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The TED Talk of Former President Jimmy Carter about the Mistreatment of Women

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In the TED Talk “Why I believe the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse,” former American president Jimmy Carter discusses the issues he saw with treatment of women as he travelled the world during his years of presidency. I chose this TED Talk because feminism is a topic I am very passionate about. As a woman, I have experienced some of the oppression that we face in society. I strive to become more informed regarding the issues women face all over the world, as well as contribute to and encourage the resolution of such problems.

Using His Position

Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He also received a Nobel Peace Prize for co-founding the Carter Center, whose goal is to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering all over the world. Throughout his presidency, Carter aimed to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, advance democracy, human rights, and promote economic and social development. In his TED talk, Carter discusses the various abuse girls and women face in world religions, cultures, military, universities, and business that he noticed throughout his travel. This convinced him that the mistreatment of women was the leading form of human rights abuse. By directly witnessing, researching, and working to resolve this form of abuse, he acquired a profound understanding of exploitation of women in the world. Throughout his presentation, Carter actively uses his status as an authority figure, a former president, to help assert his credibility. He also uses his social position as a male to make his arguments more credible to those males that do not take women’s issues seriously, and who believe that women who fight for equality and justice are overdramatizing their situation, and have a biased view.

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Different Techniques

The overall message presented by Jimmy Carter is that the abuse of women, being the number one abuse of human rights in the world, must be eradicated as it prevents us from achieving equality and justice in societies. He further explains that the abuse of women is made possible by misinterpretation of religious scriptures, our endorsement of violence, and the ignorance on the part of most men. He makes use of various oral presentation techniques, such as humour, gestures, pausing, pacing, and changing volume to effectively relay his information to the audience.

First of all, Carter makes use of humour to gain the audience’s trust and put the audience at ease. To warm up the audience, he begins his presentation with an anecdote, of a cartoon he once saw, of a boy telling his father that “Daddy, when I grow up I want to be a former president.” By making the audience laugh, Carter gains the audience’s trust, which then helps make his arguments more convincing. Furthermore, he reminds the audience of himself being a former president, which will also strengthen his credibility. When discussing the lack of equal pay for equal work, he says that there has been a decrease in the wage difference in the last few years, and jokingly adds: “partially because I was president.” Besides using humour to increase his credibility by reminding the audience of his contribution to increase gender equality, he lightens the audience’s mood and puts it at ease as his prior arguments were very grave and upsetting.

Carter uses gestures as a visual aid to help the audience to comprehend his points. According to Washington Post, consultant Vanessa Van Edwards concluded that the most successful and viral TED Talks had an average of 465 hand gestures. She determined that when “really charismatic leaders use hand gestures, the brain is super happy…because it’s getting two explanations in one.” For example, when establishing some of his arguments, Carter points his clasped hands forward, to physically direct his words to the audience. With gestures, he also demonstrates intensity. When he mentions that men often misinterpret holy scriptures and give women inferior positions in the church to keep themselves in ascendant position, he raises his hand to show that men are at the top. To establish a better relationship with the audience, he points to himself and the people sitting in front of him when discussing what they can both do to help resolve the mistreatment of women in the world.

Additionally, Carter also makes use of pausing for dramatic effect and to aid the comprehension of what he is saying. For example, when stating that a law was established in Sweden, that female prostitutes were to be no longer prosecuted, but rather brothel owners and customers, he paused to create suspense and make the audience reflect on this idea, and then resumed by stating that due to this, prostitution has gone down in that country. He also makes use of pausing to allow information to sink in. When describing the inequality in wages in America, he pauses after introducing the topic of “lack of pay for equal work,” to let the audience process that this is still a remaining issue.

Furthermore, Carter makes use of pacing to aid comprehension and avoid confusion of controversial points. When mentioning that one of the causes of mistreatment of women is the misinterpretation of religious scriptures, he establishes that the Southern Baptist Convention decided women should play a subservient position to men in the year 2000. This caused women to be banned from teaching in a seminary classroom if a boy is in the room, because there is “over 30,000 verses in the Bible that say that a women shouldn’t teach a man.” He slows down when saying that the basic thing is that scriptures are misinterpreted to keep men in an ascendant position, for clarification as to why the problem is present. When saying that another serious problem is honour killings, he speeds up his pace when saying that it comes from misinterpretation by the family, to arrive to the point that there is nothing in the Quran that mandates this. He does this in order to get to the most important point, that this abuse comes from misinterpretation of holy scriptures.

Finally, Carter makes use of variation in volume to help certain points stand out, as well as to create a certain atmosphere. When discussing human trafficking and slavery, he lowers the volume of his voice when saying that during the 18th and 19th century there were many people sold into slavery from Africa, but then increases the volume when saying that there are currently 30 million people living in slavery. Also, he says that when officers in the military do not prosecute rapists because they do not want to damage the reputation of the army, he makes his voice quieter to create a solemn atmosphere when saying that the officers do not want people to know what is happening. By creating a solemn atmosphere by decreasing his volume, he makes the audience ponder on the intensity of the issues.

Women Rights Today

The topic presented in my Ted Talk is connected to elements of controversy as it discusses the rights of women. This topic is connected to a variety of opinions on the political spectrum as well as in society. Some traditionalists may argue that there is nothing wrong with the treatment of women in today’s world, as historically women always occupied a position in society that is inferior to men, and that nowadays women have more rights than ever before. However, those that hold more progressive beliefs will argue that in order to achieve success as the human race, we should not strive to keep society the way it always was but aim for development in order to improve it. Today, there are multitudes of women’s rights organizations around the world, such as the Human Rights Watch, Women of Vision, and Captive Daughters, as well as the UN and the World Health Organization that work to secure the rights of women. There have recently been a multitude of protests around the world, such as the Women’s March held on January 21, 2017, where women’s rights, along with other issues were advocated for. In the Middle East, where women’s rights are limited, activists are working to advance women’s rights and protests against their oppression. Under a new Saudi law, women are allowed to obtain a driver’s licence without asking a male guardian for permission, despite “guardianship” laws that give men power over female relatives. In recent Iran anti-government demonstrations, women removed their hijabs to protest the Iranian dress code, which is notable as there are very strict laws imposed on what women are allowed to do. There are restrictions controlling what they can wear, what jobs they can hold, and what they can watch.

The Causes of the Violation of Women Rights

The causes of rights abuse that Carter discusses are controversial. He also makes use of oral techniques to highlight conflict points. One of his points is that women are mistreated in the world religions, as men in ascendant positions only allow women to hold inferior positions of power. That is controversial as many people are very sensitive regarding criticism that relates to their religion or beliefs. However, Carter phrases his argument to be about how the mistreatment of women is due to misinterpretation of holy scriptures by men. After stating that, he increases his pace, to get to his explanation faster to avoid misunderstanding. Also, when saying that men “interpret rules to make… women… relegated to a secondary position compared to men in the eyes of God,” he increases his volume when concluding that “this is…. [a] problem because men can exert that power and if an abusive husband or an employer…wants to cheat women, they can say that if women are not equal in the eyes of God, why should [they] treat them as equals [themselves]?” He does this for emphasis, and then slows down to let the explanation of the controversy be understood easier.

Controversial Points

Carter describes how America condones violence, which is controversial for many patriots. He mentions how in the most recent report of statistics regarding the American military there has been over 26000 sexual assaults, and increases the volume of his voice to emphasize that the problem is that the officer in command is able to decide whether to prosecute rapist or not, and often does not in order to not damage the reputation of the army. He also says that America is the “most war-like nation on Earth”, having been at war with over 25 different countries since Second World War. As Ted Talk was held in Monterey, California, and most people in the audience were Americans, Carter lightened the atmosphere and gives hope, by saying in a joking manner “there were four years, I won’t say which ones, where we didn’t drop a bomb, didn’t launch a missile.” By this he suggested that during his years of presidency America was not a violent nation, and therefore it is possible for America to be a peaceful country. Another point of controversy is that Carter mentions that a reason why the mistreatment of women exists is because men don’t care about women’s rights, which is arguable, because men that advocate for women’s rights do exist. Carter says “that in general, men dont give a damn,” increasing his volume on “general” for emphasis. Then he compares how men quietly accept privileged position they occupy, similar to how the white people quietly occupied a position of privilege while claiming they were against discrimination during the period of severe racial discrimination in America. He then returns to increasing the volume of his voice when saying that “the average man really doesn’t care,” despite saying they against discrimination of women.


To summarize, in the TED Talk “Why I believe the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse,” former president Jimmy Carter develops that the abuse of women is a highly prevalent issue in the world and must be eradicated as it prevents us from achieving equality and justice in society. It is primarily caused by misinterpretation of religious scriptures, the endorsement of violence in the world, as well as ignorance on the part of most men. Carter uses a variety of oral presentation techniques, such as humour, gestures, pausing, pacing, and changing volume to convey his message as well as to emphasize controversial topics he discusses. He concludes his presentation by saying that those living in more powerful nations should actively speak out against injustice towards women not only in the country they live in, but all over the world. Although the violation of women’s rights is a fairly well known topic, many do not realize how widespread it is, and how it affects women and girls.


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