As women we have so much to say, but are our voices being heard in podcasting?
With the #MeToo movement, we at Podcaster@s started to ask ourselves: Are there patriarchal behaviors in radio? To what extent are women represented in the podcasting industry? In order to thoroughly analyze this phenomenon in Argentina, we talked to Mariana Levy from La Podcast and Paula Giménez from Pernocte.
Florencia Flores Iborra
During 2017, the team at Nos Quemaron Por Brujas, a feminist program that started in 2012, carried out a media study. The results were not very promising. In Argentina, 50 minutes can pass without hearing a woman’s voice on the radio. There are even entire programs without a woman commenting on the economy or politics. In the morning, between 6 and 10, on AM and FM, there are mainly male voices: 69% of the programs are hosted by men, while women are mainly presenters (82%). Which is why they say #WeAreMissingOnTheRadio (#FaltamosEnLaRadio, a social media campaign carried out by the Nos Quemaron Por Brujas crew).
Seeing this reality, a question comes to mind: what’s the scene of women or gender nonconforming people in the podcasting industry? In order to understand the challenges that this medium presents to women, we talked to Mariana Levy from La Podcast and Paula Giménez from Pernocte.
Interview with Mariana Levy from La Podcast
Mariana Levy is an actress, screenwriter, teacher, and co-host (along with Gustavo Casals) La Podcast. A program where they talk about TV series from different periods, they argue, they create hypotheses and chat about history. Their idea is to make it slightly feminist and sexually diverse. That makes the difference.
FF: Why podcasting? What benefits did you find in this format?
ML: First of all, I am a keen podcast consumer, plus I love to talk. So, I think the conditions were right for me to think about producing my own podcast. On the other hand, I felt it was truly necessary to talk about TV series and movies from a women’s point of view. I was tired of heteronormative speech and misogynist reviews — particularly in Argentina — that at that time (2013) was from an entirely male perspective. This got me thinking about all the things that were not being seen, or at least being said. I’m talking about the reviews that evaluate an actress’ performance by her looks, what she is wearing — or not wearing — on screen, and even by her relationships.
A recent example is a Dolores Fonzi interview by Diego Batlle about the premier of the La cordillera film by Santiago Mitre. This interview was published as a note in the entertainment section of La Nación newspaper.
In this interview, Dolores Fonzi, the film’s main character, is presented as the director’s significant other. In other words, the most remarkable aspect of an actress with several years in the industry is that she is Santiago Mitre’s girlfriend. What are we implying? I think it is very degrading and stigmatizing.
FF: Has this perspective of yours presented difficulties?
ML: Difficulties, no. But the truth is we have never tried to join mainstream media. There, we might encounter obstacles. We are one hundred percent independent, as was our preference, specifically because we wanted to speak our minds with no restrictions.
Now, working independently has its perks, but also its obstacles. We produce La Podcast in a ‘home made’ way. The sound has improved, but it is not studio quality. The frequency with which we publish episodes has changed throughout the years. We can’t produce content more regularly and structured because we have separate jobs, and we don’t have the time to record every week. Furthermore, we don’t write scripts and the episodes’ length is about an hour and a half. Although we have produced three-hour episodes when necessary.
So, ours is also an independent production and that comes with pros and cons. I believe that following this editorial line means reaching a particular audience but missing another. I have received beautiful messages from our listeners, who have explored our program to get to know more about the TV series world, and after listening to us for a while, they have decided to join the feminist movement. They have even reached us to comment about the sexist position some movie critics take. The truth is, I have more positive experiences than negative, but if I had to define which is the biggest obstacle we encounter in La Podcast, I think the answer, without any doubt, would be that there are still people who are not listening to our program.
FF: Do you feel that there are specific differences with other media, like newspaper or TV?
ML: I feel that the main difference with TV is that at least in podcasting we cannot be shown naked or with low necklines. Ultimately they cannot use our look in order to sell. Nonetheless, an important aspect of podcasting and radio — that’s not taken into account in other mediums — is the tone of voice. There’s a preconception that women’s voices are piercing and therefore male voices are more pleasant to the ear. I believe this represents the challenges we encounter as a society, and the role we play in destroying certain paradigms and promoting different messages so we move on from the misogynist concepts that have been adopted for decades now.
FF: How is sexual harassment present in the podcasting industry?
ML: I think it’s possible in content production and the validation of misogynist messages. It is difficult to have a sexual harassment situation in a podcast — at least in Argentina — where usually podcasts are produced by friends that get together to say something they feel is not being said. When there’s a hierarchical relationship where a boss is above a female producer or host, and the bonds are established in another way, that’s a whole different story.
FF: What’s up with diversity in sexual orientation? Are your voices being represented in podcasting?
ML: Honestly, I don’t know. I’d think not, but I speak from common sense, not specific data. I listen to several podcasts that talk from a diverse and inclusive perspective, but mostly, those are in English and produced in the U.S. Locally, the only interesting one I’ve heard is Pernocte. But I feel this a more of a theoretical proposal, informative. I’m hooked by the personal stories behind each account. To get to know life stories more than to talk about big subjects.
Another option is the Del sofá a la cocina podcast, a Spanish-language podcast about films and tv series produced by Valentina Morillo and Daniel López López. It isn’t exactly a program that talks about diversity, but it has a very interesting perspective as their hosts define themselves as feminists. But the thing is, I don’t really know a Spanish-language podcast produce by transsexuals or transvestites. I think that gender nonconforming voices are not represented either.
FF: According to the recent survey of Spanish-language podcast listeners, Encuesta Pod — conducted in 2017 — the audiences are divided by 76,35% male listeners, 23.07% women listeners, and the remaining 0.58% preferred not to answer. Why do you think this happens?
ML: I feel this has something to do with the technology and how women access the podcast world. Several women believe that listening to a podcast is rather complicated. Imagine producing one. Another possible analysis is that maybe we are not producing podcasts they like.
Interview with Paula Giménez from Pernocte
Paula Giménez, defines herself as “journalist, diverse, and feminist”. She hosts Pernocte, a program that tells stories about sexuality in order to break taboos and preconceptions.
FF: How did Pernocte come to be?
PG: Pernocte was born because in Diario Registrado, where I work, I wrote a column about sexuality called Erotismo. There, I tried to turn around the topic, to make it more artistic, more appealing. To talk about sex with a gender perspective and diversity. Back then, the section was really well-received. One of the people who liked it was Luciano Banchero (Posta FM cofounder). He reached out to me with the proposition to produce a podcast about sexuality. I had never before produced a podcast. I only knew a bit about radio from college, but I decided to get onboard. And the results were highly fulfilling.
FF: In some areas, sexuality can get awkward. Have you received any critics for being a woman who talks about sex?
PG: At first, I’d say no. But it is true that within my close circle, the people I know or guys I date, they believe I am a person I am not. I have to knock down plenty of misconceptions people have towards me regarding my job. They believe that because I have a program about sexuality I am a man-eater, or that I have to fill up certain expectations that are not real. And the truth is that there are as many sexualities as there are people, and I am not excluded.
FF: Have you found obstacles producing a podcast like Pernocte?
PG: Not really, quite the contrary. In fact, Posta FM is one of the podcast channels with bigger female presence. Certainly, this doesn’t guarantee a feminist or gender perspective, but it is an interesting aspect. We can say that women, even though we don’t consider ourselves feminists, we definitely have a different outlook regarding every topic because we come from a different place, because we live different challenges in a society where clearly, it is more difficult to be a woman than a man. And where, if you represent sexual diversity, challenges are even bigger.
FF: How are women participating in media in Argentina?
PG: In journalism, there are more men than women in almost every category. In this regard, Posta FM is an exception, as there are more women (52%) than men (48%). You can also observe inequality in the graphic industry. In Diario Registrado, just to give an example, all the main faces are men’s. You can find women behind the scene, but just in production and coordination roles, female hosts are a minority. Men don’t encounter difficulties accessing leadership roles in mainstream media, but for us, women, it is indeed an obstacle.
¿Cómo es la participación de las mujeres en los medios?
En periodismo hay más hombres que mujeres en casi todos los rubros. En este sentido, Posta FM es una excepción ya que hay más mujeres (52%) que varones (48%). En el medio gráfico también hay disparidad. En Diario Registrado somos 16 redactores de las cuales sólo 3 somos mujeres. En las radios más escuchadas pasa lo mismo. Esa es la norma. Si analizas la programación de Radio Metro, por poner un ejemplo, todas las principales caras son de varones. Detrás de bambalinas encuentras mujeres pero en los roles de producción o coordinación, las conductoras son menos. Los varones no tienen dificultad para acceder a los puestos de liderazgos en los medios masivos pero para nosotras sí es un obstáculo.
FF: Is the podcasting industry a place where we can raise our voices?
PG: In Posta there’s a concern for women to participate more. But generally, in local podcasts, it is not so. Nonetheless, I believe that women have taken ownership of this format for different reasons. First, because we don’t need approval from any director. You put together your team, you record, edit, and publish your content. It doesn’t face any technical difficulties. You can find several podcasts that are recorded from smartphones and/or affordable equipment. Besides, I feel that as women we have a lot to say, this is the main motivation to produce and one that motivates us to conquer this media and these spaces.
Conclusion: We, the women podcasters.
Prior to these interviews I conducted a few quantitative studies in 2017 — and they are still current — where I mentioned that the fact that there are women in this medium doesn’t necessarily mean that a positive message is being spread without gender stereotypes. Even less does it mean that there’s a feminist perspective present in content production. Nonetheless, what’s clear is that without women in radio, podcasts, newspapers, or tv programs, there are many topics left out. That’s why it is pivotal to promote our participation and to fight to get it.
Talking with Paula and Mariana, I understood that sexist violence is structural. Therefore, it is very hard for this to go unnoticed in the media and to avoid reproducing it. We as women have found in podcasting an independent channel to reproduce: without any restrictions or censoring. Still, we have the challenge of setting the agenda and to move forward in the production of equal content that includes diverse perspectives. No more and no less.
This text was translated and edited from it’s original publication in Spanish in the Podcaster@s bi-weekly newsletter, where we share the top news and diverse perspectives from fans and producers of podcasts in Spanish. Sign up for it here.
Florencia Flores Iborra is a Philosophy teacher and radio producer. She has broad experience in communication and gender. She was a cofounder of the feminist radio program Graves y agudas which received the award Lola Mora 2015 in the radio category. She participates in the women’s rights program of APC, and she writes for GenderIT. She also runs Tristana producciones, a podcast production company. Some of her recent productions are Enchufadas, No ficción and Fuera de libreto. @tristana_prod // tristanaproducciones.com