9 Podcast Recommendations for Fab Feminists

I got into listening to podcasts three or four years ago, and it was life changing. By which I basically mean that I say “Oh, in this podcast I was listening to …” at least once a week.

So, look. The podcast world is full of the voices of white men (because, honestly, what isn’t?). That’s not to say that Ira Glass isn’t great, but if you were looking for some non-white-man podcasts, here are some badass womyn-led ones you should be listening to (plus some episodes I just really enjoyed).

  1. Another Round

 

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“Another Round” via Buzzfeed.

“Another Round” is basically listening in on the conversation of two brilliant, hilarious women you wish you were friends with. BuzzFeed writers Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton down drinks (hence the name “Another Round”) while tackling issues like gender, mental health, race, and squirrels (yes, squirrels!). They feature guests ranging from HRC to Margaret Cho, with segments like “White Women Gotta Do Better” (with Lena Dunham) and fantastic advice like, “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Entertaining and insightful, I look forward to it every Tuesday.

  1. Call Your Girlfriend

 

Another conversational podcast between two kickass women, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, in which they talk pop culture, periods, and shine theory (aka, why women shine brighter when they support one another). There has been some extensive talk on the pros and cons of menstrual cups on this podcast, and I especially enjoyed Episode 37’s discussion with Rebecca Traister on how gender plays into the public perception of Hillary and her candidacy.

  1. Stuff Mom Never Told You

Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin educate the public on topics from lube to pinup girls to female urinary devices and create a thoughtful overview on every topic under the sun through a feminist lens. Surprise: the patriarchy is everywhere!

  1. Mystery Show
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via “Mystery Show

It’s in the vein of shows like “Serial”, but rather than dealing with mysteries like ambiguous deaths and maybe-treason, Starlee Kine tries to figure out how tall Jake Gyllenhaal really is and the meaning behind an ambiguous license plate. Like a feel-good indie movie, it’s rather twee and a bit self-indulgent, and I love it for that. (My favorites: “Belt Buckle” is magical and “Source Code” is pure joy.)

  1. Chicks Who Script

 

Okay, maybe this is a little niche. But if you’re into film and scriptwriting, “Chicks Who Script” brings in a new guest every week (mostly women, some not) to discuss topics from ageism in Hollywood to promoting your own work and above all the experiences of women in the industry.

  1. Pushing Hoops With Sticks

There is literally one episode you can listen to of this podcast, and I’m guessing there won’t be more, but the one episode that does exist is simply amazing. Ayesha Siddiqi talks to Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend about cultural appropriation in music, the prep aesthetic and class, and more in one incredibly interesting, insightful conversation on American culture. Kanye is, of course, mentioned several times.

  1. This American Life” episode “The Problem We All Live With Part 1

I’ve seen this episode on every single “Best Podcasts of 2015” list (and no list is accurate without it), and even though TAL is the most podcast-y of all podcasts, whatever, it bears repeating. Nikole Hannah-Jones does some investigative reporting on America’s education system and racial segregation. It’s moving, thought-provoking, and a must-listen, and it just might make you cry (I did). Already listened to it? You might enjoy “PostBourgieepisode #34, where Hannah-Jones further discusses racial segregation, or “Another Round” episode #24, where she discusses the process of reporting this story as well as being a Black woman in journalism.

  1. Reply All” episode #27 The Fever

Also known as, another reason why I’m scared of the internet/men/the world. Stephanie Foo tells the story of several Asian women’s experiences on dating sites like OKCupid and the very real threat of “yellow fever”.

  1. Planet Money” episodes #576 When Women Stopped Coding + #615 A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes On The Video Game Industry

I’m a huge fan of “Planet Money” – they’re great at framing and discussing economic problems in a way that is relevant, accessible, and engaging – and these are some especially gender-focused episodes. In these episodes you’ll find an interesting and engaging look into the history of how and why women stopped coding and an adorable story of powerful activism.


Erica Liao

Art Director, What the F Magazine

B.A. Political Science, Minor in German and Law, Justice & Social Change

University of Michigan 2017, LSA Honors Program

 

 

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PoC Representation: Lessons from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ to ‘Jane the Virgin’

*E-Board Member of the Week post

 

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Cast of Hamilton

A lot of my favorite artistic works from this past year prominently featured people of color (PoC). I don’t think this is necessarily an indicator of progress in Hollywood, though (see: #OscarsSoWhite), but rather a result of me being more able to choose which forms of media I expose myself to – because, you know, the Internet. These works include TV shows like Jane the Virgin, which circles the lives of three Latinas, and Master of None, whose main character is Indian American, as well as the musical Hamilton, which features an almost entirely PoC cast, despite being about long dead white people, and even that blockbuster action flick, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In these shows and movies, PoC are not just side characters in the orbit of some main white lead, but rather they are the suns themselves, stars having their story told first and foremost.

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Alan Yang and the cast of Master of None accepting the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Comedy Series

Does my love for these works stem from the PoC within them? I don’t know. Maybe. I have certainly loved my fair share of completely or nearly completely white shows and movies, and long ago I learned to empathize with those people on screen who look nothing like me (an Asian American woman), but I also have to say: none of the other Star Wars films have captured my attention quite like Episode VII, with a trio at its center that contrasts so thoroughly from Luke, Han, and Leia; it consists instead of Rey, a woman with the “hero’s journey” usually reserved for men, Finn, a Black ex-Stormtrooper with a rich backstory, and Poe, a Latino pilot who’s just damn good at his job.

Hamilton, also, especially gains resonance from the diverse casting. It is a hip-hop influenced musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, and almost everyone, from Hamilton himself to Marquis de Lafayette, is played by a PoC (with the clever exception of King George III). Now – I have to admit, I have only ever listened to the cast recording, and only know of the diverse casting from online articles, clips, and photos of the show. The music stands well on its own. Still, there is something about knowing that Eliza, Hamilton’s wife and a central character in the musical, is played by Phillipa Soo, a Chinese American woman, that resonates. It excites me to know that this woman is playing a part in a history that I have never quite felt a part of. Not only that, but it feels authentic. Hamilton shits on everyone who has ever said that a cast has to be all-white because that’s what’s “historically accurate” and that’s what’s “relatable”, and instead gives us a Latino Alexander Hamilton and a Black Aaron Burr and a multiracial Thomas Jefferson, and it blows us all away. In watching them perform, there is no question in my mind that they are all the perfect embodiments of these white historical figures. Apparently, others agree: last time I checked, the show is sold out until late August. Evidently, this musical has been a success despite (or, perhaps more accurately, because of) its PoC cast. As Hamilton’s writer, composer, and star Lin-Manuel Miranda said, “This is a story about America then, told by America now.”

To hell with historical accuracy – but at the same time, where is the accuracy? Like Shonda Rhimes has said, featuring PoC in shows and movies is not even about diversity. It’s about normalizing. It’s about depicting the truth: PoC exist. We exist, we have always been around, and we have our own unique stories. Despite this, 83% of lead film actors are white, even though white people actually only make up a little more than 60% of America’s population. The race disparity for writers and creators is even larger.
Normalizing is what Jane the Virgin and Masters of None do well. They prominently and proudly tell the story of the segments of America that exist but are not often heard. Some of these stories I can relate to, and some I can’t – for example, the struggle of undocumented immigrants occasionally featured in Jane the Virgin is something I have never had to face. Still, I watch the bilingual Villanueva household from Jane the Virgin and find myself thinking, “Yeah, same.” The way they switch between Spanish and English in the same conversation is exactly how language is used in my family. In Master of None, the main character, Dev, talks to his friend about his stilted phone calls with his grandmother due to the language barrier between them. I have similar phone calls with my grandma: she raised me until I was 10, and then she moved back to China, so phone calls are difficult because of my poor Chinese skills. We can’t discuss much more than whether or not I’ve eaten dinner yet or if, yes nainai, I want to visit soon. I feel guilty about this. But hearing Dev talk about it feels cathartic: the knowledge of carrying a shared pain.

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Jane the Virgin

Of course, the purpose of TV and film and other forms of storytelling is not necessarily to reflect people’s lives back at them. A show about my life would be incredibly boring and mundane, and my interest in Jane the Virgin is definitely not lessened by the fact that I have never been [SPOILER ALERT] accidentally artificially inseminated (i.e., the premise of the show). There is real merit in hearing the stories of people different from yourself – it’s not like I haven’t gained anything from those Very White TV shows and movies I have watched and enjoyed, just as it’s not as if white people don’t gain anything from Very PoC TV shows and movies. Still, as the author of one of my favorite Very White books, F. Scott Fitzgerald, said, part of the beauty of literature is that “You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
What we have reached so far in terms of race parity in media representation is nowhere near enough, but I do believe it clearly shows there is nothing to lose and yet everything to gain from being more representative. I grew up not seeing a single family, a single character that reflected my image of myself – and here, at long last, is that reflection.

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Master of None


Erica Liao

Art Director, What the F Magazine

B.A. Political Science, Minor in German and Law, Justice & Social Change

University of Michigan 2017, LSA Honors Program

 

Why I Don’t Use The Word “Douchebag”

*E-Board Member of the Week post

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The word “douchebag” never bothered me until recently–that is, until I really thought about it. I was at Beanster’s getting a coffee when I overheard an exchange between two individuals, where one person was describing their significant other as a “douchebag” for not having attended an event with them. I have to admit, they were right to be upset- homie should have taken them to said event, no argument there. But why the word “douchebag”? In order to understand why I, as a feminist, was so vexed with the trivial nature of this matter, I got cooking (a metaphor you will soon come to appreciate).

First off: it’s useless. Douching, that is. The act of douching was established as a “necessary” (read: unnecessary) act of female hygiene. It relied on the false idea that the female genitalia was unclean, and, therefore, in need of a good douche.  Douching at one point was thought to be a form of birth control, a manner in which to rid yourself of those nasty little sperms–just wash them right on out! (Laughs hysterically.) Don’t we all wish? Washing out your vagina is actually associated with higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and other numerous health problems.

Ironically, the vagina–besides being the most amazing, versatile organ one could ask for–also self-cleans! Making the act of douching completely obsolete! In fact, douching is actually harmful.  The completely unwarranted act wrecks havoc on the female vagina and body. Hence, the adoption of “douche” and “douchebag” as a slang term for “jerk” or “useless”.

Despite knowing, as a feminist, that using “douchebag” as an insult accomplishes nothing, the word still manages to irk me. It somehow gets under my skin and repulses me. And it’s not because I’m disgusted by the act of douching. In fact, I know several individuals who, for reasons of their own, douche regularly. I just have a strong distaste for any word whose etymology is gendered, meaning that it’s distasteful definition is directly derived from an object created to “clean” the female body. It further proliferates the idea that female genitalia is gross and in need of a good spritz. When the vagina, as I mentioned earlier, is pretty fucking fabulous. When we continue to use “insults” like these inherently gendered ones, we further the idea that to be female is to be dirty, bad, or wrong–whether we do so knowingly or not.

Even though douching is medically problematic, dangerous, and downright unfriendly to the female body, it still doesn’t justify the slang word as being politically correct or socially acceptable.

Maybe I have a hard time believing that individuals using the words “douche” and “douchebag” really understand the context of the word. More likely, though, I think it is a classic case of equating the female genitalia with socially defined “unfavorable qualities”. I can’t imagine that the majority of the general population understand the harmful nature of douching. If they did, would Summer’s Eve still have shelf space at your local pharmacy?

Yet, still it is highly contested as to whether or not feminists should use the insult. That somehow the use of “douche” and “douchebag”, in modern feminist vernacular, indicates a reclaiming of a term that once was degrading, as if to say, “Gotcha suckers! You thought it was offensive because our vaginas were unclean? Joke’s on you! Turns out douching is useless, and our vaginas self-clean, like my family’s boss-ass KitchenAid Oven. Yeah, you heard me, douchebag! I’m talking convection and shit.” You see people engage in the same argument in regards to “pussy” as being a slang word for “pusillanimous”. If that’s the case, then why is my vagina being described as showing a lack of courage or determination? My menstrual cycle passionately dissents.
Maybe this is a petty over-examination of a silly slang word. But maybe it’s not. I can’t help but think that, under investigation, we can begin to not only improve our arsenal of vocabulary but also do so without degrading an entire population of individuals. Regardless, the use of these highly gendered terms, besides being offensive, is super banal. If your amigo is being a jerk, I get it–call them out! Just don’t do so at someone else’s expense. That would make you a real used Kleenex.

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Jacqueline Saplicki

President, What the F Magazine

University of Michigan 2017

College of Literature, Science, and the Arts