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Revenge of the Feminerd: Interview with Stuff Mom Never Told You

Cristen Conger and Molly Edmonds, hosts of Stuff Mom Never Told You, in black and white looking at the camera

If you're the type of person who watches shows like MythBusters or Daily Planet you might also have come across HowStuffWorks.com, a Discovery-owned website that aims to be a resource for people to get credible, accessible information on how stuff works—"stuff" being anything and everything from cell phones to molecular gastronomy to the principles of gravity. HowStuffWorks has produced a bunch of great podcasts, including a podcast aimed at discussing gender dynamics, called Stuff Mom Never Told You.

I interviewed the Stuff Mom Never Told you hosts, Cristen Conger and Molly Edmonds. With a background in journalism, Cristen writes for HowStuffWorks.com as well as Discovery News. Molly also writes for HowStuffWorks. She's from North Carolina and has a degree in creative writing and political science.

Here's what they had to say about their podcasting experience:

Q: What would you say is the goal of Stuff Mom Never Told You?

The goal of Stuff Mom Never Told You is to enlighten listeners—and ourselves—about gender dynamics, stereotypes and why we are the way we are. But even though we focus on women, one of our goals is find ways to engage with our male listeners as well.

Q: Where do you go for new subject matter?

Take any topic and look hard enough, and there is a female contribution or untold story to tell, or some sort of gender issue to unpack, so new subject matter is everywhere. We get ideas from current events, our listeners, female-oriented blogs and media (like Bitch!), what we might be reading, and also the stuff we liked as kids (Nancy Drew or dolls). We also ponder basic questions that might be affecting our lives, such as office politics or break-ups.

Q: What's the most interesting thing you've learned doing research for the podcast?

The most interesting things we have learned include the neuroscience of love and attraction, the tricky territory of evolutionary psychology, men's roles as trendsetters in items we consider to be female fashion (hello, high heels) and the disturbing gender dynamics in the field of magic.

Q: Do you ever get a backlash from listeners for looking at what might be seen as controversial issues?

Almost all of the feedback that we get from listeners is positive, which is great encouragement for us. When we do receive criticism, it's for remaining impartial on a topic. For example, when we've tried to explain topics like burqas and abortion from an unbiased perspective, people get upset that we didn't take stronger stands for or against certain positions. Sometimes, we also get push back from mothers when we discuss pregnancy and childbirth as two single, childless ladies.

But we think that no matter the topic, we can—and should—rely on research and information rather than emotions or experience, and we're constantly striving for objectivity. We're learning alongside our audience, and we want our listeners to be able to draw their own conclusions about a given subject.

Q: Do you have any women role models who've influenced you? You've addressed feminism and various feminist theories in a number of your episodes. Do you identify as feminists?

To us, the heart of feminism is gender equality and the choice to make your own decisions and follow your own path, so yes, we identify as feminists. However, we recognize feminism is a loaded word and don't necessarily identify with everything everyone might associate with it. But that's part of why we try to present the podcast from an objective standpoint, rather than trying to get across one particular viewpoint or stance. We try to never leave men out of the conversation, either, because their voices are equally important. We also try to be upfront and honest about where we might grapple with what being a feminist means in the day to day. For example, in our chivalry episode, we talked about how we don't mind guys opening doors or paying on first dates, but we questioned whether that makes us bad feminists.

Q: What's your favorite podcast you've done?

Some of our favorite moments can be found in "This is Your Brain on Breakup", "What's the Scoop on Lady Poop?" and "When Did Beer Become a Boy's Drink?"

 

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Comments

2 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Things I didn't know about beer

Thanks for posting a link to the podcast about beer. I've drunk enough beer to float a battleship and I've researched beer origins and I've hemmed a St Pauli Girl dress for a girlfriend's Halloween costume so I didn't learn a lot from this podcast. I'd like to make three points.

This is a small point. Cristen and Molly use the word "gals" to refer to women. Gal is a word feminists taught me not to use in reference to women about 40 years ago. I never knew why. I just knew that if I used it, I might be harmed in some creative way. Is gal back in business? If so, why?

The podcasters later refer to beer as "skanky". Skank is an emotionally charged term I have never heard a man use. I have heard women use it to denigrate other women. I think the beer drinking woman in the podcast meant "skunky" beer and this was a Freudian slip. Skunky is sometimes used by marketers in commercials to indicate beer past its prime. I've never heard anyone outside of a commercial use the term.

No Rachel Ray effect accrues to women by virtue of drinking beer, even though RR can cook. And no Sarah Jessica Parker effect is attributed to women by virtue of drinking Cosmopolitans. Men think she looks like a horse.

My advice to female beer drinkers: drink responsibly, put the cell phone away and be sociable at the bar. And if a man asks "How was your day?" don't burst into tears. Could you forward this to Christen and Molly?

Thanks. --Will

homelessinportland.tumblr.com

Absolutely

Hi Will,

I will absolutely pass the message along - you raise some good points. I don't see "gal" as particularly problematic when coming from women - maybe the issue was that if it's said by a guy it could be misconstrued as minimizing women or demeaning them? But you've got me curious about the skanky/skunky thing.

Although I'd disagree with saying all guys think Sarah Jessica Parker looks "like a horse". It's not really cool to compare women to animals - I'd say worse than calling them "gal".