Headphones of One’s Own: Women, Chores, and Podcasts

It was -45 degrees here last week, then it snowed, so school for my two preschoolers is a mythical notion that maybe used to happen but also maybe I made it all up and they’re never going back! We are hibernating creatures, we are hunkered down, we are maybe all just a little crazy, and I count three more snowflake emojis on my forecast next week.

Sometime between watching Hotel Transylvania 3 and then answering so many questions about what’s up with vampires and garlic and mirrors, anyway,  and what day it even was, anyway, I came across this thread on Twitter where New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik asks when people have the time to listen to podcasts:
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I did a little dive into the replies, and SO MANY WOMEN said that they listened while doing chores. There were some men who said that too, but in my very unscientific scroll through the responses, it was mostly women. The original tweet and replies just kind of stayed with me this week in that weird way a tweet like this can. Of course, it was an extra long, extra domestically-demanding week. I was with my kids 24/7 and they were stir-crazy  rubbing peanut butter everywhere and clogging up the vacuum with Shopkins. But, still, I was feeling kind of snarky about this tweet, even though it was so obviously not meant to offend anyone, even though it was a pretty innocuous question, and even though the answers were all pretty friendly and not-Troll-ish.

Is it weird that someone who’s a TV critic for his job would ask this? Why isn’t this a question anyone asks about watching TV, or listening to the radio or music, but that I’ve heard often about podcasts?  Did more women just feel like they wanted to answer this than men, or do women really listen to more podcasts while they do chores than men do? If they do, what does THAT mean?

It’s no secret that women do more domestic chores, and the New York Times writes about that all the time, so did this question bother me because the answer should be so obvious? Does asking this question necessarily mean the person who asked it doesn’t do a lot of chores, or just that he’s a TV critic, and he probably puts on a Law & Order or something while he cooks or folds his socks? What assumptions about time, gender roles, and how women are both better at and forced into multitasking would I be able to engage with more, if I wasn’t deflating the indoor bounce house, trying to keep my maniac kids quiet so my husband could sleep after his night shift, calling about swimming lessons, and figuring out something we could eat for dinner without risking our lives to drive down the icy hill in our neighborhood to the grocery store?

Is my huge queue of  podcasts a nice little room of my own I’ve constructed in this season of my life, a she-shed of culture and creativity, or should I be demanding my own freaking house? Who do I even ask for the house? Where do I sign up for the house? 

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, just like I do not know whether my kids will ever, ever, ever go to school for an entire week again. I don’t have the bandwidth to answer them, but I do have a this list of great podcasts I listened to this week while doing chores to share, and I added which  chores completed while listening. The themes of the podcasts include perfection, creativity, domesticity, failure, politics, and self-help, and the chores included keeping us clothed and not living in squalor. 

Household Name,  “Martha Stewart in the Middle” This episode is not about Martha making frittatas, but about her being an amazing super-tough business woman when she wanted to sell her stuff in Macy’s AND JCPenney, and the court battle that followed. It gets legal and takes on the question, “What is a store, even?” (folded three baskets of laundry)

Getting Curious,What Is Going On With The Special Counsel’s Investigation?” Jonathan Van Ness interviews A.G. from the Mueller, She Wrote podcast, and he asks all the questions I wish I could ask when I’m listening to the drinking-from-a-firehose-paced episodes of MSW. (lunch packing, though they did not take the lunches to school, and post-dinner cleaning)

Dear Prudence,Help, My Boyfriend Thinks I’m Perfect!” I’m becoming such a Dear Prudence convert after being in a monogamous advice podcast relationship with Dear Sugars for so long. This one is not as silly as the title sounds, and the advice is, as always, warm, thoughtful, and tough when it needs to be. (redistribution of junk/toys/garbage/Hatchimal shells)

The Cut on Tuesdays, How I Get It Done: Sarah Koenig” Sarah had a lot to say about podcasting, gender roles in her family, and what it felt like to redefine an entire medium. She has a recording studio in her basement, and I hid in my basement for fifteen minutes that day, so we are alike in some ways! (doing dishes)

88 Cups of Tea, Interview with Julie Dao” This podcast is always good for a pep talk, and Julie Dao talks a LOT about getting through rejection and about the realities of writing while you have another day job. (more dishes, so many dishes)

By The Book, Pantsdrunk” The premise of the Finnish book Pantsdrunk the hosts read and lived by this week was that you should wear comfortable clothes, have a few drinks, watch TV or scroll through some Insta stories, and not feel bad about it! I am here for this kind of self-help and even tried it out myself a few times, and I can report that it is indeed better than chores. (more laundry, how are we so dirty when we don’t go outside anymore?)

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