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A Podcast Celebrating the Joys of Female Identity
By The Editors
The Internet has given us a bounty of content, but as of late, we've been tuning in to Feminist Hotdog, a funny and uplifting feminist podcast. With the second season beginning in March, Feminist Hotdog will continue to spotlight news, culture, humor, and lifestyle for women. This is a podcast that will make you laugh, not cry, even when serious topics come up. The founder and host is Adrienne van der Valk, who curates a bevy of dynamic guests—and they never fail to keep the conversation going. We asked Adrienne a few questions about the podcast over email. Here are her thoughtful, honest answers:
What was the push behind starting your podcast?
Feminist Hotdog was a direct result of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. The last few years have been hard on a lot of women, I think, and since Trump’s election every week feels like a game of oppression roulette: Who is he going to target now? It’s all been exhausting, but the Kavanaugh hearings really broke me. I watched my social media channels on the days they aired, and my female friends were all just in despair. Witnessing that despair really made me feel like I had to do something to help my sisters, and that something turned out to be a podcast.
The name itself just materialized in my brain. I was looking at Mitch McConnell on TV during these hearings and thinking, “That guy does not represent me or any woman I care about. I would rather take advice from a hotdog than listen to Mitch McConnell. As long as it was a feminist hotdog.” And that made me laugh and feel better for a minute. And Feminist Hotdog was born.
How do you think Feminist Hotdog differs from other feminist podcasts?
The entire goal of the show is to escape into feminism as a way to feel happy. People often misperceive feminism and only view it as a reaction to bad things: rape and misogyny and oppression. I want to turn that around. I want to celebrate women and anyone who identifies as female. I want to find joy in strength and connection and creativity. Yes, sometimes that strength is born out of pain and resistance, and the show definitely acknowledges those things. And Feminist Hotdog is not here to give anyone permission to ignore the things that are wrong with the world. But for those of us who are deeply engaged in politics or social justice, we need a place to feel some positivity and to articulate an affirmative vision for the world we do want so we can maintain the strength to resist the one we don’t.
How do you select your guests?
I started season one driven by a real sense of urgency. Part of it was fueled by my own anger, but a lot of that urgency, as I said, came out the despair I saw in my friends—so that’s where I began. I’m lucky to have a wide network of women who have interesting jobs and hobbies and who care deeply about what’s happening in the world, so it wasn’t difficult to line up some really inspiring conversations. That approach also made life a little easier for me as a new podcaster because the intimidation factor was low.
For season two, I’m reaching beyond my network almost entirely. Researching stories for Feminist Hotdog has broken open a whole new world for me in terms of exposure to women’s voices and creativity. The wider that world grows, the more daring I’ve become in terms of asking folks if they’d be willing to come on the show. I’m blown away by how many people have said yes. So, next season will be different—less intimate, probably, because those relationships won’t be as present in the conversations. But my hope is that this show never stops growing and changing, and that means inviting stories from spheres that don’t currently intersect my own. It’s really exciting.
How did you decide on the different segments for Feminist Hotdog?
The show has three segments now: What makes your feminist heart sing?, during which me and my guest talk about what made us happy to be women that week; Dear Feminist Hotdog, which is the advice section; and the Hotdog Hall of Fame, where we celebrate lesser-known feminists we think listeners would find inspiring. Originally, the whole show was going to be advice and the other two segments were bookends I chose because I didn’t yet have enough reader letters to fill a show. But, as it turns out, What Makes Your Feminist Heart Sing and the Hotdog Hall of Fame are the two most popular segments and, for me, the most enjoyable parts of the show. So I may actually phase out the advice part altogether, and I certainly intend to experiment with new segments in season 2.
How do you think podcasts are changing media?
There is a lot to say about this that has been said more eloquently by other people in terms of how the ease of producing podcasts is empowering citizen journalists and providing more accessible platforms—similar to zines in the past and to what YouTube has been doing for years. I do think that’s important, although the proliferation of podcasting in the last few years also means there is literally a lot more noise to break through if you want your podcast heard.
What strikes me is the way that podcast listeners identify as a community. If you find someone who is into the same weird niche-y topic you are and you’ve taken the same podcast journey, that’s like an instant bond that goes way beyond liking the same Netflix show. Podcasts forge connections in a way that feels unique to me.
What’s been a pleasant surprise about doing a podcast?
Almost as soon as my podcast launched, I was invited to join two online podcasting groups: Lady Pod Squad and Podern Family. I can’t tell you how supportive this community has been. I’ll be the first to admit that I held some internalized biases about whether and why a community of podcasters (women in particular—shame on me) would want to invite in a newcomer who is essentially competition, but it’s not like that at all. This is the most genuinely supportive and drama-free online community I have ever been a part of. I’ve learned an incredible amount from my fellow podcasters and get a deep sense of joy from their successes. I’m going to my first podcasting convention this weekend and meeting up with some members of Lady Pod Squad for the first time in real life. Particularly in light of the sadness I felt when Feminist Hotdog started, these connections have been such a gift.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
I don’t know if it’s the biggest challenge, but a challenge I wasn’t expecting was getting over these verbal ticks I have that make me sound unsure of myself. Once I started listening back to the episodes, it was painfully obvious how often I would start sentences with, “Well, I may be off base here…” or “I just really feel like…” or some other phrase that basically diminishes the impact of whatever comes next. I also say, “Does make sense?” or “Do you know what I mean?” way too often, which makes me sound like I am constantly seeking validation. It’s kind of terrible to hear yourself and realize these subconscious habits, but it’s been really empowering to change those behaviors. And I do feel stronger in my own voice as a result.
Another challenge for me is that, because I am white and I have been socialized in a racist society, I know I need to constantly guard against white feminism. I know I am going to say things that aren’t perfect and I that I may even harm people because I engage a lot of different topics and I’m not an expert on them all. So I ask listeners to hold me accountable and they do. And I try hard not to let myself get complacent. It’s been a great lesson in humility and also kept me sane because I know I am going to fuck up so I’m not afraid of that anymore. I would rather make mistakes because I am pushing myself to grow and learn than stay silent about these topics that are so critically important to our society. I would never intentionally say anything harmful, but I will never not apologize if something I say has a harmful impact on my listeners.
What advice do you have for others interested in starting a podcast?
There are a lot of technical decisions that have to be made right off the bat that can feel daunting. When it comes to equipment, hosting, etc. just pick a path that makes the most sense for you financially and stay focused on your vision. You can adjust all that other stuff later. The content is the most important thing, but it is so easy to get distracted by the production and promotional elements. Put your energy into the elements that feed your soul and get you excited to hit record. And if something’s not working for you—change it! Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It’s your project, the workings of your mind. And if you do an episode you’re not in love with, just forget about it and do another one. Like with any artform, it can feel so intimidating to put your naked words out there, but if you keep doing it—again and again and again—before long it is possible to recover from imposter syndrome fall in love with the sound of your own voice. And for women, who often hear they should soften or diminish their voices, that’s a beautiful thing!
Okay, last but not least, any details about your personal life and day job you're willing to share? And what's your favorite way to have a hotdog?
I’ve been a writer and editor for most of my career, so communication and content creation has always been a passion of mine. I’m a former roller derby player turn yoga teacher and I live in the deep South. Ironically, I don’t eat hotdogs or any land animals. My feminist hotdog would be made out of tofu.
Editors' note: Our founding editor Christine Sloan Stoddard is the guest on Episode 9 of Feminist Hotdog.
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