These are the voices that guided us through the darkness when the news of the day left us confused, angry, or speechless.
2017 marked the 50-year anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act, and a new high point in the growth of podcasts as well. According to the annual Edison “Podcast Listener” report, in 2017 podcasts became the number-one audio product consumed by listeners. That growth was fueled in part by the current political moment, which our favorite women podcasters guided us through with wit and wisdom. Here are some of our favorites.
2 Dope Queens Their friendship, wit, and willingness to share embarrassing details about everything from dates to musical tastes, all while introducing us to some of the smartest, funniest indie comics out there–for these reasons and more Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson gave us life this year! (And we’re not the only ones—the popular podcast got picked up by HBO for a series next year). We’d tune in just to hear Jessica rip on Phoebe’s abiding love of U2 but we stick around for sex jokes in front of their parents and the image of these two sipping rose out of wine glasses engraved with “white male tears.”
Put Your Hands Together Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher have yet to do anything we don’t love, but this may be our favorite way to eavesdrop on the hilarious twosome. Their recent bits ripping on Roy Moore and what constitutes “cold” in Los Angeles kept us laughing when we wanted to cry and, like Jessica and Phoebe, we love that they introduce us to indie comics, especially women and LGBTQ comedians.
Crybabies Author Susan Orlean and actor Sarah Thyre dig deep into the things that make us weepy–from sappy commercials to beautiful art to the daily news–while in conversation with some of the funniest people alive–Amy Poehler, Christopher Guest, Jenny Slate, Molly Shannon. Few guests have escaped without snot and tears pouring down their faces; same goes for every time we listen.
Feminism & Friendship
Another Round with Heben and Tracy We love listening to Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton break down the issues of the day over bourbon, and we especially appreciate the ease with which they transition from jokes about dating to real talk on the politics of mass incarceration and back again.
Call Your Girlfriend Long-distance besties Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow chat about everything from the latest NYT style section to how tax reform will impact us all.
DoubleX Gabfest Hate the name but love these ladies—Slate‘s June Thomas, New York Magazine‘s Noreen Malone, and NPR’s Hanna Rosin—and their cross-generational breakdown of the month in feminism. Their discussions of whether Wonder Woman was a feminist victory, and the performative wokeness of men throughout the #MeToo disclosures were just a couple of the great gabs that got us through this year.
Hellbent Podcast This political news and commentary podcast by childhood friends Devon Handy and contributor Sarah Lerner brings a heavy feminist lens to a male-dominated political space. And their liberal use of the other “F” word helps us channel our rage.
Identity & Politics
Code Switch Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby have a magical brother-sister chemistry that adds humor as they tackle thorny issues around race with honesty and empathy. This year in particular, it’s been a godsend to have a place to think through and learn about identity issues. Their interview with Moonlight director Barry Jenkins was the best profile of one of the most-profiled directors all year.
Public Intellectual Jessa Crispin is like the cilantro of feminists, people tend to either love or hate her. Even when we disagree with her opinions, though, we admire her commitment to saying exactly what she thinks, and we especially dig episodes like “Canonize Tori Amos” and “Recovering Christians,” where we get to see her radical mind at work.
Racist Sandwich In this smart and funny podcast, chef and food writer Soleil Ho and co-host journalist Zahir Janmohamed use food as the anthropological lens through which they discuss various class, race, and gender issues. They bring on a different chef or food writer for most episodes and bring the funny in episodes like “Only White Men Get to Be Geniuses.”
Feminasty For their bestselling anthology, Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, editors Kate Harding and Samhita Mukhopadhyay rallied the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Rebecca Solnit, Jamia Wilson, Samantha Irby, and DAME’s editor-in-chief Kera Bolonik to reflect on how one of the shittiest years for women left us with all the feelings (mostly anger). This podcast extends the conversation with episodes that explore topics such as the status of intersectionality (still workin’ on it) and the power in unplugging, and demands that rather than putting our rally signs down, we set them on fire.
News & Economics
Embedded Like most public radio reporters, All Things Considered host Kelly McEvers kept finding herself with more tape, and more curiosity, for some stories than daily radio could accommodate. Embedded is where she gets to dig deeper, and for season two she had the genius idea of devoting every episode to digging into a different aspect of the Trump administration. The Jared Kushner episode is a master class in shade.
The Uncertain Hour From Marketplace‘s Wealth & Poverty desk, this podcast about economics should by all rights be boring, but it’s terrific. In the first season, focused on welfare in America, host Krissy Clark visits various programs run by state welfare funds, often surprising people with the knowledge that they are “on welfare.” Season two traces some of our most epic current economic battles back to their historical roots. It’s all fascinating and will enable you to discuss the issues of the day with that magic ingredient so often lacking in our hot-take culture: Context.
With Friends Like These The only female-run podcast of the Crooked Media Empire, on Friends Like These, Ana Marie Cox (of Wonkette and MTV fame) interviews people with divergent backgrounds and perspectives on issues ranging from religion to race to reproductive politics. Her interview with Rebecca Traister, about Clinton’s candidacy, was a particularly great listen this year.
Philosophy & History
Invisibilia With the full weight of NPR resources behind it, this is one of the best-produced podcasts around, and also one of the most interesting. Every season seems to top the one before it, with episodes like “The Problem with the Solution” about how we attempt to “solve” mental illness, sticking with you for months.
On Being with Krista Tippett You have to be in the right, reflective state of mind to throw on On Being, but for those days when only philosophy, theology, and deep thinking will soothe what ails you, this podcast is perfect. One of our favorites this year featured author Alain de Botton on the hard work of love and relationships.
Tell Me About Your Mother our own Amy Westervelt interviews a different woman each month about how everything from dating and sex to views on spanking and careers for women have changed from our mothers’ generations to our own. Recent interviews included Ashley C. Ford on dealing with her mother’s anger about being a single mother left to raise three children, Porochista Khakpour on watching her mother go from a wealthy Iranian beauty queen to a struggling immigrant, and Heather Armstrong on how she navigated her relationship with her mom after leaving the Mormon church.
Dear Sugars Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, often accompanied by a famous guest “sugar” (recent guests include Ariel Levy, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah) give heartfelt advice to listeners struggling with everything from maternal ambivalence to infidelity to estranged family members.
The Heart Kaitlin Prest is one of the most gifted producers working in audio and her passion project is filled with, well, passion. And quirk and emotion, and just plain amazing audio storytelling. Her multi-part series exploring sexual assault from both the male and female perspective was hugely insightful and beautifully done.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
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