The perfect pairing of interview subject and interviewer made for a dynamic South by Southwest 2018 talk on gender issues, global politics and even Silicon Valley tech culture as brash Recode executive editor Kara Swisher interviewed longtime CNN correspondent Christiane Amapour on Saturday at the Austin Convention Center.
The topic of the talk “Sex & Love Around the World,” might have been surprising to some; Swisher covers technology and Amanpour’s specialty has been global crises, but it’s also the title of a new CNN series from Amanpour debuting March 17 that she said has been a welcome change of pace.
“I’ve done depressing my whole career,” she said near the start of the panel about a television show that has allowed her to peek into the bedrooms, bars and churches of cultures around the world to explore not only relationships, but how women are part of sea change that includes, but was not precipitated by the current #MeToo movement.
“Young people are bursting out of the confines of their culture, of their context, of their religious morays, particularly young women,” Amanpour said. “While the #MeToo movement in the west is happening, it’s quietly been happening around the rest of the world. Not defined by #MeToo, but by education and economic empowerment. The future of these countries will be built on the backs of women.”
Swisher, meanwhile, was the counterbalance to Amanpour’s gravitas, starting the presentation with her signature sharp timing and humor:
"You've had sex, right?" Swisher asked.
Only slightly thrown, Amanpour replied, "Occasionally. Once, at least, I have a kid."
Amanpour, who described herself an “Incredibly controlled human being,” said the new show has allowed her to learn and absorb lessons for herself and to witness from new perspectives how cultural mores are shifting as women become more empowered, even if some of those changes are small or slow to happen.
The talk also touched on sexual harassment scandals in the U.S. (Swisher pushed on asking about Charlie Rose, whose harassment scandal led to Amanpour hosting a show on PBS), CNN’s battle on the fake news front and tech companies who don’t consider themselves media companies, which Amanpour strongly disagrees with.
On the global shifts in gender relations, though, Amanpour says she’s optimistic and excited by what she’s seeing. She believes the younger generation of people, including her soon-to-be-18-year-old son, have a level of tolerance and acceptance and a respect for consent in gender relations that she finds hopeful.
When Swisher thew one last fastball at the end, asking Amanpour if she has any sex advice to impart, the CNN journalist kept it clean, saying that respect for partners is an emerging trend. “Old fashionied courtship is gonna come back,” Amanpour said.
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