Curated by Nastaran Tavakoli-Far, host of The Gender Knot
Nas aka Nastaran Tavakoli-Far hosts The Gender Knot, an ideas podcast where we try to figure out new gender roles together. She’s collected a few shows which delve into changing masculinity today from different angles and perspectives.
At The Gender Knot podcast we are all about trying to untangle the new masculinity and femininity. It’s an exciting time, but a confusing one, for gender identity. While gender equality has been a growing issue for a while, what’s especially unique about this particular moment is that men are now being brought into conversations about gender issues. I’m Nas, the female half of the hosting team (Jonathan Freeman being the other part), and together we’re asking how we should be raising our sons and what it means to be a man in today’s world.
In a funny twist of events — and perhaps even a little woman-splaining of me — I’m bringing together the voices of masculinity in this collection (though the male half of our four-person team joke that women do the work while men take the credit)! As a woman I feel incredibly invested in the discussions surrounding masculinity and don’t believe it’s possible to have a more just world if only women are thinking about their gender identity. Aside from that, I had a very boy-ish upbringing and feel like for most my life I’ve had more masculine traits in me, for good and bad, so I find the conversations on our show and in the shows shared here really personal, occasionally infuriating, yet always exciting too!
The Gender Knot
Our show is all about bringing men and women together to have productive, accessible, and ultimately fun conversations about new gender roles. We aim to both help and challenge each other and to get both sides of the story. In each episode we try to answer a question; we talk to some guests and experts and then come together to see if we can somehow solve the problem, or at least figure out the bounds of it a little better. The changing face of masculinity is something we look at often, be it through asking How can men best help feminism, trying to figure out Why don’t men talk or by asking: Men and feelings, what’s the deal?
Tough Conversations with Henry Rollins
This is the perfect podcast, with a perfect treatment of a quintessentially masculine trait: toughness! Notorious for his tough guy image, Rollins goes on a road trip around Australia — a country infamous for toughness of the male variety — in his quest to figure out what it means to be tough. Toughness is his mum, says a gay farmer, while a professional surfer who fought off a shark says dropping the guard and being honest is where toughness is at. Rollins also goes through his own changing journey with toughness, a masculine trait that is both glorified and vilified, and yet this trait is also given a compassionate and fair, albeit tough exploration on this show.
Other Men Need Help
Fantastic, funny, and beautifully produced essays on the male experience. Filmaker and break dancer Mark Pagán weaves through topics, sometimes with guests and sometimes alone, with episodes sounding like the audio equivalent of a beautiful and layered magazine essay, aided by his rich voice. In Manual Men he grapples with his own conflicted attitude towards ambitious and successful women (a topic we’ve covered on The Gender Knot, too) and in Handsome Gums, the powerful line “This isn’t stoicism, this is clinical depression. What the fuck is wrong that I’ve been romanticizing this all these years?” embodies the dangers of romanticizing male stoicism.
Fine and Dandy with Dan and Andy
Two white, straight cis-gendered males try to figure out how to be better allies. Oh, and they are also comedians! They interview guests about gender, sexuality, differing physical abilities, class, race, and privilege. What’s best is that they are all about learning from their guests, and are fun, humble, and really inspiring in their approach. I recommend this show for men who want to learn about their own privilege and what they can do among all the social conversations taking place right now. Key episodes to sample include Puerto Rican actor Carlos Santos, rapper Fat Tony, and writer Ijeoma Oluo.
A Gay and a Nongay
James Barr and Dan Hudson host this amazingly fun back-and-forth conversational podcast out of the UK. The best bit is that in between all the humor and the joking, they end up discussing some really important issues. PREPisode delves into gritty issues regarding sex, protection, and perceptions, and their #MeToo episode is an honest and raw look at why people don’t speak up about harassment and abuse. It’s always fun hearing metal fan Dan rail against the persecution of the rock community, while James laughs about how his arguments often parallel gay rights debates, such as in Bi now, Bi later and Nongay problems.
Another male-female co-host duo, Remoy Philip and Samantha Nzessi from Brooklyn, take a nuanced and passionate approach to sharing both their experiences with the different topics at hand. Key episodes include Why can’t people change their minds?, on the complex nuances of sexual consent and how the genders are expected to behave around sexual interactions, and What drag teaches us about owning our self-expression, which looks at performing masculinity and performing femininity and how these are different and why.
Youth worker German Villegas’s vibe as a host is relaxed, engaged, personal, and great to listen to, like an old friend you can bounce thoughts off. I especially loved the episode Martial arts and masculinity — a topic I’ve been obsessed with since being a teen girl! — where German talks to an aikido teacher about some of the beautiful masculine traits embodied in martial arts. It’s also great hearing audience feedback from the community of men that is growing around his podcast.
A Therapist Walks into a Bar
This isn’t a podcast about masculinity, but it is about our inner lives and how we make sense of ourselves and our place in the world — valuable to everyone, including men who are trying to figure out who they are. Psychotherapist Lily Sloane visits bars around the San Francisco Bay Area and talks to people and experts about topics such as: Seriously, Fuck Dating, and The best defense is the one you know (a compassionate look at why we use defense mechanisms and how they aren’t always bad). This show is beautifully produced and I love her open approach as she looks at how our personal histories have shaped us while also delving into the wider social, cultural, and political forces that impact how we experience the world.
The Joe Rogan Experience
As one of the hugest podcasts of all time, this show really doesn’t need to be on this list, but I can’t help it. It’s so raw, so to the point, so compelling, so brilliant, and to me, it’s essential listening, especially at this point in time. Joe asks the questions a lot of men may be thinking but are afraid to raise and he allows his guests to do the same. Must listen episodes include guests Jordan Peterson and Russell Brand — another raw, to the point and compelling person — in which Joe and Russell talk about the self, society, capitalism, and how to make sense of who you are among it all.
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