How have the conversations you’ve been having about feminism changed from when you first started the podcast?
It’s two years old, and I have to say that so much has happened with feminism in two years, it’s just extraordinary. Brexit happening—that was after we started the podcast. Trump getting into power happened after we started the podcast. Donald Trump in the White House casts a cultural shadow over the whole world. There’s somebody who was recorded on a bus talking about women in the way he did who was still able to come to power and get elected.
And then of course there were the marches around the world, with women getting out onto the street and demanding better and demanding more, and the #MeToo movement with women standing up against sexual harassment and saying, “We’re not going to take this anymore, it’s not part of our job description to be harassed, to be sexually assaulted, to be frightened at work.” Those movements are really changing things, I think. It’s a really exciting time to be a feminist and it’s a fantastic time to have an established feminist podcast.
Could you have predicted those changes back in 2015?
No! But I think we knew that there was something in the air, though. It’s no mistake that we started the podcast. The zeitgeist is bubbling away well before it comes to the surface. I used to go to brunch with friends, or dinners and cocktails and we used to be talking about our own careers and dating and our own concerns and then something around two and a half years ago started to really shift. We would start talking about women’s places in the world and how we felt marginalised and how we felt that this wasn’t okay. Also, I was having conversations with women going, “I don’t know if I’m getting this right, but I really want to get better”.
We don’t have to be perfect in order to effect meaningful change. We don’t have to be the best feminist we can be to be a good feminist. We don’t have to be operating on every cylinder every single day, prioritising the right things all of the time. But to prioritise the right things some of the time will be meaningful and will change our lives.
Your ‘Weinstein Culture part #MeToo' episode was a recent highlight. What episodes would you recommend for new listeners to dive into first?
One of my favourites—I think this might the favourite episode internationally—it’s one we recorded in Melbourne. It’s called ‘Nice Girl’s Don’t’, it’s episode 43 and it’s co-hosted with Celia Pacquola and the guest was Cal Wilson. It’s about the idea of ‘nice girls’—what nice girls will and won’t do. I think it really demonstrates the scope of the show, because it’s so funny but quite emotional in parts. There’s also one I really love that’s called ‘Bringing Up Feminist Boys’ and if people are fans of Rachel Bloom from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, we did one with her where she really spilled the beans—that’s episode 55.
With podcasting being such an intimate medium, do you get a lot of emails and DM’s from fans?
We do, and I’m sad that I can’t keep up with all of it, it would be a full-time job! The two sorts of messages I get from people usually are, “Because of the podcast I said yes,” or “Because of the podcast I said no”. It’s someone saying, “My boss has been sexually harassing me for two years and I finally took all of his emails to HR,” or, “Why am I thinking I can’t do this PhD, why am I the one that’s not able to step forward and take this opportunity? I’m going to say yes".
And because it's recorded in front of a live audience, people can hear the audience laughing and applauding. So it’s not just me and Celia and Cal; it’s me, Celia and Cal and hundreds of women all saying, “Yes, we feel like this”.
Following on from #MeToo, what's a major feminist issue that you expect will come up this year that you’ll be talking about on The Guilty Feminist?
I think direct action is the next thing. The Florida teenagers who marched on Washington, who had an audience with the president are saying, “We won’t go away and we are entitled to our say”. Sometimes we think, “Oh, you vote the politicians in, what can you do,? They’re all as bad as each other, four years, you’re stuck with them now”.
Politicians work for us. We pay their wages with our tax, they’re meant to act in our interest and if they’re not working in our interest for a happy and dynamic society it is our responsibility to go down to Canberra, or Number 10 Downing Street, or Washington—or wherever it is in the world that you are—and say, “This isn’t okay, you have to change things and we are going to say how we want you to change things”. And if enough people do it, that’s how democracy works. Democracy needs the power of the people. Women have for too long felt disengaged from the political process because we are underrepresented in probably every single parliament around the world. I think we’re all going to have to get more politically active—and it’s exciting.
Who’s a feminist hero that you’d love to have on the podcast next?
Roxanne Gay. I think she’s a living embodiment of feminism in one person, she’s living her truth in public and that is changing the world.
The All About Women Festival is on Sunday 4 March at The Sydney Opera House and will feature two live recordings of The Guilty Feminist podcast. The festival lineup also includes Tarana Burke, Fran Lebowitz, Manal al-Sharif and many more. Visit sydneyoperahouse.com/all-about-women