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Essential Podcasts for Learning and Unlearning, by Cecelia Johanni

What if we used podcasts as more than just background noise during morning commutes? With an abundance of shows out there, I wanted to see what I could learn from podcasts. After taking suggestions, I decided on three that cover different topics related to societal norms and constructs. These recommendations will leave you questioning your unconscious biases as you learn along the way.


Maintenance Phase

The first podcast I dove into was Maintenance Phase. This conversation-style podcast is the brainchild of Huffington Post contributor and writer, Michael Hobbes, as well as published author and blogger, Aubrey Gordon.


Maintenance Phase covers topics along the lines of diet culture, weight loss myths, and fatphobia from a food science perspective. The episode I listened to, Anti-Fat Bias, discusses how fat-shaming and discrimination are deeply embedded in society. Oftentimes, even saying “fat” feels off limits, despite the fact that fat isn’t a bad word. Treating it as an insult only furthers weight-bias. Gordon shares her own experiences of fatphobia and the isolation it can cause. The discussion about discrimination fat people face in healthcare settings stands out to me.


As Hobbes mentions in the episode, people seeking gender affirming care—care that is essential and life-saving to many—may be denied hormones or procedures based solely on their weight. As someone who hasn’t experienced body-shaming or been denied healthcare, I believe it’s important to learn from others who have.


This podcast demonstrates how privilege impacts our physical and mental well-being. In order to unlearn the weight-bias that many of us have grown up with, we need to listen to and uplift voices of those who have been harmed by fatphobia.


Gender Reveal

To continue the theme of unlearning, I decided to listen to an episode of Gender Reveal next. Journalist and equity educator, Tuck Woodstock, created this show about deconstructing the gender binary and exploring the many facets of identity. Some episodes are interview style, while others are a Q&A set up.


I listened to an episode featuring Morgen Bromell and their experience creating an LGBTQ+ dating app. Woodstock’s well-thought-out questions encouraged Bromell to reveal how their personal struggles with dating as a nonbinary individual influced the creation of the app.


Though I identify as queer, I’ve never examined how my privilegege as a cisgender woman has impacted my dating experince. Dating apps are frequently based on heteronormative and gendered practices


Gender Reveal encourages listeners to explore how privilege and gender identity interact. We need inclusion and accessibilty in society to create visibility for trans, non-binary and other gender non-conforming folks. This episode provides only a snapshot of what the podcast emcompasses and left me eager to learn more.


Nice White Parents

To wrap up my first installment of this podcast project, I listened to Nice White Parents. Chana Joffe-Walt, a journalist and producer known for her work on This American Life, narrates and researches for this New York Times show.


This five-part series focuses on the impact of gentrification in a predominantly Black and Hispanic middle school in Brooklyn, New York. Joffe-Walt documents the changes in policy and community as white parents enroll their children in the school at a rapid rate. Whitewashing and gentrification are familiar terms for me, but I haven’t considered these topics in the context of education.


Since this podcast is divided in chronological order, I started with the first episode. The episode provides a framework of the show’s general concept of white parents using their privilege to influence where school funds go. Despite the fact that children who mainly speak Spanish or Arabic at home make up the student body, the new parents instituted a French dual-language program. Along with establishing a fundraising group separate from the PTA, these parents lack the cultural competency to understand how their actions can be harmful.


While I have yet to listen to the rest of the series, a clear theme emerged: diversity needs equity to thrive. Perhaps the new parents were “well-meaning,” but offering French education—a language already used in the homes of many newly-enrolled white children—is problematic. Nice White Parents dives deep into how gentrification can harm communities. It allows listeners to consider their biases and examine the dangers of “white savior” culture.


Podcasts can be used as an opportunity to grow by listening to discussions outside of one’s usual scope of interest. They grant an easy way to begin or continue your social justice journey and can be accessed on multiple platforms. Carve out some time and give the recommended podcasts a listen.

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