Women Will Create Meets... Bea Duncan
My name is Bea Duncan and I am a freelance audio producer. Over a year ago I started up my podcast Girls! Girls! Girls!, which is a women’s history podcast. Each week I take on a woman who has done something interesting historically. Often they were ground-breakers in their field, but other times they just lead an interesting life – anything goes!
I started the podcast after being after the classic question “Which historical figures would you invite to dinner?”, and realising that the majority of the first people who sprung to mind were men. As a feminist, this implicit bias in myself shocked me. How could I claim to be so pro-equality when the people I viewed to be iconic were almost entirely men? Why did I struggle to name a female scientist who wasn’t Marie Curie, when I could name 10 male ones?
I think the main appeal of the show is that I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a historian, I simply love researching and telling stories and so for almost all the episodes I’m learning along with the listeners. I make a real effort to find women who really have been hidden by history, not just re-telling stories of the famous women whose names we already know. I also ensure the episodes are diverse when it comes to time periods, Geography and the industry the women work in. The number of so called women’s history podcasts I have seen that are America/Eurocentric is shocking, and I’ve found that these women, especially when they are white, do not need as much boosting in terms of their historical footprint. At the end of the day you can’t call it women’s history if it’s only about a tiny percentage of women!
Although I do often use the phrase ‘women’s history’ when I talk about what I do, I find the phrase itself really frustrating. I remember seeing a women’s history podcast being promoted on a website which said it would be a good listen for any women or feminists. That obviously really frustrated me. Surely if you’re interested in history then you’d be interested in the stories of historical women, whether you’re a feminist or not? So I guess my goal would be to make the stories of women interesting to all people – women’s history is just history. There’s also a tendency with women’s history to sanitise the stories being told. So often the women who make it to be household names do so because they fit the definition of what is good or helpful or kind. I try to cover the stories of women who went against this – for example I’ve covered two fantastic pirates, Ching Shih and Anne Bonny, both of whom were definitely not good in any sense of the word. However, they were hugely influential in their time and in their own way, and they deserve to have their name be recognised as infamous.
The show has come on leaps and bounds since I started it up over a year ago. My biggest high was that I recently made it into the Apple Podcast charts in Norway. I was so excited to see a tangible result from all my hard work, and it was also interesting to know some of my biggest fans were clearly Scandinavian! I luckily haven’t had any big setbacks so far, although I can often struggle with motivating myself each week to sit down and do the research. I do also still find reading reviews hard, even though I know they’re just trying to give constructive advice. It can be upsetting to pour time and effort into something for it to be received poorly, but that’s just a fact of life that not everyone is going to love what you do!
Starting a podcast can be daunting, but I would encourage anyone toying with the idea to just go for it! The main piece of advice I would have is to choose your topic well. Firstly, ask yourself if you would want to listen to the podcast – there’s absolutely no point choosing a topic just because you think it will perform well, because chances are you’ll be disinterested and this will come across instantly. Nobody wants to listen to a show that the host clearly doesn’t care about! Secondly, ask yourself if only you would want to listen to the podcast. This is another important one. While it’s great to have a topic you’d be interested in, you have to make sure that it has a bit of mass appeal, even if it is a niche topic. There are so many podcasts that are just a group of friends chatting and having inside jokes together. This isn’t appealing at all to listeners! It can be hard to balance those two things, but once you do you’ll have the perfect starting block to get into creating your content!
When I first started looking into doing a podcast, I remember going online and seeing so many people listing off the hundreds of pounds worth of kit you needed to buy to even begin – I really want to show people that it doesn’t have to be that way. I record my podcast using a 10 quid USB mic that I plug into my laptop, and I edit on a free system. While I do pay for a hosting site (the place that does all the complicated uploading to iTunes/RSS Feed for you), I only pay 5 quid a month and it’s easy enough to find simple sites for free. If you’re doing your podcast on a budget, my no.1 tip would be to optimise the environment you record in. Large rooms with lots of hard surfaces are not your friend – the sound will bounce around the space causing loads of echo. As embarrassing as it may seem, I record all my episodes on my sofa or sitting on a carpet with a blanket over the top of my head and microphone. This creates a nice soft enclosed space to dampen the sound and gives you a much better quality recording!
I don’t have any particular inspiration. There’s a lovely little community of female podcasters who lift each other up and support each other’s work online – they really keep my spirits high if I’m ever doubting myself. Podcasts like The Exploress, NRI Woman and What’s Her Name are all fabulous examples of how to support others. With only 33% of podcast hosts being women, it’s so important to raise the profiles of other female podcasters doing great things!