No Cis Men Allowed: The Making of a Socialist Feminist Podcast

Last July, the co-chair of my chapter alerted me to this post. Heart beating fast, I replied quickly, unwilling to miss a window to be included in this amazing opportunity: “I have been wanting to do this for a while!! I would love to do this with you.” Within a couple of days, there was a thread of women who were interested in creating a podcast where cis men weren’t allowed.

We started a Patreon account and had over 80 subscribers, pledging a total of $300, before we put out any content. The stakes felt high for all of us, because nothing like this had ever been done before. We wanted to get it right. We began this project because all of us felt frustrated with the lack of gender diversity on most (if not all) leftist podcasts. Turns out, a lot of other people felt that frustration too.

Why are people so frustrated? Why do people feel dejected when they can’t identify with what people are talking about or who is doing the talking? Why do people feel like they are on the outside looking in, left out by exclusionary information or inside jokes?

As a society, we’re well-programmed to try to compete and one-up one another (thanks, myth of meritocracy). But as socialists, we know that people shouldn’t be scoffed at for not knowing information. They should be given the information, and given support in understanding that information. You’d think this would be more commonplace, especially among leftists. Everyone has had a journey to get to whatever level of leftism they’re currently at—it takes work and dedication. So why was it so revolutionary to make leftism not only inclusive, but also accessible?

One of our listeners recently said this about our show: “When I listen I feel safe in not totally understanding an issue/topic (I never immediately feel as if I’m in too deep or stupid) and come out having learned and with a research base.” This is feedback we get pretty regularly. Women, trans, and non-binary folks have always had to work harder to gain “insider” knowledge, so all five of us working on the podcast had first-hand experience being the outsider within a conversation, being belittled when we asked a question, or being talked over when making a point. We sought to change that dynamic with the platform we created.

So what is Season of the Bitch (SotB) all about? We are a socialist feminist podcast, so we cover a whole range of topics through that lens. We understand that capitalist hetero-patriarchal hegemony affects all realms of our lives, from how we learn and understand content, to foreign policy decisions and international relations. Some of our most popular episodes have covered Mental Health Under Capitalism, Feminist Marxism, Sex Work and Solidarity, Reading Difficult Books, Dialectical Materialism, The Occupation of Palestine, Socialism in the Mainstream Media, and Debt.

There are several ways that our socialist feminist lens sets us apart from other leftist podcasts. For example, we’ve had several episodes on sex work and the porn industry, which generally isn’t something touched by our male counterparts. This specific topic has been really important to us, because we know there’s a big anti-sex work faction among leftists (of all genders). Hearing from folks within the industry not only gives us insight into what it means to be a sex worker, but also what it means for us, as leftists, to be in solidarity with all kinds of workers, regardless of industry. On another subject, our episode on debt (our most-played by far) addresses how debt affects different people differently. Our guests address how the gender and racial wage gap compounds the effects of debt, a type of analysis that has been lacking in other leftist conversations.

We believe strongly that representation matters when we’re trying to overthrow the dominant hegemonic institutions of capitalism and patriarchy. As a rule, we do not have cisgender men on our show. For our guests, we exclusively look to experts who are women, trans, and non-binary. The small amount of effort that goes toward uplifting voices that aren’t typically represented is absolutely worth the rich, beautiful, and meaningful conversations we have with our guests. Our listeners, who interact with us often on social media and via email, have told us over and over again how much it means to them to not have to listen to men discuss these complex political topics. One wrote to us, “It feels like I can finally breathe. And I am really (really, really) tired of listening to cis men talk. It is so refreshing to hear others (us) making each other crack up AND clarifying/disagreeing on points. Plus, it’s the first show I’ve listened to not made by trans people that somewhat regularly has us on as guests!”

Many others have written similar things, noting how hearing from people they don’t hear from anywhere else makes them feel empowered and excited to be a socialist. We consistently hear that people feel that the podcast gives them the tools to apply a socialist feminist lens to various spaces they operate in, including classrooms, workplaces, and DSA meetings.

I do want to be clear that we are not trying to exclude cis men from the conversation, but rather understand that women, non-binary, and trans folks have just as much expertise and value in our society, and we want to have a platform that uplifts their experience. We want cis men to listen, support, and share our podcast—but we feel adamantly that they do not need to be given yet another platform. When we have live shows, we don’t exclude men from our spaces, but we do prioritize listening to and speaking with marginalized voices. We think about this as a heightened version of the progressive stack that many of us use during our DSA meetings.

In fact, some of our biggest fans are cis men, many of whom have said that the podcast has opened their eyes to a lot of socialist feminist issues. One listener wrote, “It helped me further my journey as a feminist within the past year or so; as a man, this means a lot to me because I’m understanding what my privilege means as it concerns society, toxic masculinity, and what I can do to combat it and be an ally to women seeking real freedom.”

It’s obvious to my co-hosts and me that creating an intentionally socialist feminist space within the podcast community has made a real impact on people’s lives. Unfortunately, we also face difficulties in creating this project. We and our guests definitely face online harassment. We take online security seriously, and typically we only use first names for ourselves and our guests on the air. Some of our guests haven’t wanted to reveal their first names or location at all, requests that we honor to protect them from online harassment or even doxxing.

Additionally, our listener base, while absolutely incredible, is still relatively small. We have between 3,000 and 6,000 listeners each week, and less than 300 Patreon supporters. We don’t make enough to pay ourselves (only our editor gets paid a small stipend for labor each month), and we all struggle to balance our day jobs and other obligations with the podcast. We wish we could commit all of our time to this incredible socialist feminist project, but the world isn’t ready to support it in the ways we need. However, regardless of these challenges, we will continue to create an online socialist feminist community that attempts to uplift voices and conversations that are being left out of the leftist mainstream.