Review of Secret Feminist Agenda, Season 4
Review of Secret Feminist Agenda, Season 4
By Andi Schwartz and Morgan Bimm
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The Secret Feminist Agenda podcast was first encountered by then-graduate student Andi Schwartz as assigned ‘reading’ in a Queer Pedagogies seminar. The seminar was part of a student-run initiative facilitated by co-reviewer, Morgan Bimm, who started the seminar series as a critical response to a lack of teaching resources available to graduate students. The podcast’s aims and sensibilities spoke to our experiences and values both then, as first-generation university students and now, as emerging feminist media scholars.
Secret Feminist Agenda is recorded and produced by Dr. Hannah McGregor, an Assistant Professor of publishing at Simon Fraser University. Secret Feminist Agenda is McGregor’s second podcast, which she began in 2017 with the aim of bridging academia and feminism and forging connections between feminists. In addition to producing the Secret Feminist Agenda podcast, podcasting has become an integral part of McGregor’s pedagogy and research; she co-founded the SSHRC-funded Amplify Podcast Network to develop guidelines for peer reviewing podcasts. The original goals of the podcast, bridging academia and feminism and forging connects with feminists, remain the driving force behind season four, which is further organized around the principle of “keeping it local.”
Season four consists of 30 episodes, half of which offer long-form interviews with feminists in academia, art, sex therapy, podcasting, Canadian literature, comedy, and more, which effectively highlight the various forms that feminism can take and offer a window into feminist friendships and community. While the theme “keeping it local” was challenged by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (interviews could no longer be conducted in person), the podcast consistently succeeded in prompting listeners to think about space and place as they relate to feminism and community.
In our review, we were struck by the following three themes: 1) critiquing the expert(ise); 2) the spaces and places of feminist thought; and 3) the politics and affects of community space.
- In form, the scholarly podcast acts as a critique of the existing structures of academia. Through interviews with feminists like Dawn Serra and Khairani Barokka, the notion of expertise is critiqued alongside academia’s role in perpetuating myths of excellence through citational and syllabi-building practices. Such critiques highlight the importance of DIY media, like podcasts, as spaces through which expertise can be critiqued and other points of view are circulated. Solo-recorded “minisodes” often engage with more personal or affective topics; though we debated the merits of these episodes, we came to the conclusion that introducing affect and the personal into scholarship is both an important feminist project and a vital challenge to existing ideas about academic rigour.
- Through interviews with feminists across fields, including sex therapy (Episode 4.2), comedy (Episode 4.6), podcasting (Episode 4.8), and art (Episode 4.4), the podcast demonstrates the many places and spaces in which feminist thought is fostered; indeed, that feminist thought and critique does not belong solely to the academy. The complexities of public intellectualism or public feminism are compellingly discussed in Episode 4.7: Trans Rights are Human Rights through the lens of cancelled and protested “gender identity debates” scheduled for public spaces across Canada. Campaigns to cancel these events are framed by some as an attack on ‘free speech’ and thus, perhaps, an attack on healthy public intellectual exchange, but these activist efforts are themselves an example of public modes of feminist thought. This and other discussions throughout season four of Secret Feminist Agenda highlight the multiple spaces of feminist thought and the multiple complexities of thinking feminism in public.
- In the spirit of “keeping it local,” season four offers rich discussions of the politics and affects of community space. A favourite example is episode 4.14 with Hilary Atleo of Iron Dog Books in Vancouver, which explores the connection between small business and housing costs as well as the power of systems to foster or destroy community and communal affinities. Episode 4.15, a minisode about World Obesity Day, further demonstrates the malleability of (virtual) space via political intervention, and how the political occupation of space can foster solidarities and positive, communal feelings. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada midway through the season, around episode 4.16 with Kai Cheng Thom, whose work frequently engages with notions of disposability, accountability, and harm within queer communities. The intersection of Thom’s work and COVID-19 serves as an acute reminder of both the affective and material significance of community, and the potential devastation of losing it.
In addition to these themes, the podcast incites interesting questions about the feminist and scholarly potential of the podcasting form. McGregor and colleagues have developed podcast peer review guidelines as a mechanism for folding podcasts into the institutional understanding of rigour, and we further understand Secret Feminist Agenda as rigorous in its feminist politics of accessibility and the feminist practice of critique. Podcasts can be understood as a feminist medium in that they often feature grassroots and DIY production, have a wider reach than more sanctioned forms of scholarship, and have the capacity to bolster women’s, feminized, and otherwise marginalized voices. The feminist and scholastic merits of podcasting were explicitly discussed in episode 4.20 with Stacey Copeland and minisode 4.21, “Introducing the Amplify Podcast Network.” As Copeland and McGregor discuss, women’s voices have long been interpreted as unintelligent and unauthoratitive. Podcasting, with its grassroots and DIY sensibilities, has the potential to instill confidence in women, feminized and otherwise marginalized folks through building a practice of speaking; McGregor notes how podcasting has bolstered her own confidence in both academic and non-academic spaces.
Oriented toward low theory and feminist media scholarship, we are perhaps already primed to welcome podcasts into the scholarly fold. In our view, Secret Feminist Agenda is exemplary of the benefits wrought by bridging traditional academic knowledges with low theory, community, and collaborative practices. It is our hope that, as academia becomes better acquainted with podcasts, they retain their radical potential, rather than become another research output taxing already overburdened academics.
 McGregor started her first podcast, Witch, Please, as a collaboration with her friend and former colleague, Marcelle Kosman, in 2015.
 In a review of season two of SFA, Anna Poletti suggests that the work done through the podcast is more akin to teaching than research (Poletti, 2019).
 In a review of season two of SFA, Carla Rice noted that the minisodes are where the podcast “shines,” writing with admiration of McGregor’s ability to address these more affective topics from both a personal and “big picture” perspective (Rice, 2019).
 Similar arguments have been made by podcaster-academics, Raechel Tiffe and Melody Hoffman, who hosted the podcast, Feminist Killjoys, Phd, among others (Tiffe & Hoffman, 2017).
McGregor, H. (Producer). (2018-present). Secret Feminist Agenda [audio podcast]. https://secretfeministagenda.com/
Poletti, A. (2019). Review by Anna Poletti. Wilfred Laurier University Press. https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Scholarly-Podcasting-Open-Peer-Review/Secret-Feminist-Agenda/Season-2/Scholarly-Reviews-of-the-Secret-Feminist-Agenda-Podcast-s2/Review-by-Anna-Poletti
Rice, C. (2019). Review by Carla Rice. Wilfred Laurier University Press. https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Scholarly-Podcasting-Open-Peer-Review/Secret-Feminist-Agenda/Season-2/Scholarly-Reviews-of-the-Secret-Feminist-Agenda-Podcast-s2/Review-by-Carla-Rice
Tiffe, R., & Hoffman, M. (2017). Taking up sonic space: Feminized vocality and podcasting as resistance. Feminist Media Studies, 17(1), 115-118. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2017.1261464
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