A Podcast That Sounds Like Me

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Sarah Biskowitz (left), with her friend Jessie (middle) and her sister Alli (right). All three are wearing "Call Your Girlfriend (podcast)" buttons.

“We talk about current events, friendship, Beyoncé, and politics,” Aminatou Sow said in Episode One of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. I smiled to myself. That’s exactly what I talk about with my friends, I thought.

Call Your Girlfriend is a weekly podcast (piece of digital audio available for download on apps like iTunes) hosted by Aminatou Sow, a manager at Google and co-founder of Tech LadyMafia, and Ann Friedman, a freelance journalist and email newsletter maven based in Los Angeles. Listening to each episode is like eavesdropping on a casual phone conversation between two best friends.

The first time I listened to Call Your Girlfriend, in November 2014, was an epiphany: here were two millennial women committed to covering my favorite topics with honesty and humor. I immediately urged my sister Alli and best friend Jessie to catch up on all the episodes, and we have been devoted listeners ever since.

I am often disappointed and infuriated by how conventional media views and criticizes young women, which affects how people see and treat us. For example, when the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team discussed strategy and congratulated each other after performing their routines, an NBC commentator remarked they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.”  Likewise, when I talk, others judge me for my speech patterns instead of listen to my ideas. Do I use vocal fry? Do I say “like”? Why am I asking so many questions? The media portrays the way my friends and I talk as unintelligent and incorrect, despite experts crediting us for our strategic and innovative contributions to language. Seeing this type of media coverage and experiencing its effects is exhausting and discouraging.

In contrast, Call Your Girlfriend is a breath of fresh air. Ann and Amina call out sexism, celebrate womanhood, and challenge taboos. Like my friends and I, they don’t talk much about their romantic lives (my sister Alli jokes that she’s in a committed relationship with her AP Chemistry textbook) but they discuss female friends, their careers, and issues in their communities and around the globe. They also cover “low-brow” topics like Taylor Swift and clothing trends thoughtfully and passionately. Every other week, they interview a mutual friend who is a journalist or actor or any number of fascinating things. Despite complaints from some listeners, Ann and Amina continue speak naturally and refuse to apologize for the way they talk. (Besides, saying sorry would probably also be criticized.) In addition to finding their content interesting and relevant, Ann and Amina’s conversations are meaningful to me because they talk the way I talk.

What I am most inspired by is Ann and Amina’s ability to use their podcast to effect change. They promote their feminist philosophy, Shine Theory, which calls for women to eschew jealousy and toxic competition, and instead befriend and support each other. It has been cited by Amandla Stenberg and used to describe the teamwork of Obama staffers and female Olympic athletes. Furthermore, Ann and Amina’s frequent, frank, and entertaining discussion of menstruation is unique and refreshing and helps normalize the topic for mainstream media.

Overall, this podcast has enriched my engagement with the world and interactions with others. After a political speech or a celebrity scandal, I wonder what Ann and Amina think, and start to form my own opinion. As I navigate the pressures of high school, Shine Theory has helped me be kinder and more productive. After each Call Your Girlfriend episode, I ask my sister Alli and best friend Jessie what they thought. We agree, we disagree, we discuss. The show emphasizes bonding with your long-distance friends, and while we see each other every day, we find Call Your Girlfriend to be an important example of how friends like us can learn from one another and engage in meaningful conversation.      

Call Your Girlfriend has validated me. It affirms my passion for politics and my interest in pop culture. It has shown me that my cherished female friendships are powerful. But Call Your Girlfriend has also challenged me. Ann and Amina are confident. They say exactly what they think and ask bold questions. They admit their mistakes but don’t cave when they believe in something. Sometimes the pressure of media and outside criticism makes me hesitate to put my voice out into the world. Listening to Ann and Amina has inspired me to speak up.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism, Media
1 Comment
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What a great blog. I'm not familiar with 'Call Your Girlfriend' but so glad to hear about it. Not only because of the topics discussed but for the very fact that young women are still using the phone to communicate. Texting seems to be the most popular way to get a message across. Texting is good in many instances, but telephone skills fall by the wayside. Not using the phone for real conversation is a detriment to Interpersonal communication. Woe is the person who has a job interview via the phone if she is used to abbreviated words or one word responses. Also, speech patterns are important, because they do say something about the speaker.

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How to cite this page

Biskowitz, Sarah. "A Podcast That Sounds Like Me." 13 October 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 29, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/podcast-that-sounds-like-me>.