If you’ve had even a passing acquaintance with me, then you’ve likely already determined my Homeric epithet: I’m clearly podcast-listening Anna. It’s not just that I begin approximately 85% of my sentences with “I was listening to this podcast that said…”, but I also rarely walk more than four feet without reaching for my earbuds. I’ve started measuring all train rides not in minutes passed but in number of podcasts consumed. And, what’s worse, I’ve recently changed my iPhone settings so that I now listen to all podcasts at 1.5 times the speed and, thus, can ingest even more delightful knowledgeable goodness.
I know: It’s a problem.
But in the midst of all this witty chatter and educated analysis, I’m constantly surprised by the limited number of feminist-themed podcasts available over at iTunes. Feminists on the Internet are certainly not a rare breed, but the ratio of feminist bloggers to feminist podcasters is about the same as the ratio of people who watch House of Cards to the number of people who can name the current majority whip. But, thankfully, a few brave ladies have sorted out their business, set up a microphone, and begun righting this imbalance.
If you’re a recent podcast convert, then you should begin your audio-fueled life with the Slate family of podcasts. Because Slate isn’t just an online news organization. It’s a magical digital space where all the smartest kids in school have been rounded up—à la young superheroes in some Bryan Singer film—trained in the art of counterintuitive cultural analysis, and then let loose to unleash mad erudition on an unsuspecting public. Double X, led by The End of Men author Hannah Rosin, Outward editor June Thomas, and New Republic staff writer Noreen Malone, is, unsurprisingly, the gold standard in feminist podcasts. Like the other Slate gabfests, the bi-monthly Double X plucks topics from recent news stories, but it does so with a feminist lens that is—in true Slate fashion—often unexpected. The three hosts don’t simply reiterate feminist truisms, and they even question hoary sacred cows like breastfeeding, female-specific work policies, and the supposed evils of princess toys. It’s like the greatest gender studies class you can possibly imagine—if that’s the type of thing you fantasize about.
I was initially a little wary of this Bitch media podcast. Call me biased, but nothing raises my logic hackles like finding out a podcast is sponsored by the makers of reusable menstrual pads. NOT A GOOD IDEA. But even if Popaganda is a bit crunchy and sometimes comically sincere, it also covers unique and varied cultural territory such as the class politics of the Tonya Harding scandal or the process of creating a progressive fashion magazine for teen girls. Now, sometimes that reusable pad does show as in a recent year-end cultural roundup, where the Portland-based hosts all attempted to out-Portland each other with ever increasing levels of political correctness. But the hosts aren’t insufferable. They’re like that friend who’s always posting AlterNet stories on Facebook but who secretly admits that she really loved the newest Hunger Games film.
Most feminist news sources make being a feminist seem kind of exhausting. We’re always angry and yelling about the same three topics (i.e., good stuff that happens to your vagina, bad stuff that happens to your vagina, and Miley Cyrus). So Stuff Mom Never Told You, admittedly not the greatest title, is so refreshing because the two hosts, Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, cover curious and sometimes wonderfully odd topics such as the history of barbershops, the history of female firefighters, and my personal favorite, the history of pie—a topic that is surprisingly replete with feminist concerns. Cristen and Caroline lack the self-seriousness that plagues many cultural critics, and they understand that sometimes their listeners really just want to hear a forty-minute discussion on the history of baked goods. I know I do.