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Podcast makes sure ‘Feminists Ruin Everything’

Anna Tennis (left) Andrea Crouse and Christine Dean share a laugh as they tell stories of past interviews as they talk about the podcast "Feminists Ruin Everything," which they work together to produce. Photo by David Ballard Photography

Ironworker Beth “Glo” Beattie said she often finds herself targeted by sexist male co-workers.

“Just existing is threatening to people, just the fact that you’re there doing the work,” she said recently. “This is another thing I hear a lot: ‘You know you’re taking away a job from a man.’ I’ve heard that hundreds of times. And then I always say: ‘So are you.’”

Sometimes, Beattie said, the best weapon in the battle for women’s equality is wit and sarcasm.

But sometimes it’s tough.

Anna Tennis (David Ballard Photography)“You gotta let things sometimes roll,” said Firefighter Lindzi Campbell-Rorvick. “Again, some days you’re just not up to fight the world.”

Beattie, Campbell-Rorvick and welder Aleasha Hladilek shared their trade work experience in a recent episode of a new podcast called “Feminists Ruin Everything.” The Internet talk show was launched last fall by Duluth-based Feminist Action Collective with hosts Anna Tennis and Andrea Crouse and producer Christine Dean.

Organizers hope women will find the podcast and use it to help “ruin” centuries of male-dominated culture.

Dedicated to supporting women in leadership roles, expanding access to women’s health care and fostering respectful discourse, the Feminist Action Collective was founded the day after the 2016 presidential election.

“In that moment, we realized that the United States would rather have Donald Trump be president than a totally qualified woman,” Tennis said. “It made a lot of people so angry and so motivated.”

“It was a shock to many people,” Crouse said. “So we were looking for a way to address what we were seeing coming down the road with the new administration.”

The group, which has some 2,000 followers and 30-40 active members, meets regularly at the Building for Women in downtown Duluth. It organized the January Twin Ports Women’s March, participated in International Womxn’s Week events this spring and promotes its cause through merchandise sales, social media and the Feminists Ruin Everything podcast.

The Collective’s Diverse Not Divided Committee initiated the podcast idea.

Christine Dean (David Ballard Photography)“We realized we wanted to hear stories from different women, what they’re experiencing in the world,” Crouse said. “Storytelling is such an important way to connect with people or experiences that may not be part of our own norm. We keep looking for ways to do that more effectively and draw in people that have experiences we don’t have.”

Early podcasts have featured working Twin Ports area musicians and two feminist scholars. An upcoming show highlights women in sports using interviews with former University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller and Olympian Kara Goucher.

“I just sit there and think; ‘How on earth am I going to edit this because it’s all so great.’ These conversations are so rich,” Dean said.

“It really is just talking about this experience in a way that is completely relatable and completely genuine, as hands free as possible,” Tennis said. She said interviews often take surprising turns: “That meander is as informative to us as it is to anybody listening.”

Crouse said the podcast name was inspired by the Debbie Downer comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live. In the sketch, Debbie Downer routinely breaks up fun and happy conversations with bad news, grim facts and unpleasant memories.

“We go about that, hopefully, in a more joyful way with the storytelling,” she said. “But trying to get that variety of stories out there so we’re not just giving this single view of an experience that: ‘You know, things are going OK.’”

“It’s fun to play with that concept: Here’s what we’re ‘ruining’ this week!” Dean said.

The 60- to 90-minute shows are designed to be irreverent and easygoing but also material, significant and academic. Popular podcasts like Feminist Killjoys PhD, Call Your Girlfriend and My Favorite Murder served as models. Tennis and Crouse lead the discussion with a list of questions, but things usually wind up in unexpected places.

A historical look at feminism with retired University of Minnesota Duluth women’s studies Professor Beth Bartlett and College of St. Scholastica theology and religious studies professor Denise Starkey, for example, was split into two shows as the interview covered a wide variety of topics.

“We’re learning as we go,” Tennis said. “We’ve ended up getting on the ground, at lofty heights, and academic perspectives on things. Which has been really great to sort of triangulate the entirety of the problem. It’s a more holistic approach.”

Andrea Crouse (David Ballard Photography)Health care issues, access to abortion, equal pay, gender language and discussions involving transgender, nonbinary and two-spirit individuals will see time in future podcasts. The group wants to include voices and stories from all areas of feminism.

“This isn’t a secret society of people who know how things should be done,” Tennis said. “We’re exploring it, too. We want that to be apparent to anybody that’s listening as we learn right along with, and make mistakes right along with, our guests.”

Dean said the results have been eye-opening.

“I was just stunned that in 2018 people would still say to a woman in the trades that they’re taking that job away from a man,” she said. “I don’t experience that. I’m not in that world.”

But the Feminist Ruin Everything podcast exists to expose such archaic thinking and inspire women to work for change.

“It was real depressing,” Dean said. “But I love that we’re giving people the opportunity to tell their stories. Other people people probably didn’t know that, either. They probably think that it’s a thing of the past.”

Mark Nicklawske is a Duluth freelance journalist. This article originally ran in the October 2018 issue of The Woman Today magazine.

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The  Feminist Ruin Everything podcast can be found at the Feminist Action Collective webpage: