Her, in your ear

Women make up barely a third of most best-pod­cast lists. Don’t miss out. Here are some riv­et­ing casts by women on food, science, his­tory, bird­ing and more

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTWEEKEND - RACHEL LOPEZ Over the moon about some­thing that’s still un­der the radar? Tell me at rachel.lopez@htlive.com

Why a col­umn about women pod­cast­ers? Be­cause most cov­er­age of pod­casts leaves them out al­most en­tirely. On best-cast roundups, women make up barely a third of the en­tries. Ac­tively seek­ing them out is worse — most lists of pod­casts by women are fo­cused on fash­ion, re­la­tion­ships, moth­er­hood or var­i­ous kinds of agony-aunt ad­vice. Plug into these shows be­low to find out how women tell it dif­fer­ently.


Ev­ery two weeks, Cyn­thia Graber and Ni­cola Twil­ley put to­gether an episode that starts out about food, but ends up weav­ing in science and his­tory. How come a lemon is re­lated to a grape­fruit? What did now-ex­tinct plants taste like? Both hosts draw ex­cel­lent lines from their guests, tak­ing food jour­nal­ism a notch above the usual chef-and-menu chat­ter. Episodes go back to Septem­ber 2014, so there’s plenty to lis­ten to.


Alie Ward’s premise is sim­ple. Find aca­demic dis­ci­plines that end with ‘ol­ogy’, bring in spe­cial­ists, and ask them how they do what they do. The re­sult — an archive of close to 150 pas­sion­ate peo­ple re­veal­ing the world’s com­plex­i­ties and our at­tempts to un­der­stand them — is avail­able on her web­site, alieward.com. Yes, pen­guinol­ogy is a le­git­i­mate stream, and an ex­pert knows why pen­guins give peb­ble gifts. Four ex­perts joined in to ex­plain vi­rol­ogy last month. There’s even an episode on ge­neal­ogy — in­clud­ing why the word is an ‘al­ogy’ and not an ‘ol­ogy’.


The UK’s Royal So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of the Birds has its own chirpy pod­cast, on rspb.org.uk.

Host Jane Markham has the kind of tone that sounds trust­wor­thy and in­ter­ested, even when she’s ask­ing ques­tions to orinthol­o­gists, bird­watch­ers, ecol­o­gists and those who track winged mi­gra­tion. There’s mu­sic too, song­bird tunes, caw stud­ies and much, much cluck­ing over cli­mate change.


His­to­rian Jill Le­pore — she teaches at Har­vard and writes in the New Yorker — ex­plores how truth is shaped by so­ci­eties, and how we end up ‘know­ing’ the things we do. Each episode starts with a mys­tery, and opens with a re-en­act­ment. From there, it blows up to cover the his­tory of knowl­edge, the life­cy­cle of a fact, and what we con­sider ev­i­dence. Fit­ting for a time when far too many peo­ple don’t even be­lieve the pan­demic is real.


No one knows what to­mor­row will bring, but fu­tur­ist Rose Eveleth knows more than most. Her job cov­ers ma­te­rial that doesn’t make it to your com­pany’s quar­terly pro­jec­tions. The pod­cast uses ex­ist­ing science and real-world de­vel­op­ments to imag­ine fu­tures in which hu­mans might be able to see in the dark, when satel­lites might track crime, or we may beat death by con­tin­u­ing as sim­u­la­tions. Through it all, Eveleth talks su­per­fast, al­most like she’s rac­ing to­wards to­mor­row.


At just 12 episodes, Ruk­mini Cal­li­machi’s ac­count of the rise of the Is­lamic State is riv­et­ing, dis­turb­ing and com­plex. Cal­li­machi, who cov­ers ter­ror­ism for The New York Times, has none of the bravado or hero com­plex typ­i­cal of war jour­nal­ists. In the pod­cast avail­able on ra­diop­ub­lic.com, she ex­plains the con­di­tions that al­lowed ISIS to flour­ish, weaves in heart­break­ing in­ter­views with vic­tims, de­fec­tors and com­mu­nity lead­ers, and of­fers nu­ances to the good-Mus­lim-bad-Mus­lim bi­nary that dom­i­nates so much re­portage world­wide.


Yes, there are pod­casts by women fo­cused on fash­ion, moth­er­hood and agony-aunt ad­vice. But there are oth­ers dis­cussing ISIS, phi­los­o­phy, fu­ture worlds and the na­ture of truth.

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