Across the world, public debate and public knowledge is overwhelmingly dominated by a narrow section of society - mostly white, overwhelmingly privileged and overwhelmingly (85%) male. What are the reasons, what are the consequences and, more importantly, what are the solutions? Using examples from folklore and mythology, mainstream journalism, and contemporary science narratives (our understanding of human conception, sexual selection, and heart disease, for example), this speech examines how the lack of women's voices in public discourse has affected the quality of our nation's conversation, the way research is conducted, how stories are reported, and how history plays out - and indeed, what we think history is. As it turns out, the most crucial factor in determining history is more often not the distinction between what is fact and what is fiction, but who tells the story.
A girl, a wolf, a meeting in the woods. Who doesn’t know the story? “Little Red Riding Hood” is one of the best-known tales of all time. But most people don’t know it as well as they think. Based on Orenstein’s book of the same title, this keynote speech, accompanied by a slide show of historical and contemporary images, traces the fairy tale through time to reveal our changing ideas about men and women, sex and morality. From the werewolf trials of old Europe (when the story's villain was part of 'true history') to the tales' literary debut as a chastity parable in the 17th century court of Versailles (from whence the term ‘wolf’ to mean a seducer), on up to the sexual symbolism of Madison Avenue ads, the sharp revisions of Anne Sexton’s poetry, modern-day Hollywood film, rock songs, drag theater and even S&M fairy-tale pornography, this talk explores the evolution of one of our most powerful and enduring heroines. The message of this talk – and of Orenstein’s book – is that the stories we tell surround us, define us, shape history and our future—and at any given moment they can change, or be changed. The book has been featured on ABC-TV, CNN and NPR, and is under consideration for a TV show. Newsweek magazine called it "revelatory," the Wall Street Journal called it "beguiling," and Naomi Wolf wrote, "Let us hope that Catherine Orenstein's laid-back, readable brilliance sets the tone for an emerging generation of feminist scholars."