British Columbia

Tracee Ellis Ross calls on women to 'acknowledge their fury' at TED conference in Vancouver

The annual TED conference kicked off in Vancouver Tuesday, with Black-ish actress Tracee Ellis Ross staring off the first evening of the signature short talks.

Black-ish star wrote a guide in the style of a children's book to teach men about sexual harassment

Tracee Ellis Ross speaks at the 2018 TED conference. (Bret Hartman/TED)

The annual TED conference kicked off in Vancouver Tuesday, with Black-ish actress Tracee Ellis Ross starting off the first evening of the signature short talks.

Ross, an outspoken Hollywood advocate of women's rights, gave an impassioned speech that urged women to "acknowledge their fury."

"Women have been trained to think that we're overreacting or that we're too sensitive," Ross said, notes in hand. "We try to swallow the furious feelings." 

Ross is best known as Dr. Rainbow Johnson from the hit show Black-ish, for which she won a Golden Globe.

She wore a grey pantsuit and her hair back and started off her talk with a story about a friend who was gently moved out of the way at the post office — a seemingly innocuous act that provoked deep anger.

"Her fury was ignited by lifetimes of men helping themselves to women's bodies without consent," Ross said, adding that "the innocuous makes space for the horrific."

Guide for men about sexual harassment

Men feel entitled to help themselves to women's bodies, not because they're less moral, Ross argued, but because it's a blind spot for them. 

Last December, Ross joked about that same blind spot on the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live, where she read from her book The Handsy Man, a humorous guide for men about sexual harassment, written in the style of a children's story.

"There is a guy with 10 long fingers, creepy glares and hugs that linger. If you're a woman, you're not a fan. I speak, of course, of the Handsy Man," she read. 

Her talk at the TED conference was a more direct plea for men to question their behaviour and for women to stand up for themselves. 

"Today, the global collection of women's experiences can no longer be ignored," she said. "Time's up on women being held responsible for men's bad behaviour."

Parkland history teacher speaks out

Also on the roster Tuesday was Diane Wolk-Rogers, a history teacher at the Parkland, Fla., high school where a mass shooting in February prompted U.S.-wide demonstrations calling for for gun control

"It's been two months and every day I still hear the echoes of the pop pop sound of the gunfire," she said, adding that she still experiences flashes of pain, grief and anger.

Wolk-Rogers laid out her arguments for gun control, asking gun owners to question if they need their weapons.

"Perhaps it's time for some of us to lay down our arms," she said.

Other talks on Tuesday evening included Canadian Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, who spoke about the importance of investing in and trusting scientists. 

Psychologist Steven Pinker, whose book Enlightenment Now explores how the current era is the best time to be alive, capped off the evening.

There are more than 80 speakers scheduled to speak at the conference at themed sessions throughout the week.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.