13 Stuff Mom Never Told You Podcasts That Shook Up My Straight-White-Lady Perspective
Podcast hosting my way toward woke.
Since 2009, I’ve developed and co-hosted Stuff Mom Never Told You, a podcast (and video show) that explores womanhood, gender and sex with relentless curiosity. Now, after 833 episodes covering highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between, I’m bidding adieu to HowStuffWorks.com, which owns Stuff Mom Never Told You.
Leaving behind my proudest accomplishment — a fully monetized podcast baby! — is bittersweet, to say the least. But researching and creating that encyclopedic audio library and hearing from listeners around the world has shaped the nasty woman I am today. For that opportunity and more, I’ll always be grateful to HowStuffWorks for saying yes to this dress.
Stuff Mom Never Told You has also transformed how I see the world as a cis, straight, white lady. Before the podcast, I had little understanding of feminism, much less intersectionality; never even took a gender studies course in college. But the topics we’ve covered and the audience insights and responses to them have revealed identities, systems, social strata and histories otherwise obscured by my privilege. Often, they’re uncomfortable and downright shameful realities to confront. Yet the spaces they crack open make room for compassion, empathy and social justice to flourish.
As Martha Stewart insists, that’s a good thing.
Since wokeness ain’t shit if you don’t pass it on, I compiled a playlist of episodes, presented in no particular order, that especially invigorated my sense of social justice and gave my straight whiteness a welcome swift kick in the pants. May they be as generous to future listeners as well.
- Colorism. Whereas racism discriminates based on ethnicity, colorism stratifies skin color within and without ethnic groups. As a white gal from the South, my immediate point of reference to this are Jeff Foxworthy’s redneck jokes, although the hiring, salary and incarceration discrepancies between lighter- and darker-skinned African-Americans and Latinos is no laughing matter…just like Jeff Foxworthy’s stand-up sets.
- Justice for Janitors. When a custodian named Kingsley wrote to Stuff Mom Never Told You asking “why cleaning a home is women’s work while cleaning a public building is men’s work,” we had to find the answer. Do it for Kingsley! What we didn’t anticipate were the civil and labor rights messes affecting MILLIONS within this low-wage, largely invisible workforce and their collective actions for social justice.
- The Lavender Menace. What two words sum up Betty Friedan’s feminist legacy? Feminine Mystique, sure. But we can never forget the “lavender menace.” Though this chapter of Women’s Lib herstory offers schadenfreude for Friedan frenemies, its packed with cautionary lessons about movement building, public image and inclusivity. Related: Feminist Transphobia.
- Welfare Queens. When I recently discovered that a white, well-heeled acquaintance voted for Trump because she didn’t think her hard-earned money should fund welfare, I began furiously reciting this episode. Guess what galpal! The entire system got began to support ladies like y-o-u. But once black women became recipients, white folks’ benevolence suddenly grew scarce. Sidebar: I’m oodles of fun at parties.
- The Anita Hill Effect. To me, no one embodies speaking truth to power more than Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Not only is Hill responsible for bringing sexual harassment into our workplace vernacular, the atrociously sexist hearings also inspired a record number of women to run and win congressional seats. Let’s give her a monument already! Related: The Legal History of Sexual Harassment
- When America Sterilized Women of Color. Get this: at least 60,000 people across the U.S. were legally, forcibly sterilized in the 20th century. The primary victims: Women deemed too mentally ill to reproduce, Black women in the South, Native American women and Puerto Rican women. Before learning about these atrocities, I a) didn’t know Fannie Lou Hamer made reproductive justice a civil rights issue and b) didn’t realize the intersectionality within reproductive rights that begins not with the right to terminate pregnancies, but the right to willfully reproduce at all. Related: A Revisionist History of Abortion, Part 1 + Part 2
- ‘Exotic’ Beauty. This episode was my crash course in Exoticism 101. Watching drugstore makeup commercials hasn’t been the same since. Related: “Spicy” Latinas + The Asian Fetish + Pocahontas and the Indian Princess Myth+Japan’s Comfort Women.
- The Potty Politics of Public Restrooms. We tackled public potty politics well before North Carolina’s legislative shit storm. Along with transphobia, I discovered so many issues hiding in plain sight at the toilet: classism, racism, ableism, weaponized infrastructure and the unnecessary gendering of public spaces. This episode just might make disgusting gas station toilets a little more meaningful…and it’s totally OK if it doesn’t.
- Public Displays of Affection Politics. Looking at PDA through an LGBTQ lens crystallized the straight privilege I’ve unwittingly enjoyed via hand-holding and lip-locking in front of whomever I please. It also forced me to consider my knee-jerk reactions when I encounter PDA in the wild and what besides visible tongue influences my personal lines between aww and GET A ROOM.
- A Brief History of Rape. As you can tell from the episode title, this one’s a real romp. But confronting this shit — because that’s what rape culture is: pure shit — is vital to understanding how society selectively values female bodies and the false, victim-blaming commodity of chastity. Related: Does birth control promote promiscuity?
- Fat Bottomed Girls. 2014 was the year white people decided that big butts are sexually desirable…on white ladies. But our path to “the era of the big booty,” as tone-deaf Vogue described it, was paved with the enslavement, fetishization and hypersexualization of Black women. Now, whenever I see Kylie Jenner ‘gramming her butt, I think of Saartjie Baartman.
- Transgender TV. If you don’t already follow this episode’s guest and Transgender Law Center badass, Raquel Willis, get thee to Twitter. Our pop culture-focused conversation with her changed how I see on-screen representation. See also: The Laverne Cox Effect.
- Fighting Shirley Chisholm. If you think white ladies turning their backs on a female presidential candidate was a newfound heartbreak, then you probably don’t know about “Unbossed and Unbought” Shirley Chisholm. This educator-turned-New York representative was a woman before her time and my historic role model for persistence, vision and principled ambition. See also: The Queer Saint Who Invented Intersectionality + The First Lady of the Black Press.