Women in the media industry have been mainly used for their bodies. They have been objectified and are the “eye candy”, or are the housewives who dutifully take care of the home, children and husband. In advertisements, women are usually wearing provocative clothing in order to appeal to the “male gaze”. In order to sell products, women must sell sex. This in turn creates self-esteem issues in women who see these ads, and want to embody the “perfect” models they see. Minority women are completely underrepresented in the media. The few roles available for them are usually catered to specific stereotypes.
A few months ago I discovered the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You, which is part of the How Stuff Works podcast family. This podcast, hosted by Caroline Ervin and Cristen Cogner, explores gender roles, notable pioneering women, and discusses many other topics that are important to women. They discuss what it is to be a woman psychologically, biologically and social logically. They do extensive research on the topic they are discussing, and cite the research on their website for listeners to review afterwards. This podcast is important because it is created by women and for women. This is not the case in a lot of mainstream media sources. Men are usually the ones running the show. The hosts of this podcast take the opinions and suggestions of the listeners into consideration when choosing their topics. This makes listeners, who are mainly women, feel empowered and important.
Stuff Mom Never Told You is necessary as an alternative media source because their topics focus on issues that are important for women. The issues and topics discussed are often subsided in mainstream media because they don’t fit in or appeal to some of the audience. These issues are often viewed as controversial which bring about “loaded” questions that most may not feel they can or want to answer. Some of these topics might also make audiences uncomfortable and therefore, may seem unappealing. This podcast is unlike usual media stations in that it provides listeners with alternative perspectives to these issues. It is also an outlet for those who feel they are forced to conform to societal opinions on some of these topics and is a way to feel they have opinions of value and common interest. This podcast can give them the confidence that is needed to express themselves in ways they could not have before being inspired it.
Cristen and Caroline discuss heavy topics such as the history of rape culture and the growing concern with the sex slavery trade, as well as lighter topics such as women in math, technology and science to Beyonce and Latina feminism. There is always a history of the topic discussed beforehand, so that listeners can better comprehend the theme of each podcast. It is important to note that although some topics might seem superficial, such as the podcast titled Bro-Rista Coffee Culture, I feel that the underlying message in each podcast is relevant and important for young women today. Some podcasts are also dedicated to women who are pivotal to women’s history. For instance, they had an episode titled A Controversial Woman, which was dedicated to Susan B. Anthony, who played a crucial role in the women’s suffrage movement. The website for this podcast contributes to these topics because it contains supplementary information for women. There are posts about the first female video game designer, and the first female rocket scientist. These women are an important part of female history, but don’t always get the recognition they deserve. These podcasts, along with the website, give young women the opportunity to learn about these amazing women who existed.
One of the episodes I found interesting is titled The Rise of Female Action Heroes, and it discusses the first female action lead and the evolution of the female action hero. Cristen and Caroline talk about Pam Grier, who is the first female action in Hollywood. In an interview for The Guardian discussed in this episode Grier says, “You know, I had to bump heads with a lot of men in the industry. They were not comfortable with showing a progressive black female in an action role. As a strong woman, I was seen as a threat. There was a fear that women would mimic me in real life. I remember certain people saying: ‘Oh, she’s taking our jobs, she’s castrating men’ – as far as I was concerned, I thought: ‘We don’t need to walk behind you, we should walk beside you”. Topics like these are important for women listeners. This is not something that gets talked about on a daily basis in mainstream media. These are not types of female characters we are used to seeing. Episodes such as these bring forth these amazing women that sometimes get washed out in our history.
Mary Sherman Morgan: First Female Rocket Scientist
Carol Shaw: First Known Female Game Designer :