment funds to increase economic and political equity
  • Hold the torch higher than ever and invite others to join in its dangerous light

TED Talk “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women” Speech Text

Below is the text from Mitchell’s TED talk, “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women,” retrieved from Yoodli’s platform using AI:

"Recently, Ive been declaring to anyone who would listen that I am a dangerous woman. (Applause) Now, declaring that boldly like this still feels a bit dangerous, but it also feels right. At this time in my life, about to be 77, I have — (Applause) I love when you’re applauded for your age — (Laughter) but I’ll take it. (Applause) About to be 77, I realize that I have nothing left to prove, less to lose, and I’m more impatient about everything. The true, slow pace towards equality, the rise in sexism, racism, violence against women and girls … And I’m angry, too, at the climate deniers who are stealing the future from our children and grandchildren. Friends, we are living in dangerous times. And such times call for all of us to be more dangerous.

Now, what do I mean by this? I don’t mean being feared. Its not that kind of dangerous. But I do mean being more fearless. I mean speaking the truth when silence is a lot safer. I mean speaking up in rooms for those who arent present, especially those rooms where decisions are made about our lives and our bodies. We need to be in those rooms, showing up for one another, challenging the cultural construct that encourages us, especially women and girls, to compete, compare, criticize. We have to end this. And speaking out against the policies and the politics that divide us and diminish our collective power as a global community of women, and the men and the allies who stand with us.

Becoming dangerous also means embracing whatever risks are necessary to create a world where women and girls are safe in their homes and at work, where all voices are represented and respected, all votes counted, the planet protected. And this is all possible. Because were ready for this. Were better prepared than any generation ever before us, better resourced, better connected. In many parts of the world, were living longer than ever. Women over 65 are among the fastest-growing populations on earth, with the potential for becoming the most powerful, too.

Now — (Applause) What a change this represents. Postmenopausal women like me, not that long ago, were considered useless or crazy. We were valued for caregiving and grandmothering — and I really love that part. But we were pushed aside and expected to retire to our rocking chairs. Women on the dangerous side of 60 are not retiring. We are rewiring —(Applause) taking all that we know and have done — and that is a lot — to redefine what age looks like, can do, can accomplish. But becoming dangerous isnt about becoming a certain age, because at each end of the age spectrum, brave women and girls are stepping up, taking the risk to create change.

I became a risk-taker early in my lifes journey. I had to, or have my life defined by the limitations for a girl growing up in the rural South, with no money, no connections, no influence. But what wasnt limited was my curiosity about the world beyond my small town, beyond the small minds of a still-segregated South, a world that I glimpsed in the newsreels at the one movie theater in town, and a world that got a lot closer to me when I met Miss Shirley Rountree, my eighth-grade English teacher. From the minute she walked into the classroom, her high heels clicking, she was a woman in charge, with perfect hair, signature red lips, colorfully coordinated, head to toe. I wanted to be her. Gratefully, she became my first mentor and helped me become me. With her support, I got a scholarship to college — the first in my family — and landed at a big state university, right in the middle of two great social justice movements: civil rights for African Americans and equal rights for women. I joined both with enthusiasm, only to discover that my newfound activism and my fermenting feminism would often be in direct conflict with my deeply embedded need to please and be popular.

In my first job as a college teacher, I broke the rules, and I encouraged students to join me in the protest marches. And when I found out that my male colleague with the same experience and education was being paid more than me, I mounted a personal protest. When my raise was denied, with the excuse that he had a family to support, so did I as a single mom. But I dropped my protest to keep my job.

Today, millions of women are making this compromise, staying in their jobs without equal pay for equal work. And as one of the first women on television in the 70s, I was warned that focusing on womens stories would limit my career opportunities, and maybe it did. But I got to produce and host breakthrough programming for women, while at the same time, remaining silent about sexual harassment and listening to consultants who were hired to advise me about my appearance. “Become a blonde.” I did. Lower your voice.” I tried. Lower your necklines.I didnt. (Laughter) But I did wear those ugly anchor suits with those scarves that look something like mens ties. And later, in the power positions in media, often as the first or only woman, aware of being judged through that gender lens, I struggled from time to time to find the right balance between being a leader for women and not being entirely defined as a woman leader.

But today, Im proud to be known as a woman leader. (Applause) As an activist, advocate, feminist and as a newly declared dangerous woman, Im caring less what others say and saying more clearly what I think and feel. And let me be clear: I acknowledge my privilege in being able to do that, to speak my truth. And to stand here today with this opportunity to talk to you about women and power — note I did not say empowered. I dont think were waiting to be empowered. I think we have power. (Applause) What we need are more opportunities to claim it, to use it, to share it.

And yes, I know — there are women with power who dont use it well or wisely and who dont share it. Ive heard, as Im sure you have, those stories that begin with, The worst boss I ever had was a woman … And we could all name women leaders who have not made us proud.

But we can change all of that with a simple but brilliant idea that I first heard from a risk-taking, dangerous congresswoman from New York named Bella Abzug. Bella said, In the 21st century, women will change the nature of power rather than power changing the nature of women. From the moment I heard that —(Applause) I thought, This is our call to action. This is our biggest opportunity. And as a journalist and an activist, Ive seen this idea in action, documenting the stories of women on both sides in long-term conflicts, coming together and defying the official power to form alliances and find their own ways to ending violence in their communities. And as an activist, Ive traveled to places where its dangerous to be born a woman, like eastern Congo, where a war is being waged on the bodies of women. There, at a healing and leadership center called City of Joy, brave Congolese women are transforming pain into power by training survivors of sexual assault to return to their villages as leaders. And at recent climate summits, Ive observed women climate leaders working behinds the scenes, out of the public spotlight, making sure that the negotiations toward global climate agreement continue to move forward.

So as we move forward in our lives and work and we have more power and influence, let’s change the nature of power by dismantling some of the barriers that remain for those who follow by advocating and agitating for fairer and truer and more equal representation in every room and at every table. Now, be warned: If you advocate for a woman for an open position or promotion, you could be challenged with, “Youre playing the womens card or the race card if advocating for a woman of color. Ive had this experience, as Im sure you have. Are you running an affirmative action program here at PBS? asked one of my board members when, as a new president, I announced my first hires as five qualified women. Now, my affirmative action had been to ask that the search firm bring me a candidate list that included the names of women and people of color who just happened to be, in my judgment, the best candidates for the position as well.

I say, dangerous women and our allies: its time to play the womens card, play the race card, play all our cards. (Applause) Not to win the power game, but to lead to better outcomes for everyone. And its time, too, to discard that scarcity theory, the one that says, theres only room for one of us at the top, so protect your turf, dont make friends or allies. Changing the nature of power transforms protect your turf into share your turf, it encourages coalitions, it builds alliances, it strengthens and sustains friendships. My women friends are my source of renewable energy. (Applause) So are my mentors, my champions, my supporters, my sponsors, and all of the ways that we can and do show up for each other. We can become our sources of renewable power for each other. And along the way, we need to take better care of ourselves, and here, I am not the best role model. I dont meditate. I dont exercise regularly. But I do live aerobically. (Laughter) (Applause) Because I believe we cant be dangerous from the sidelines, and theres just too much to be done.

So lets use all our power. How about the power of money? Lets allocate more of our philanthropic dollars, our campaign donations, our investment funds, to increase economic and political equity. And lets leverage the power of media and technology that we have in our hands, quite literally, to elevate each others stories and ideas; to practice civility; to seek the truth, which is diminishing and is threatening free and open societies. Yes, we have all that we need to move our communities forward. And the best thing we have, and what we must remember, is to be there for each other. We will move forward together, willing now to take more risk, to be more fearless, to speak up, speak out and show up for one another.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote that he believed in his opinion that his life belonged to the community, that the harder he worked, the more he lived and that he wanted to be thoroughly used up when he died. He went on to write, Life is no brief candle to me but a splendid torch that I have got hold of for a moment before passing to future generations. I, too, do not view my life as a brief candle, although I am burning it at both ends. (Laughter) And I do want it, and me, to be thoroughly used up when I die. But at this point in my lifes journey, I am not passing my torch. I am holding it higher than ever, boldly, brilliantly, inviting you to join me in its dangerous light. Thank you.(Applause)"

TED Talk “Dangerous Times Call for Dangerous Women” Speech Analysis

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Pat Mitchell’s Word Choice

With regard to word choice, Mitchell excelled. nailed it in terms of word choice. She didn’t use any filler words during her entire speech, which is saying something. Only 1% of her speech featured weak words — words that are close to fillers, such as “quite,” “just,” and “I mean.” .

However, the one thing Yoodli did highlighted as a potential improvement was non-inclusive language. Mitchell only used one instance of what can be considered non-inclusive language — in this case, “crazy,” since it can be labelled as abelist and sanist — but this type of language is easy to change and replace.

In fact, Yoodli suggests changing it from “crazy” to “confusing,” to remove the non-inclusive term and replace it with another option.

Pat Mitchell's word choice was fantastic.
Pat Mitchell’s word choice was fantastic overall.

Pat Mitchell’s Delivery

Mitchell’s body language is something that stands out as a win — she was often smiling and used some natural hand gestures as well. She also used some purposeful pauses to allow the audience some time to digest her message.

However, Yoodli did highlight a few areas of improvement. For example, the AI speech coach was able to detect that Mitchell’s speaking pace was a bit slower, at 117 words per minute. To improve the pacing, Yoodli suggested bringing that 117 to 120 words per minute — a small but impactful change.

Mitchell’s centering and eye contact were also deemed areas for improvement. However, we can take this with a grain of salt, considering she was speaking to a large audience and walking around the stage.

Pat Mitchell’s delivery was also great, although she could alter her pace to be a bit faster.
Pat Mitchell’s delivery was also great, although she could alter her pace to be a bit faster.

The Bottom Line

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