Backtalk: Who Gets to Host the Impeachment Party?

This week, Dahlia and Amy get into the impeachment inquiry. Hold the balloons and streamers, it’s a long road ahead to remove Trump from office. How did we arrive at this specific moment when so many outspoken politicians, especially women of color Democrats, have been calling for his removal for years?


Netflix’s Unbelievable, based on a true events, is a necessary look at how law enforcement can support rape survivors without inflicting more harm. 


Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi is a gorgeous and surreal exploration of fractured identity.


“Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and the Banshees


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DAHLIA BALCAZAR: Our shows are produced by Bitch Media, a nonprofit, independent feminist media organization that is entirely funded by our community. If you love waking up to new episodes of Backtalk and Popaganda, join hundreds of fellow listeners as a member of The Rage. As a member, your monthly donation includes a subscription to Bitch magazine in print and digital, a special rage-inspired mug youll never wanna put down, exclusive access to a members-only texting group, and loads of other snazzy benefits. So, dont wait. Become a member today at
[theme music]
Welcome to Backtalk, the feminist response to pop culture podcast. Im Dahlia Balcazar.
AMY LAM: And Im Amy Lam.
DAHLIA: And we start every episode by sharing our pop culture moment. Amy, what is yours?
AMY: So, my favorite pop culture moment is about the one and only Robert De Niro. He was recently on CNN talking to, or part of their name, Brian Stelter. And Stelter had asked Robert De Niro about his infamous 2018 Tony Awards moment where he gave a speech where he cussed out Trump and how people at Fox News were calling him out for being so crude. And right at that moment when Stelter said this to De Niro, De Niro just said, “Fuck them. Fuck them.” On CNN! [Laughs.] I think hes doubled down on cussing out Trump. I think he doubled down on it by cussing out Fox News for calling him out for cussing out Trump. So, this is my favorite pop culture moment. And I actually wanted to play a clip of him doing this on CNN.
[recorded clip plays]
DE NIRO: This guy is should not be president, period.
STELTER: And when you say that, folks on Fox come after you. I remember the Tonys when you got up there and cursed, a lot of—
DE NIRO: Fuck them.
STELTER: —criticism of you.
DE NIRO: Fuck them.
STELTER: Okay. Well, you know this is cable.
DE NIRO: Sorry.
STELTER: So, its not an FCC violation.
DE NIRO: Sorry.
STELTER: But it is still a Sunday morning.
DE NIRO: Well, were, were—
STELTER: I do wonder why you choose to go that way.
DE NIRO: Let me say something.
STELTER: Why do you choose to go that way?
DE NIRO: We are in a, we are in a moment in our live-, in this country where this guy is like a gangster. Hes come along, and hes said things, done things we say over and over again. This is terrible. Were in a terrible situation. Were in a terrible situation. And this guy just keeps going on and on and on without being stopped!
DAHLIA: I think if youre Robert De Niro, you definitely feel like you can say whatever the fuck you want wherever you are.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: Yeah
DAHLIA: CNN, the Tonys, you just say what you want.
AMY: And I think that the amazing thing about this, as a viewer of this, is that because hes Robert De Niro, you know that Trump is watching this and that this hurts Trumps feelings.
AMY: Because Trump is a man whos so into masculinity, and Robert De Niro is such a representation of masculinity because of his body of work.
DAHLIA: Mmhmm.
AMY: So, you know that while hes watching this, Trump is probably in his feelings and like crying a little bit, [laughing] you know? And is very upset about this. So, I think thats why its such a chefs kiss moment because we just know that internally, this was really hurting him.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: And thats what we need. Cause my pettiness is that I just want his feelings to be hurt. [Chuckles.]
DAHLIA: Its like an infinite pop culture moment for Trump: at any moment he can watch any piece of entertainment and be like, “Oh. Well, I know that actor hates me. That musician hates me. That person hates me.”
AMY: [Chuckles.]
DAHLIA: Thatll just last forever, and thats good. Thats a chefs kiss moment.
AMY: [Laughs.] I mean this is how were living now. Were clinging onto these very small things that make ourselves feel better.
DAHLIA: I know. Well, yeah. Its very much gonna tie into what were gonna talk about in the main segment. But yes, were very much clinging to the small annoyances of Trumps life.
BOTH: [Chuckle.]
AMY: Whats your favorite pop culture moment?
DAHLIA: I was, I dont know, half-eagerly, half-with-dread awaiting the musical finale of the Amazon series Transparent. There was sort of some delay in figuring out how Transparent was gonna end because around the last season that aired, actresses, and also I think an assistant on the set of Transparent, accused Jeffrey Tambor—the actor who plays the trans woman lead of Transparent—of sexual harassment. And Jeffrey Tambor was fired from Transparent sort of in the middle of the plot, sort of without anyone knowing how it was gonna tie itself up. And the way it tied itself up was with a musical two-hour finale. And I do first wanna give props to the way they handled Jeffrey Tambors departure is that Jeffrey Tambors character, Maura, died of a heart attack sort of in between episodes, in between seasons, so we never see Jeffrey Tambor again. But instead, the musical series finale ties up a lot of the plots, and I think overly, in an overly-tidy manner.
But what I did wanna praise the show for is that in sort of a really meta-move, there is sort of like a play about the plot of Transparent within the musical finale. So, you see other actors playing the characters that youve already seen. And this time they cast a real trans woman Shakina Nayfack to play Mauras character. And she was just delightful and glowing and one, could do like a really good impression of Jeffrey Tambor, but also brought a lot of, I think, grace and beauty to the season finale. Which I will say I otherwise strongly disliked mostly because—and I was texting Amy about this for hours—
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: It is a musical. I do not think it is very well-written as a musical. And the closing number is a song called “Joyocaust.” And the idea of “Joyocaust” is a character says, oh, we should have an equal and opposite reaction to the Holocaust. And that would be 6 million Jews feeling joy at the same time. And if you feel like maybe that is a little…tasteless, you would be right. Heres an actual line from the song. “Take the concentration out of the camps. Concentrate it on some song and dance!”
AMY: Ugh.
DAHLIA: Which I actually had to turn it off. I was like I cannot keep watching this song! The New York Times called that specific song, “a bananas piece, ill-considered, and mortifying.” I could not agree more. But! God, this is turning into a really long pop culture moment. Sorry about that.
AMY: [Chuckles.]
DAHLIA: Okay! I have a really weird Easter egg to bring up, which is for fans of the series Six Feet Under, which is one of my all-time favorite shows, if you havent seen it. I love it. Its a kind of old HBO show about a family that runs a funeral home, and Jill Solloway worked on that show as a writer years and years ago. This was in the late 90s, early 2000s. And on Six Feet Under, theres a character named Arthur played by Rainn Wilson, who you might remember as Dwight on The Office. And Arthurs just like a really awkward, weird funeral kind of guy. And for who knows why, I guess because this episode is about someones funeral, Jill Solloway brought back, brought Rainn Wilson to the Transparent musical finale and had him play a funeral director. And a 1000% percent! First of all, I was like, oh my god, he is being Arthur. Because Arthur had very specific weirdo kind of mannerisms. And I was like, that is Arthur again. And I looked it up in the credits, and he was credited as Arthur!
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: And I was just loving it. So, I know thats a really deep-cut Easter egg if youre not a fan of Six Feet Under. But if you are, honestly, what a treat to see Arthur [chuckles] on the screen again continuing with his career in the funerary arts.
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: I loved it. I did not love the finale overall. I would love to talk about it with someone. I really did have to turn it off during the song “Joyocaust.” I felt like things were too-tidily wrapped up in a bow, but what a treat to see an Easter egg Arthur Rainn Wilson.
AMY: You know, while you were talking about the finale and describing what happens in it, Im sitting in my little closet here, my little closet studio, and I was a cringing. I didnt see it because I have never really watched Transparent. So, I dont really know the context of it. But it sounds horrible! And I did feel bad cause you texted me. Youre like, “I need to talk with somebody about this.” And Im like, “Sorry. I dont know the show.” But that sounds horrible! It sounds so bad.
DAHLIA: It was so bad. Yeah, it was so bad.
AMY: Yeah, but! I do think that the badness of it is sort of made up a little bit because of the Easter egg. I love discovering things like that and then having that feeling affirmed when you go to IMDB to look to see if its true.
DAHLIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah! I was like, I 100% bet hes credited as Arthur. And then I got to explain my victory to no one cause I was by myself. [Laughs.]
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: I was right! It was Arthur!
AMY: Youre, like a pop culture P.I. [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: Yes, thank you! Thats why I had to go into this deep cut moment cause Im a pop culture P.I.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: And I wanna take this time to thank folks for rating and reviewing us on iTunes because it helps boost visibility and get the word out about the podcast. And then also, I wanna thank folks who send us notes every now and then. Sometimes I check the SoundCloud account for Bitch Media, and I found a message from somebody from a couple months ago that we didnt see until now! And I wanna take this moment to thank them. Their username is Juzzy Bunny, [Laughs.] and they gave us this really great message about sort of a work experience that they had where they werent feeling great. And I actually wanted to read part of it because I just think that it helps make us feel like were doing good work. And part of the message said, “In general, I seem to have parallel weekswhere Ill be thinking about a certain subject or something is happening personally or politically, and I dont have the words to express how or what this is at the time until I listen to an episode of Backtalk. And Im like, shit! This is what has been happening all along! Read that in a British accent.” [Laughs.] I was gonna try, but I was like, no, Im not going to do it. [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: Yeah, I dont think I could do it either.
AMY: And then they signed off this note with something that I cant even pronounce. And I was like, oh my gosh. I wonder what this is saying. So, I Googled it, and its actually Welsh for “thank you very much.” And then I went to Google translate to hear how this is said, and I cant even replicate it. I dont know how people speak Welsh, so good on you! But youre welcome very much. So, thank you so much for that note.
And somebody left us a really, really kind review. Their username is Miss E.T. on iTunes. And this review is about our episode, our back to school episode, and I really, really appreciate it. So, I wanted to read a little bit of it. It says, “Thank you, ladies, for covering education in a deeper meaning and discussing how entrenched white supremacy is in education. As a high school teacher and teacher of color here in Portland, I was screaming, Yes, thank youthe whole time you all were discussing history, language arts, the fight against ethnic studies, and how difficult it is to change the education system.”
AMY: Thank you so much for that review. Yes, I know! I was like, sometimes we do these episodes that, especially very specific episodes, and were like, “Whos listening? Is it helpful?” [Laughs.] You know?
DAHLIA: Totally.
AMY: I think we really do think about that, and to hear a teacher whos working in the system sort of affirm what were discussing, we really, really appreciate it.
DAHLIA: Totally.
AMY: So, if you have a moment and you like us, [both laugh] please head over iTunes and leave a review. It really, really does help us, and it helps visibility for the podcast.
And I did wanna say that cause weve been sort of out of town for a few weeks, and this is our first week back, so were getting back in the swing of things and doing the podcast. So, reading these notes is just like, like I said before, its just so affirming. And it really makes us feel good about doing this.
[cutesy bells ring]
Its an understatement to say that weve waited a long, long time to talk seriously about Donald J. Trumps impending impeachment, but here we are! Of course, we dont wanna jinx it because we know that justice can often be sidelined when the powerful and corrupt people who are running the very systems that are meant to be checking them are the ones that are supposed to take them out of power. But we can celebrate even the slightest possibility that this pile of excrement in a skin sac [both laugh] will be out of office one day. You know, I often sit around thinking like, how do we talk about him without calling him a human being? [Laughs.]
AMY: So, thats my latest, my latest euphemism.
DAHLIA: Its good.
AMY: So, today, we wanna talk about how we arrived at this very specific moment where were all buzzing about this impeachment inquiry. So, lets be clear that since the moment Trump took office, there have been so many officials and organizations calling for his removal from office for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being his history of sexual assault and harassment, unconstitutional banning of Muslims from entering the U.S., transphobic laws like banning trans people from joining the military, detaining immigrants without due process, literally locking up children at the border, and so much more. Like hes done so much heinous shit that he should be impeached for, but now finally, U.S. Democrats and House Leader Nancy Pelosi feel like they have something credible enough to nail Trump.
And we wanna talk about how this is sort of like a whitewashing of the social justice work and movement against Trump that has largely been led by women of color like Maxine Waters and the group of freshman Congress people sometimes known as The Squad thats made up of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, and Rashida Tlaib, women who have been very outspoken about their disdain for this administration. All these women have been at the receiving end of not only the ire of Trump supporters, like death threats and just awful heinous shit like that, but of Trump himself where hes literally given veiled threats about them at his weird rallies. So, but even with all this, Pelosi has been largely unmoved to go forward with pressing for impeachment because people like The Squad are seen as too divisive, too partisan. In effect, their concerns are not valid because…theyre not valid to bring down Trump because I think that theyre seen as being too marginal, and their voices are not speaking for the vast majority of Americans.
So, in the news, its been widely reported that Nancy Pelosi finally made the decision to move forward after another group of freshman Congresspeople wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post. So, five of these Congresspeople are white women. One is a white man, and one is a Latino Congressman. They all have military or intelligence backgrounds and have used that experience to back up their opinion that Trumps call with the Ukrainian president presents a threat to our country and is grounds for impeachment. In the reports about this group of Congresspeople theres always emphasis that none of them ran on removing Trump from office, that theyre in purple districts, that theyve never actually wanted any part of impeachment. So, actually at first, I thought this was a very smart political strategy in order to convince people that the removal Trump isnt a partisan attack on Trump. But I was recently watching this very glowing segment on the five white women, and theyre sort of being framed as these heroic veterans who are still protecting the U.S. Whereas when very progressive, oftentimes people color, politicians criticize Trump, their marginalized identities are used as a way to invalidate their criticisms. So, we wanna talk about what it means that theres this whitewashing of the people leading the chorus in the hearings for impeachment against Trump.
DAHLIA: I think in large part what were talking about is sort of an indictment of the media and how theyve been framing this. Although Amy and I were having a lot of text messages back and forth about whether we saw this as an intentional political strategy on the part of the Democrats. And thats something that we dont know. But we started talking about this because of this CNN little video and a piece. Its headline is “These Five Freshman Congresswomen Changed History by Becoming Unlikely Leaders On Impeachment.” And in the interview with them, right away, these women say like, they call themselves the bad asses!
AMY: [Chuckles.]
DAHLIA: And thats because they all have national security and military experience. And I was like okay, if right away its gonna be framed as like this is the group of women who are the bad asses, already I think that thats really clearly juxtaposing them with The Squad. And CNN outright asks them. They say like, what do you think of The Squads tactics? Especially concerning social media, is this how you operate? And I was really struck by what Elissa Slotkin of Michigan said. She said, “None of us is ever going to get in a Twitter war with anyone else. If we have a concern with someone, were gonna go right up and talk to them about it, and were not gonna add unhelpful rhetoric to an already bad tone coming out of Washington.” And so, I mean again, this is like media framing. CNN asked this question. But I was really struck by how, right away, this is like a colleague of The Squads saying their tone, their rhetoric, the fact that they are using social media, which was very helpful for their own electability in talking to their constituents and reaching out, that the bad asses are saying like, oh, were not like that.
I especially noticed that the use of the term “Twitter war,” which I know that that comes from terms like “flame wars” thatve existed sort of in Internet rhetoric for a long time. But especially to Amys point that these— Ive also noticed that the New Yorker was, in fact, calling them “National Security Democrats” or the “Security Democrats.” You know, thats another instance of how theyre using their real experience with the military, with intelligence to say kind of like theyre taking the low road—they, meaning The Squad—and were taking the high road.
AMY: Yeah, and its so icky feeling because I mean, like you said, we had been texting back and forth a little bit about this. And I was very firmly like, I think this is strategy. I think this is strategy. I really thought it was like, oh, the way theyre framing this is that these freshman Congresspeople are actually in purple districts, so theyre actually putting their jobs at risk to do this. And theyre sort of seen as neutral, whereas The Squad is seen as very polarizing. So, maybe this is a smart move for the Democrats to move ahead using sort of these mostly white Congresspeople as their first line of defense. But when I heard Elissa Slotkin say the thing about none of us are ever going to get in a Twitter war with anyone else, like you had mentioned, it felt like a sub-tweet, like a very loud subtweet.
AMY: Which is kind of ironic considering shes talking about how she wouldnt get into Twitter war because we know how shes talking about, you know? AOC is very active on Twitter, and she will clap back on anyone. And she comes with receipts, and shes there and shes active. And this is how she invigorates her base and invigorates left-leaning Democrats. So, when she says something like that, I was like, oh my gosh. Okay, I dont know if this is really strategy here because shes taking a shot. And maybe I dont know how deeply these politicians work and how their strategist works, but I wonder if thats part of the strategy to very much differentiate yourself from these Congresswomen of color, to say that were not like them. Were actually way more interested in fact-based things and not about feelings or feelings of injustice based on identity.
DAHLIA: Mmhmm.
AMY: You know, I remember when I was texting you about the CNN video, and I was like, cause its just like the faces of five white women sitting around sort of like talking trash about a whole other group of their colleagues and saying how the way that they do business is ineffective, and what theyre doing is way more, and its like is more valid. Just like the optics of that felt so icky, and I just remember thinking whenever they talk about The Squad, they always talk about each members background, you know?
DAHLIA: Mmhmm.
AMY: But I was just like, when will they talk about these “bad asses” and say, “These four white women Congresspeople are feeling this way?” Because their identities are sort of put in the background because theyre treated as being neutral. And I just, I think Im giving the Democratic Party way too much credit thinking that this is strategy. But I wonder if even though in this moment of feeling celebratory, perhaps when were on the brink of the removal of term from office. But I think that the framing of how this is happening is also very important.
DAHLIA: And again, unfortunately, we cant know how much is sort of optics framing, how much is actually what happened. But the narrative that were being told is that the security Democrats—the seven who wrote this op-ed in The Washington Post—they say they did not ask permission from Nancy Pelosi. They said that they wrote it together in a Google document and that they let Nancy Pelosi know that they had sent it after they sent it. And The New Yorker reported that Nancy Pelosi read the op-ed on a plane and started making notes for her own speech announcing the impeachment inquiry, which she delivered less than 24 hours later, reading that op ed. And so, again, I wish we could know what is actually definitely true. But at least the narrative that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party is comfortable sharing and putting out is this op ed tipped the scale for Nancy Pelosi. These points were what tipped the scale for Nancy Pelosi.
And I dont think either of us mean to malign the…the veracity of the seven Congresspeoples statements or how much they care about their constituents or their work. But there is a tone in the op ed over and over. Like, heres a few sentences. “Everything we do harks back to our oaths to defend our country. We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country.” And whether or not that was a intentional rhetorical move from the top down from Nancy Pelosi or that was an intentional rhetorical move on the part of the National Security Democrats, it is an intentional move to say we are the experts because we come from this background and this background and this background. Everything we do is because we have made this oath not because—or were getting in Twitter wars or not—because of these other, smaller, less-important issues. It really does say this is the most important impeachable offense.
And I understand also the line of logic that this is sort of the clearest impeachable offense to go after. But at the same time, like Amy was saying when introducing the subject, there have been so many horrible, ugly, violent, traumatic, deathly things that Trump has done to this country. And it hurts a little bit to hear these National Security Democrats saying this conversation—and I guess we should say that what theyre referring to is this conversation between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, talking about essentially Trumps holding up of aid money to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden—for them to say this is what tips the scales without even nodding or mentioning the horrible violence that has been happening in this country up until now, it hurts a little bit, I think.
AMY: Yeah, it hurts because they are essentially saying all of this other behavior is acceptable, to an extent, for a president and an administration and for the governing bodies to perform. But this one act of this phone call, which does present a danger because hes colluding with a foreign government to help him win an election, but well, what about all of the children who are still detained in literal prisons at the border? What about them? I think that thats why it hurts. Because its like this administration has done so many horrible things, but Nancy Pelosi has never felt strongly enough that theyre logistical grounds to remove him from office. But that this thing is because its a national security issue. And that to do this is to protect Americans. Yet, dismantling these detention centers at the border is not a way to protect Americans? Then to ask the questions of like, well, who are the Americans that were talking about protecting or that we think are worth protecting?
‘Cause there are also stories about actual American citizens, folks with U.S. passports, who are being illegally detained because maybe their family are from Mexico. But how are those Americans being protected? And all this is happening under this administration. And I think that the reason why we are happy that there are going to be hearings around removing him from office based on this phone call, but then it makes you think like, well, what about all these years of heinous shit that hes done? And how come that hasnt been a basis to talk about impeachment? And I understand that theres a lot of logistics to this and a lot of rule-following and what the laws do or dont allow. But that doesnt mean that its moral or that those are the values by which weve been taught our American values. And I think that without talking about that while were talking about these specific impeachment hearings and why theyre coming about, especially against this man whos been so fucking terrible as a human being, it is sort of like, I dont know. I think its disheartening. Its disheartening in a moment thats supposed to feel empowering, which I think says something about what this moment is.
DAHLIA: Thinking about what youre saying, Amy, another quote that really struck me in a sort of off-putting way also from the same CNN interview with the National Security Dem women, heres a quote from Chrissy Houlahan who represents a district in Philadelphia. Shes talking about what tipped her towards yes on impeachment. She says, “I think the calculation for me was the damage that it could do to the nation and trying to make sure that if there were ever a place where I felt like we needed to move forward, that it was a place where I felt like it was explainable to people.” And again, I think that that speaks to what youre saying, Amy, that there is a lot of insider baseball stuff going on here and a lot of logistics and how they can move forward with an impeachment inquiry. But the idea that all of these things that we were just talking about: the violence thats going on at the border, the violence thats been happening in our country, just like all of these other really ugly, really violent, horrible things, for a Congressperson to say like, well, actually, I think whats explainable to people is this Ukraine phone call. And I dont think people would be behind rallying for—this is my interpretation—but I dont think people would be behind rallying for immigrants and people of color and more marginalized people who are being violently oppressed during the Trump administration.
For her to say like, well, its actually harmful to the nation to begin impeachment, to begin an impeachment inquiry, and I would only do it if I thought my constituents were behind it, I feel like that just says a lot to me, whether or not shes correctly assessing her own constituents. But this idea that people are not behind impeachment because its too small, because his past offenses have been too small or too I dont know. I just was really struck by that sentiment because I dont feel that way at all. I think people have been so pro-impeachment from the very beginning. So much so that the Republicans are able to turn that into a talking point for themselves to be like, oh, the Democrats have wanted to impeach since before he was even elected. So, we cant take them seriously. Like I think there has been so much support for an impeachment inquiry that I was just really struck by what seems like this very moderate, very tentative statement about what, to this Congressperson, could be viable for her constituents.
AMY: And I think that one of the things that, like youre pointing out over and over again, is that theres this reliance on saying that this is a national security threat. And theres this emphasis on how the Congresspeople who wrote this op ed either have a military or CIA intelligence background. And so, their arguments are more valid.
DAHLIA: Mmhmm, mmhmm.
AMY: You know, theres this prioritizing of like, these are veterans. Theyve served our country, so they actually know whats the best for us. They actually want the best for us. But then Im thinking well, whos the “us,” you know? Whos the us that theyre protecting? Because when I hear other politicians say the treatment of migrants coming to the borders is unacceptable,  those are the people who I think are protecting folks who want to come to this country and lead a productive life here. So, I think that this prioritizing and saying theres a hierarchy of ,whose voices are more valid whose voices are actually speaking for quote-unquote America. And often, its like veterans are the voices that we should be listening to because they put their life on the line to protect us. But my thing is like, protect us from what, you know? And I think that if we dont question what our military industrial complex is doing around the globe, I think its a disservice to what we think of as American essentialism. I think that this sort of unquestioning of folks who have military backgrounds or veterans, it doesnt help us move forward on what we think are real quote-unquote American values. But I think that actually vets are supporting real American values, which is just like violence, imperialism, and colonialism. So, I guess it does make sense in that way.
But I think that the framing of them being perhaps heroes and changing the narrative on American history should be examined more and that we just cant move forward and say that these Congresspeople who wrote this op ed and moved, quote-unquote “moved the dial” to impeaching Trump are the people whove led this charge. Because its simply not true. People have been calling for the impeachment of Trump, like you said, since day one. And theyve been calling for his impeachment for very valid reasons, just as valid reason as this fucked up phone call with the Ukrainian president. And I think that to talk about this phone call as an isolated thing, even though Ive heard that theres perhaps another whistleblower whos talking about another phone call.
DAHLIA: Oh no!
AMY: Yeah! But I think that just these phone calls alone shouldnt be sort of the stain on his presidency. Theres been a lot of really horrible, violent, fucked up shit that this administration has enacted, and I think that those should also be in conversation even if its not logistically whats going to be heard in Congress during the inquiry. And I think that we need to keep all this shit in our brains when we talk about how violent this administration has been.
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: At the end of every episode, we share something were reading, watching, and listening to. I just finished the novel Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Theyre a Nigerian writer. This book is sooo good! Its hard for me to talk about. Freshwater is sort of about the experience of something like multiple personality disorder, but its not described in that way. Its described, the book is narrated from the perspective of these various fractured selves, but they call themselves “gods.” And they sort of talk about their life inhabiting a human body and how that is different from their life as gods and their experience as omnipotent beings and what its like now for them living inside the body of a young girl from Nigeria. So, the book follows the life of a girl named Ada who lives in Nigeria and then moves to the United States for college. Ive read that this novel is somewhat autobiographical. It is just stunning! The prose is beautiful, just lovely, so interesting. Its like nothing Ive ever read before. I just was, I just like couldnt get enough of it. Akwaeke Emezi, I just went to their website, and they say that theyve just finished their fifth novel. This is the first.
AMY: Wow.
DAHLIA: So, were gonna be treated to many, many more books by them. But theyve also just released a young adult novel called Pet that is getting rave reviews.
AMY: That sounds so good and so opposite of what Im going to recommend.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: Because it sounds sort of, like youre saying, magical and other worldly and this amazing embodying. So, that sounds amazing. And I have a recommendation for a watch. It is Unbelievable. Its a limited series on Netflix. So, the show is based on an article that was reported by The Marshall Project that came out in 2015. And I remember reading this article when it came out.
DAHLIA: Me too.
AMY: Yes! And I was so troubled yet riveted by it. So, The Marshall Project itself is a nonprofit news organization that covers criminal justice system. And this article is sort of about the both the failure and delayed justice for these very specific victims of a serial rapist. So, the show Unbelievable on Netflix is a limited series, and it sticks pretty closely to The Marshall Project article. It does have some name changes, but other than that, I was sort of [laughing] fact checking the show as I was watching it. I would go back to the article to be like, did this happen? And Im like, oh, I wonder if theyre gonna show this. So, I think that the show does such a great job, and it has some amazing performances. Like my super-duper fave Merritt Wever. I love Merritt Wever! I wanna be her best friend. I wanna write a profile of her.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: I just think her work is so incredible. Shes just won me over. I wanna see Merritt Wever all the time. And Toni Collette, our horror fave. Shes so good in this. Shes like so, I dont know, undeterred and so good in this. I just loved her performance. And but I do have to give a big content warning for the show because its about women and their sexual assault. And at times, it can be really, really hard to watch. And so Ive heard some people talking about watching it in very small spurts because it can be very hard. The storytelling is done so well. It is like a very elevated SVU. [Laughs.]
You know, I was watching this, and I was talking about this to a friend of mine. And I think that often, when I think about shows about cops, there is a part of my brain where I kind of push away the thought of all cops are bad. [Chuckles.] Because I think in shows like this where were trying to find redemption and justice for victims of sexual violence who are often women, we want the cops to be good and to do good jobs. And we want to think that cops can be good. So, while I was watching this, I did think like, oh my god. Im feeling sympathy for cops. I dont know how to feel about this.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: But I think that in situations like this, its a little bit different because youre thinking about these are human beings who are working for women who have been violated in such horrible ways. So, I did have to push that. Please watch it. Its so good. And it does speak volumes to how rape survivors should be treated by law enforcement and how their cases should be worked and what resources should be given to them. Please watch.
DAHLIA: And for my listen pick, this is not a new song, but I wanna be honest about my musical tastes and the fact that when I rediscover or discover a song that I love, I just listen to it all the time. Which for anyone who has ever lived with me, Im sure thats so annoying. Im so sorry.
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: But I have been listening to the song “Cities In Dust” by Siouxsie and The Banshees nonstop. Siouxsie and the Banshees as a British band, a British post-punk goth-rock band, from the 70s/80s. The descriptions post-punk and goth-rock both just fill me with so much pleasure. Like what could be better?
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: So, this is very moody rock, but I have been playing this nonstop. Not even because its like October-Halloween time but just generally, you know? I need, who doesnt need some goth-rock every once in a while? So, I love this song! I hope you like it too. Its “Cities In Dust” by Siouxsie and The Banshees.
[“Cities In Dust” by Siouxsie and The Bansehees plays]
♪ “Water was running, children were running/
You were running out of time/
Under the mountain, a golden fountain/
Were you praying at the Laresshrine?/
But oh, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend/
Oh, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend….” ♪
AMY: Thanks for listening.
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening.
♪ “We found you hiding, we found you lying/
Choking on the dirt and sand/
Your former glories and all the stories/
Dragged and washed with eager hands/
But oh, oh your city lies in dust, my friend/
Oh, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend/
Your city lies in dust/
Water was running, children were running….” ♪
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This show is produced by Cher Vincent. Bitch Media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, please head over to and donate.
by Amy Lam
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Amy Lam was a contributing editor and co-host of Backtalk at Bitch Media. Find her at & Twitter / Instagram.

by Dahlia Balcazar
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Dahlia Balcazar was a senior editor at Bitch Media, the co-host of the podcast Backtalk, and the host of the live show Feminist Snack Break. She’s passionate about horror films, ’90s music, girl gangs, and Shirley Jackson. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.