Blog: Radio’s Dead? Feminism Can Save Her.

WAM – Women Action & Media (19 August 2011)

Sick of the same hateful shit on mainstream radio?  You’re not alone.  The Women’s Radio Fund outlines the ways which mainstream radio silences feminist voices and actively promotes those of outspoken anti-feminists.  Their report details the forceful and sustained efforts of anti-feminist radio hosts in using the airwaves as springboards for their virulent public rhetoric.  Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson, and many others have filled mainstream radio stations over the years with inane and irrelevant sexist banter.  And in 2000, when Frieda Werden wrote the WRF report, she estimated that only 1% of all radio stations in America broadcasted feminist-related programming.  But despite the financial and major-network support of many anti-feminist radio personalities, some feminists have managed to claim some airwaves of their own.  Initially founded to broadcast feminist projects and opinions, reclaimed radio space quickly develops into a revolutionary act of self-expression and active ownership of media.

Radio is undoubtedly a hostile environment for women-identified radio enthusiasts; luckily, the Women’s Radio Fund and other organizations have created networks of support, education, and mentorship to fill these gaps.  The Women’s Radio Fund identifies the main challenges facing women in radio in their own goals of their Women’s Radio Archive Project, their Radio Production and Distribution project, their Women’s Community Radio Networking and Development, and their Netcasting work.  In addition, the WRF outlines some strategic advantages of women working in radio versus other mediums, including everything from “You can listen to the radio while doing other things (women usually are)” to “the audience has to listen to what you say, instead of obsessing over your hair or your tits.”

With a term as open-ended as “feminist radio,” it is important to recognize the multiplicity of ways which feminism on the radio can exist.  Are prominent woman-identified news radio reporters, such as Amy GoodmanCallie Crossley, and Diane Rehm, considered feminists on the radio?  Is the act of a woman speaking her opinion on the radio feminist in its rejection of the unrealistic qualities of mainstream radio media?  Or perhaps feminist radio consists of feminist activists discussing and publicizing their upcoming activist projects and events, such as the Calgary Feminist station’s segment on spoken word activism?  Some feminist radio shows exist as women’s news segments, whereas others focus on a specific issue within feminism as a focus for a regular show. Often, feminism makes it on to the radio particularly when an accomplished feminist is spotlighted for a specific event. Activism can also occur through the radio and using the radio as its primary method of mobilizing support.

Since feminist radio can be tough to find, I’m going to recommend a few regular and one-time radio shows across these categories of feminism for all of your feminist radio needs!

To begin, Off Our Backs provides a helpful general feminist radio guide, with listings in most states in America.  Amazon Country and Sophie’s Parlor, two long-standing feminist radio shows which still broadcast, are living history.  The F-Word is a prominent feminist media collective based in Vancouver, with archived stories, an active blog presence, and live weekly shows every Monday.  The Feminist Breeder has many archived shows from 2010 on “feminism, birth control, breastfeeding, and parenthood,” covering topics from midwives and cloth diapers to Mother’s Day and public breastfeeding.   The “Women’s Magazine” is an hour-long program on KPFA (Berkeley, California) for the first three Mondays of the month, focusing on “women’s lives and issues globally and locally from a radical multiracial feminist/mujerist/womanist perspective.”  In LA, you can listen to “Feminist Magazine,” which examines a range of political and cultural news through a variety of feminist lenses, all produced by a team of dedicated volunteers.  WAM!er Barbara Glickstein co-produces and hosts “Healthstyles,”a weekly show covering a range of health policy and news stories, employing her expertise as an RN to promote health through feminist radio.  The “Voices and Choices,” on Case Western’s WRUW, uncovers “voices who are otherwise not heard” as a means of exploring pro-choice and progressive politics.  Santa Cruz Independent Media Center website hosts archived oral histories about feminist and anarchist identities from their Feminist Radio Collective.  The WINGS (Women’s International News Gathering Service) shows from 2009 to the present are available on their website, with listeners and producers also connecting via Facebook.  WAM!er Charlotte Crockford hosts “Feminist Edition” weekly out of Lowell, MA, exploring women’s news and incorporating community views and opinions.  WBAI’s weekly show “Joy of Resistance” works within a multi-cultural feminist framework to “cover the ongoing worldwide struggle for the full liberation of women.”

The Feminist International Radio Endeavor runs a resource list of archived shows in their “Disabled Women’s Section.”  The weekly Canadian program “Adamant Eve” broadcasts women’s news, and there are even archived shows from July on the topic of Feminist Summer camp!   Sonali Kolhatkar hosts “Uprising” on LA’s KPFK dedicated to independent news media analysis on local and global women’s and human rights issues.  Michel Martin’s NPR show “Tell Me More” reports on American politics and current events with attention to the everyday experiences of multicultural Americans. Great feminist radio also includes a strong community devoted to feminist music and musicians; Queer Sounds broadcasts music created by queer artists and musicians, with weekly playlists available after each show. “Women’s Windows,” a weekly feminist music and arts show from Maine co-hosted by WAM!er DJ Magdalen (Marge May) and Linda Washburn, features news and arts discussions with the occasional spoken-word performance in-studio.  The weekly “Women’s Show” on Florida’s WMNF 88.5 offers a mix of feminist/womanist music and arts news, interviews, and reviews.  WAM!er Julianne Shepherd hosts the Saturday show “Universópolis,” featuring a combination of Latin American political commentary with new music, often by female musicians, from Latin America and the diaspora.  Feminist podcasts, such as WAM!er Amanda Marcotte’s “RealityCast” at RH Reality Check, also increase women’s airtime and coverage of feminist news stories.

There have also been notable feminist activist projects recently achieved through the medium of radio.  For example, reports from participants at the Indymedia Africa Convergence (in Feburary 2011) connected the power of media ownership to social change in the hosting nation, Senegal.  Activists at this gathering exchanged local and global activist strategies, with people working for violence against women, playing regional political hip-hop on air, and organizing voices of rural Senegalese women from communities hurt by oil extraction.  Similarly, Tachi Arriola’s beautifully-written account of “The Feminist Radio Collective of Peru: Women…on the air” documents the interplay between feminist community building and media production.  Her story of the collective details some philosophical currents in feminist radio, it documents struggles with technology and roadblocks of outside sexist forces, and ultimately weaves a triumphant story of successful feminist radio activism.

Radio is an activist and artistic tool which feminists and other media-activists continue to reclaim.  Even as smaller radio stations close down across the country, as larger media companies consolidate their power and influence, developments like widely-accessible, free, streaming radio shows keep indie and left-wing voices afloat.  With a medium previously so reliant on a strong local audience and following for success, internet radio has freed the art form’s geographic limitations.  The internet has also allowed for past feminist radio shows to be carefully archived and shared with activists across the world, increasing feminist radio’s potential influence, scope, relevance, and overall importance in a larger mainstream media culture.  Now, projects like the Digital Sisterhood group encourage people interested in women’s media production to simply record their own audio pieces to share online if they cannot gain access to a live radio network.  You don’t even need access to a station to engage in feminist radio activism!

Now that you know what feminist radio is fighting against, what they are fighting for, and where you can find active hosts and DJs, get out there and support radio media which speaks to you and your experiences!  I bet it’s out there. And if it’s not, record it!

Blog Post by WAM! Intern Anna J. Weick

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