A Zipcar station in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/NCinDC)
Over the past year, it seemed that every major media outlet declared "the end of men." The latest in this series was last month’s Newsweek cover story, which declared that the economic meltdown has rendered males an “endangered species.” I’m as eager to see a gender shake-up as anyone, but I’m afraid that the obsessive focus on this one side effect of the economic crisis is overblown and distracting us from some other significant cultural changes. Gender may be shifting but so is how we consume and commune.
Carol Coletta, the president and CEO of Chicago-based CEOs for Cities, directed the 100 or so young, urban leaders seated before her to look up at a map of the United States as she demonstrated the steady migration of Americans out of rural areas and into cities over the last 10 years. Little blue dots representing the population piled inward and on top of one another like bees to a honeyed hive. Coletta is a true city evangelist, as were most of those in attendance at last week's Urban Next Summit conference in San Francisco.
The proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has set off a firestorm of media coverage that, for the most part, is a reflection of our broader national discourse on race, religion, and difference -- yet again highlighting our inadequate grasp of these issues. It's like a flashback of 2008, when every other week proposed a new ratings-hyping headline asking: Is so-and-so racist?
It's no big mystery that Sarah Palin makes feminists want to poke their own eyes out. That plucky delivery and empty rhetoric, that faux-folksy manipulation and mama-bear shtick. She's essentially using our ideas -- the strength of women, the importance of independence -- but without our integrity. We hate that she's performing empowerment rather than actually delivering it. We hate the way conservative pundits lust after and objectify her. We hate that she's everywhere, saying nothing.
But there's another woman who is currently proving even more problematic for the contemporary feminist. She's a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, formerly a highly successful lawyer at the Chicago firm Sidley Austin, the mentor to our current president of the United States of America.
Elizabeth Pisani at TED2010. (TED/James Duncan Davidson)
When TED calls, you answer the phone.
TED is a 26-year-old organization that hosts some of the world's most sought-after conferences, and a highly trafficked website featuring 18-minute talks on "ideas worth spreading." If your mom, co-worker, or best friend hasn't sent you a link to a TED talk already, it's just a matter of time.