Welcome back to Pro-deux-er(s) of the Months! For International Women’s Month (and also April), we’re highlighting five of our female-identifying producers who shared some wise words on the podcasting industry, their audio drama female faves, and where we can go from here to better uplift and support the voices of marginalized genders in this space.
Do you feel like fiction podcasts have created a space for more gender-diverse stories? Why or why not?
Cat Blackard (she/they), The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program: Without the industry barriers of other mediums, dictating what stories get told and by whom, fiction podcasting is an unprecedented landscape for diverse storytelling and empowered me, as a trans creator, to create without limits, but also to find myself in the process.
Katelyn Tinius (she/her), Of Mice And Men And Monsters: Of course. In other formats (e.g. TV shows), there can be a backlash when they include a “large” amount of gender-diverse characters, as there seems to be a fear of alienating viewers. That has not been the case with fiction podcasts. You find people who don’t fit into the gender binary in so many audio stories. I think the creators — especially for independent podcasts like on our network — are able to create shows with characters that reflect so many of their listeners. For example, the leaders of our heroes’ resistance group is led by Robin Hood and Marian, both fem-presenting.
Tell me about a female (or female-adjacent) character in a fiction podcast that you adore.
Tina Daniels (she/her), Moonbase Theta, Out: Oh, God. So many, honestly– this is a hard choice! I feel like we don’t get a lot of “token” characters in podcasts – they’re usually really well rounded and complex. I honestly can’t think of any I don’t love. Lovelace from Wolf 359 absolutely — her arc and character growth was absolutely amazing to see. I also really love Mika Harris in The Pilgrimage. Also, Peri and her journey in The Far Meridian.
Beth Crane (she/her), We Fix Space Junk: It might be a slightly old one by this point but I love Antigone Funn’s path. What starts as a kind of spinster path becomes the tale of an artisan who loves her craft.
Lauren Grace Thompson (she/her), Fawx and Stallion: ANTIGONE FUNN MARRY ME!!!
We often see jokes about how podcasting is viewed by most as “two white guys talking about whatever”; did you have that impression when you first entered the industry? If so, has that changed?
Katelyn Tinius: Not fully. I came into podcasting having listened to shows with a healthy spread of both women and men hosting and producing (Code Switch, Criminal, Lore, and The Moth). And when I started listening to fiction podcasts, I was super pumped to see even more representation.
Cat Blackard: I started podcasting in 2009, before much of any kind of large scale stereotypes had been asserted or memeified. That early amorphousness was inspiring – podcasts could be anything. Since then, that stereotype has proven to be true for too long. It’s been a rough road, but in recent years the growth of the medium has also meant an explosion of voices and a wide range of content to make real headway in balancing out the biases in content.
What is one thing the audio drama community can do to foster not just feminist ideals, but intersectional feminism, in our practices, culture, and content?
Beth Crane: Ensure that we aren’t drifting into white feminism without realising it – ensure that we’re doing our best to tell other stories and think of other views, whether it’s written explicitly or not.
Cat Blackard: It remains incredibly important that audio dramas hire and cast diverse writers, actors, and crew, and that established shows share and promote other series from minority creators. When it comes to the resources needed to operate in this medium, there is a gap in accessibility that can only be closed by social change. Podcasting communities have the power to build a better future today and close that gap. This should always be a point of action.
Lauren Grace Thompson: I think the next step that should be taken is helping indie creators get paid. There remains a gap between indie podcasting and commercial podcasting, even in the realm of audio drama, and commercial audio drama largely seems to be pulling from the supportive audiences of indie shows without actually giving indie creators a seat at the table—in writers rooms and pitch meetings and in studio and designing—with a few notable exceptions. If indie creators, and particularly marginalized creators, are bringing new audiences into the medium and showing what can be done on their own funding and the funding of their fans, they should get a chance to be part of the future they helped build.