11 Podcasts Feminists Should Listen to While Social Distancing

Illustrations of Jessica Williams, left, and Phoebe Robinson on the 2 Dope Queens logo (Photo credit: Courtesy of WNYC Studios)

With state and local governments now mobilized to stem the spread of COVID-19, the mandate of social distancing—or “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness”—has already proved challenging for citizens, both in the United States and around the world. Being instructed to “shelter in place” and avoid gathering in or near groups of people might be a reprieve for the introverts, hermits, and anxiety-prone among us; for those who depend on and draw energy from being around other humans, it’s more difficult, dispiriting, and even painful.

There are ways to deal with social distancing with completely isolating ourselves—recording TikTok videos, going for runs while keeping a six-foot distance from other runners, video conferencing with friends, joining in sing-alongs from apartment windows—and those who find comfort in the voices of others might find this an especially good time to catch up on podcasts. There are more than 900,000 podcasts to choose from, which can make it difficult to identify the essential listens and keep up with them. But now is as good a time as ever to listen to catch up on your favorites and introduce a few others into your rotation. With that in mind, the podcast lovers at Bitch are here to offer up some recommendations. Since your tastes are as varied as ours, we hope there’s something in here for everyone.

Slow Burn: Season 2
{ Slate }

Slow Burn puts unwieldy historical events in context: The first season, hosted by Leon Neyfakh, used the Watergate scandal as the linchpin for an exploration into the Nixon administration’s various schemes, scams, and scandals. Likewise, Slow Burn’s third season, hosted by Joel Anderson, helps put the 1996 and 1997 murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, respectively, into perspective. While the first and third seasons are informative, Slow Burn’s second season, in which Neyfakh traces the events, investigations, and alliances that led to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, is something special. Not only does the 11-episode season, which includes live episodes as well as episodes only available to Slate Plus members, offer painstakingly detailed reporting on the impeachment—often from the same reporters who covered it at the time—it also does justice to the experience of Monica Lewinsky, the young woman who was dragged through the mud to protect a president’s reputation. If you love good, in-depth storytelling, then Slow Burn is definitely for you.—Evette Dionne, editor-in-chief

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Dating Straight
{ Kast Media }

Though I prefer to keep my life drama-free, I do enjoy obsessing over the grand dramas of lesbian YouTube and the Los Angeles–based women at its forefront. It’s like putting together a puzzle: Who’s dating who, who screwed over who, who’s scamming, who’s getting divorced, and who’s leaving YouTube entirely. Dating Straight, created by YouTube personalities Jack Dodge and Amy Ordman, offers hilarious insight into the world of gay L.A. On the first season, Dodge and Ordman interview everyone fromThe Bachelor’s Nick Viall to the beloved queer band MUNA, and the hourlong episodes make for a much-needed distraction, especially on my most stressful days.—Rachel Charlene Lewis, senior editor

Science Vs
{ Gimlet Media }

Science! We can never have enough of it, particularly now. Science Vs’s format originally involved charming Australian host Wendy Zukerman breaking down the conventional wisdom of controversial or contested topics (such as gun control, ghosts, and detox diets, among many others), using a scientific, fact-based approach to debunk myths and misconceptions about each one. In the show’s newer seasons, though, it’s been all about working with scientists to comb through the latest science on current topics and report them back to an audience anxious for the truth. Sure, there are three episodes about COVID-19, but Science Vs also takes timely looks at 5G, vaping, and football-related injuries. With snappy, upbeat editing, Science Vs is a really engaging way to get your regular scientific updates.—Alison Vu, director of fundraising

The Dropout
{ ABC Audio }

Grifting—or at least, grifts that play out in plain sight—seems to be at an all-time high: Month after month, we’re treated to stories about people pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes in order to line their own pockets. Few people embody the power of grift more than Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder and CEO of the now-defunct Theranos. At the age of 19, Holmes had the revolutionary idea that a thimble’s worth of blood could be used test for a wide range of diseases at a low consumer cost; she soon dropped out of Stanford to build a health-tech startup that quickly drew more than $1 billion in venture-capital funding and a stable of high-powered supporters. From the beginning, science didn’t support Homes’s idea. But nevertheless she persisted, creating devices that were placed in Walgreens and raising more than $1 billion in venture-capitalist funding. ABC’s The Dropout, which is also an ABC TV special, tracks the rise and fall of Holmes and Theranos with the voices of everyone from suspicious employees, reporters whose inquiries Holmes dodged, and those who ultimately blew the whistle on Holmes before her grift could hurt more of the people her invention claimed to help.— ED

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They Call Us Bruce, Episode 90: “They Call Us Coronavirus”
{ Podcast Potluck }

I discovered the podcast They Call Us Bruce many years ago in the course of searching out media that centered on the Asian American experience.  In the recent episode “They Call Us Coronavirus,” hosts Jeff Yang (journalist, CNN contributor, and dad to Fresh Off the Boat actor Hudson Yang) and Phil Yu (the blogger also known as Angry Asian Man) spoke to Reappropriate.co founder Jenn Fang about the inevitable culture clash that’s resulted from COVID-19. While I don’t always agree with Yang and Yu’s perspectives (such as them being casually ableist in their criticisms of Netflix’s Iron Fist) and because the show runs very East Asian-centric, I also think it’s important to learn Asian American history, which isn’t ordinarily taught in U.S. schools, keep an eye on the pulse of Asian American culture, and get another perspective from a group that’s often ignored by mainstream media. And for episode 90 in particular, who else would I want to hear speak to the racism that’s currently exacerbated by COVID-19? —AV

Big Dyke Energy
{ Anchor }

I am not good at astrology, but I do love an astrology meme, especially a gay one. So I was excited to discover Big Dyke Energy, a podcast where hosts Gala Mukomolova and Rose Blakelock bring on experts to discuss astrology in the specific context of gay pop culture. I’ve learned as much about the ins and outs of astrology as I have about the way that lesbian culture is influenced and impacted by the cultural products we make and consume.—RCL

Sawbones: A Martial Tour of Misguided Medicine
{ Maximum Fun }

I’m a fan of the entire McElroy family of podcasts (I recommend most of them, also, Shrimp! Heaven! Now!), but Sawbones is where I got my start. Dr. Sydnee McElroy explores the history of various medical (mal-)practices, treatments, and illnesses; her husband Justin “Hoops” McElroy, meanwhile, provides humor as her layperson foil. Sydnee is always calm, thoughtful, and intensely disapproving of ineffective fad homeopathy, which makes for great listening. My favorite episode—I seriously make people listen to this episode in the car all the time—is about how the royal French court revolutionized surgery to fix King Louis XIV’s anal fistula. Yes, this podcast is that great.—AV

Being instructed to “shelter in place” and avoid gathering in or near groups of people might be a reprieve for the introverts, hermits, and anxiety-prone among us; for those who depend on and draw energy from being around other humans, it’s more difficult, dispiriting, and even painful.

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The Read
{ Loud Speakers Network }

Kid Fury and Crissle are the absolute truth: For seven years, these queer Black hosts have been giving listeners, myself included, the lowdown on the latest celebrity gossip, killer mental-health advice, sing-alongs with their own added flavor, and—as the title promises—epic reads. The Read literally makes me laugh out loud every Tuesday at everything from Kid Fury using a particular voice when discussing Nicki Minaj to Crissle referring to heterosexuality as “the ghetto” and telling us all to get rid of partners who don’t respect or appreciate us. If you’re looking for a good laugh and a lot of entertainment, queue up The Read while you’re in the house. (You can also watch their weekly program on Fuse.)—ED

2 Dope Queens
{ WNYC Studios }

Though 2 Dope Queens ended its run in 2018, it’s still a podcast I hold dear. Hosts Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson discuss everything under the sun—including hair, love, racism, sex, and television—while managing to make me laugh out loud. Williams and Robinson’s rapport makes me feel simultaneously comforted and entertained, which is no small feat for a podcast. I turn to 2 Dope Queens when I need something to listen to over lunch or while cleaning my apartment; it’s like having your funniest, warmest friends at your side as you handle the most mundane parts of life. As an added bonus, they include three guests per episode, so you’re likely to find even more people who will fill up your life with laughter. (There are also two seasons of 2 Dope Queens specials on HBO.)—RCL

Cocaine and Rhinestones

You don’t have to be a fan of classic country music—Merle Haggard, Kitty Wells, George Jones, and the like—to get into Cocaine and Rhinestones, a deep-dive podcast in which host Tyler Mahan Coe recalls the history behind some of the genre’s most celebrated songs, notorious personalities, and misunderstood narratives. How did Haggard’s satirical 1969 hit, “Okie From Muskogee,” become a beacon of conservative pride during a war that divided the country—the “Born in the USA” of the Vietnam era? Want to know the real reason behind the radio ban of Loretta Lynn’s 1975 ode to contraceptive freedom, “The Pill”? Coe, the son of country musician David Allan Coe, is a storyteller who saw an urgent need to preserve the history of country musicians and songs whose stories have been flattened into soap-opera family dramas (The Judds), one-off oddities (“Harper Valley P.T.A”), and backwoods caricatures. Each of the 14 episodes was created by Coe, working without outside sponsors or staff, and includes targeted recommendations for further reading and listening—a full-service seminar on some of country’s most fascinating figures. —Andi Zeisler, cofounder

Rose Buddies (Now Wonderful!)
{ Maximum Fun }

Before Griffin and Rachel McElroy had Wonderful!, a podcast where they discussed things that made them happy, there was Rose Buddies, an amazingly entertaining podcast on which Griffin and Rachel recapped seasons of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, andwhen neither of the former were airing—other dating-related reality-TV shows). Packed with tangents, comedic bits, and warm and fuzzy interactions between Griffin and Rachel, these episodes ran way longer than episodes of The Bachelor(ette). I’ve only seen Rachel Lindsay’s season (because Griffin and Rachel sold it so well to me), but you don’t need to watch or enjoy the franchise to enjoy Rose Buddies. I encourage everyone to listen, subliminally associate the Home Improvement noise with “this man from the internet,” and join the cult of the McElroys with me!—AV 

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