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Duke Podcast Hones In On Male Privilege

Courtesy of Scene on Radio
Host and producer John Biewen, left, is joined by Celeste Headlee, right, for season three of 'Scene on Radio'

The 2017 season of the podcast “Scene on Radio” from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University received a Peabody Award nomination for its candid look at white supremacy in the United States.

This year, CDS returns with season three of the podcast, entitled “Men.” As with the previous season, host and producer John Biewen struggles with the limitations of white, male privilege to unveil what life is like for others. This season the “others” are women.

As with their previous season “Seeing White,” Biewen recognizes he can hardly speak for the opposite sex, so he calls upon NPR host Celeste Headlee to keep him honest. Late last year, Headlee became a voice in the #MeToo movement after speaking out against a former male colleague for bullying and harassment. But even before the personal news headlines, Headlee was an award-winning journalist, author and public speaker. Biewen and Headlee join guest host Anita Rao to discuss season three of “Scene on Radio” and the history of sexism.


Celeste Headlee on the #MeToo movement and men:

The issue we’re talking about in the #MeToo movement, the issue that we’ve been talking about for hundreds of years whenever it comes to gender equality is really not about women. We really have not been the dominating gender. When we’re talking about the #MeToo movement – what has to be understood and what has to change – we’re really talking about men to a large extent.

Headlee on womb envy in relation to misogyny:

The idea that part of what motivates men is this regret and sometimes jealousy over the ability to have children. In the end it’s women who hold the future of humanity in their wombs quite literally and who often have an outsized impact on a child’s, not just birth, but their rearing and nurturing as well. It’s this concept that perhaps some of the misogyny some of this drive that John was talking about to control women and control their bodies is based on this jealousy over women’s ability to reproduce.

Biewen on womb envy in one contemporary hunter/gatherer community:

When a woman is going into labor, the father will take an herb that makes him constipated. And he’ll go out into the bush and struggle and strain to push out the heroic delivery of a poop. Then he’ll come back and explain that he gave birth to a stillborn baby.  

Celeste on children and emotions:

As far as we know, until kids are toddlers, there’s no difference in terms of sensitivity to emotion or sensitivity just as a person between a girl and a boy. It is not until they are three or four that they start thinking emotions are feminine. That boys start thinking that.

Celeste on which sex is more emotional:

We did have a whole bunch of studies that said women were more emotional. But that’s because the researchers were men and they were excluding anger as one of the emotions. And when you add anger back in, men are significantly more emotionally volatile than women are.


Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.