The Unspeakable Podcast
Why Can’t Philosophers Talk About Gender? Kathleen Stock On How A Rich Topic Became The Third Rail

Why Can’t Philosophers Talk About Gender? Kathleen Stock On How A Rich Topic Became The Third Rail

May 9, 2021
For most of her career, University of Sussex Professor of Philosophy Kathleen Stock was known primarily as a scholar on philosophical questions related to fiction and the concept of imagination. But in 2018, she began to speak and write about the issue of gender identity. Among her questions were why her philosophy colleagues were so reluctant to discuss something so seemingly ripe for the kind of inquiry philosophers live for. The backlash came swiftly but so did tacit messages of support and over time Kathleen has become a leading voice on gender identity theory, policy reform, and their effects on women and girls. Kathleen spoke with Meghan about this unexpected turn in her career and also the various tensions between recognizing the rights of transgender people and recognizing certain material facts. She also explained the difference between sex and gender, which, despite the ubiquity of those terms, many people remain confused about.
 
Guest bio: 
Kathleen Stock is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex in England. Her book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism was just published by Little Brown in the U.K. and is available everywhere on Kindle. The U.S. edition will be published on September 21, 2021.
The Racism of Antiracism: A Conversation With John McWhorter

The Racism of Antiracism: A Conversation With John McWhorter

May 2, 2021
John McWhorter teaches linguistics and music history at Columbia University, is the author of more than 20 books, a contributor to The Atlantic and the host of the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley. If you’re a fan of The Unspeakable, you may know John best from his commentary around issues of race. Since 2007, he has been in regular conversation with economist Glenn Loury on the Bloggingheads platform, where is his known as a uniquely honest voice on the complexities—and often the hypocrisies—of certain progressive antiracist orthodoxies. Last summer, he began writing a new book on this subject. The Elect: The Threat to a Progressive America from Anti-Black Antiracists is being made available in serialized form on Substack and will be published later this year. Meanwhile, yet another book, Nine Nasty Words, is out this week. Meghan spoke with John about his work over the last several years, his relationship to academia (including being raised by a leftist professor mom), and how the inspiration for The Elect came from none other than cookbook author Alison Roman.
 
Guest Bio: 
 
John McWhorter teaches linguistics and music history at Columbia University. His new book about the new antiracist movement, The Elect, is cu being rolled out on his Substack. His book on language Nine Nasty Words, is out this week. You can find him in regular conversation with economist Glenn Loury on The Glenn Show at Bloggingheads.tv.
Good Help Is Hard To Find. Heather Havrilesky On Turning “Ask Polly” Into A Phenomenon. (Plus a Friendly Argument.)

Good Help Is Hard To Find. Heather Havrilesky On Turning “Ask Polly” Into A Phenomenon. (Plus a Friendly Argument.)

April 25, 2021
Heather Havrilesky is the popular and beloved creator of the “Ask Polly” advice column, which she has just moved to Substack after a long run in New York Magazine. Meghan invited Heather onto the podcast to talk about the legacy of “Ask Polly,” the creation of Polly’s alter ego in the advice giving world, "Ask Molly,” and about how she came to be an existential advisor to people who feel lost in the world or confused by life. This interview is a little different from the usual Unspeakable fare. Meghan and Heather have been friends for a long time and have had some differences over the last couple of years over culture war issues such as #MeToo and whether misapplied intersectionality is impeding public discourse. (You can probably guess what Meghan thinks.) They get into some robust disagreement in this conversation, so fasten your seatbelt. Don’t worry, everyone gets home safe.
 
Guest Bio:
Heather Havrilesky writes the "Ask Polly" advice columnist on Substack and is the author of What If This Were Enough (2018), How to Be a Person in the World (2016), and Disaster Preparedness (2010). She also maintains the Ask Molly newsletter, written by Polly’s evil twin, and has written regularly for New York Magazine, Bookforum, the New York Times Magazine, The Awl, and several others.
 
Islamic Fundamentalism Is Feminism’s Third Rail. A Conversation With Yasmine Mohammed

Islamic Fundamentalism Is Feminism’s Third Rail. A Conversation With Yasmine Mohammed

April 18, 2021
Yasmine Mohammad is an author and human rights activist, advocating for the rights of those living under religious extremism. You wouldn’t think that would be controversial, but the extremism she focuses on is Islamic extremism, specifically the fundamentalism that has arisen in the Islamic world over the last several decades and imposed draconian rules on women. Because progressive norms in the west often now frame criticism of Islam as a form of bigotry, Yasmine, who considers herself an ex-Muslim, is now considered both a heretic of Islam and inconvenient social justice figure among western activists. She spoke with Meghan about this strange position and also shared her own story of growing up in a fundamentalist Islamic household and was being forced into marriage to a man who turned out to be a member of Al Qaeda. She also talked about what it’s like to be forced to wear the hijab as well the prevalence of practices like female genital mutilation in both the Islamic world and within immigrant communities in the west.
 
Guest Bio:
Yasmine Mohammed is the is the author of Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam and the founder of Free Hearts Free Minds, which provides support for women—and men—who need help freeing themselves from the suppressions of religious extremism in the Islamic World.
 
It’s Complicated. Writer and podcaster Jesse Singal on Fad Science, Bad Faith and Mad Media

It’s Complicated. Writer and podcaster Jesse Singal on Fad Science, Bad Faith and Mad Media

April 11, 2021

Jesse Singal’s new book The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills, challenges many long held assumptions about society and human behavior: for instance the myth of the super predator, the so-called “power pose,” the use of positive psychology in the military, even the concept of implicit bias. We’ve come to take these ideas as truths, but as Jesse explains, many are based on based on faulty methodology, shoddy interpretation and sometimes just wishful thinking. Jesse talks with Meghan about all of that as well as a subject that is not in the book, his research into childhood and adolescent gender dysphoria and its relationship to the recent surge in young people identifying as transgender or nonbinary. This work, despite its very careful methodology, has incurred the wrath of a certain corner of trans activism, mostly on Twitter, and he talks about why this might be and how much it should matter.

 

 

Guest Bio:

Jesse Singal is the author of the new book, The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills, just out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He is a contributing writer to New York Magazine and has written for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Slate and Reason, among other publications. He is the cohost, with Katie Herzog, of the Blocked and Reported podcast and writes regularly at https://jessesingal.substack.com.

How To Be A Better Person (Than Everyone Else): Joel Stein On The Lost Art Of Elitism

How To Be A Better Person (Than Everyone Else): Joel Stein On The Lost Art Of Elitism

April 4, 2021
 Time Magazine columnist for 20 years, Joel Stein is known for his humorous, irreverent and often deadpan inquiries into American life and social politics. His latest book is In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book, which despite the subtitle, is a serious minded, though also quite funny, journey through the parts of America that, in the wake of the Trump election, Joel realized he didn’t understand at all. Joel talks with Meghan about the people he met, what surprised him the most, and explains the distinction between what he calls the Intellectual Elite and the Boat Elite. He also shows his age during the interview by receiving a phone call on his “landline” and having the call picked up by a device called an “answering machine.” 
 
 
Guest Bio:
Joel Stein's latest book, In Defense of Elitism, is out in paperback this month. He is also the author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity. In addition to Time Magazine, he has been a columnist at Entertainment Weekly and The Los Angles Times. Joel has taught at Princeton as well as written for several television sitcoms.
When the Mob Comes for the Professors the Academic Freedom Alliance Comes to the Rescue. A Conversation with Free Speech Scholar Keith Whittington

When the Mob Comes for the Professors the Academic Freedom Alliance Comes to the Rescue. A Conversation with Free Speech Scholar Keith Whittington

March 28, 2021
If you’ve been following the seemingly endless battles on college campuses over free speech, you may have noticed that professors are a frequent target of censorship and complaint. Sometimes this because students object to curriculum and sometimes the infraction is as trivial as a professor sending a a “problematic” tweet. The recently launched Academic Freedom Alliance seeks to help educators navigate these waters. Its chair, constitutional law scholar and political science professor Keith Whittington, is Meghan’s guest this week. Keith talked why an organization like the AFA is so necessary right now, how academia has changed over the course of his career, and why it’s important to remember that speech suppressions comes from the political right as well as the activist left. He also talked about why professors are often inclined to apologize or try to explain themselves when that’s often the worst thing you can do when you the mob comes after you. 
 
Guest bio:
 
Keith Whittington is a Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and Chair of the Academic Committee of the Academic Freedom Alliance. He writes about American constitutional law, politics and history and American political thought. He is the author of several books, including Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech. You can find the Academic Freedom Alliance at academicfreedom.org
You’re Just Now Noticing This? Bridget Phetasy on Keeping Up With the Cancelers

You’re Just Now Noticing This? Bridget Phetasy on Keeping Up With the Cancelers

March 21, 2021
Writer, comedian and popular podcaster and YouTuber Bridget Phetasy is known her her uniquely astute analysis of the news of the day — and also her views on what shouldn’t be news. In this conversation, sparked by recent remarks from the comedian Sarah Silverman, Bridget and Meghan talk about what’s happened to comedy in the age of (often manufactured) hypersensitivity, why they, in turn, are hypersensitive to that hypersensitivity, and what it’s like to watch entertainers and other public figures begin to distance themselves from the Trump outrage machine. Bridget also shares what she learned about gender relations from writing for Playboy and how she thinks overcoming addiction and spending time in 12-step programs has given her an especially keen nose for the cultural hypocrisy of the moment. 
 
Note: A separate conversation, recorded in late 2019 at Bridget’s home, is available for the podcast’s Patreon supporters at www.patreon.com/theunspeakable.
 
Guest Bio:

Bridget Phetasy is a writer, comedian, and host of the Walk-Ins Welcome podcast and The Weekly Dumpster Fire show on YouTube. 

Woke Us When It’s Over: New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens on How to Reason with a Toddler-like Culture

Woke Us When It’s Over: New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens on How to Reason with a Toddler-like Culture

March 14, 2021
A conservative who has always been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens often manages to annoy his would-be allies on the right while consistently inflaming Times readers who are on the left. In this conversation, Bret and Meghan compare notes on how column writing has changed over the last decade and parse some of Bret's more controversial pieces, including columns he’s written on climate change, Jewish intellectual achievement, and the sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen. They also discuss the spinelessness of many instiutional leaders today, the Substack phenomenon, and a recent column of Bret's entitled Woke Me When It’s Over, a phrase Meghan almost used as the title for her last book.
 
Guest bio:
Bret Stephens is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He was previously foreign-affairs columnist at The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013, and as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. He was raised in Mexico City. 
Meet Angel Eduardo. The Harper’s Letter Was For Him

Meet Angel Eduardo. The Harper’s Letter Was For Him

March 7, 2021
Angel Eduardo is a writer, musician and visual artist based in New York City. Last summer, he wrote an article that appeared in Areo Magazine called I’m a Nobody, The Harper’s Letter Was For Me  The now-infamous Open Letter on Justice and Debate  published in Harper’s Magazine, addressed a climate of growing intolerance for ideological diversity and was signed by more than 150 prominent artists and intellectuals. Among the criticisms of the so-called “Harper’s Letter” was that it amounted to a bunch of elitists whining about having their voices muted by the democratization of opinion. But Angel, a 35-year-old millennial with immigrant parents, a day job and a fledgling artistic career, saw things differently. In this conversation, Angel talks with Meghan about why he wrote the article, why the new leftist groupthink reminds him of his own religious upbringing, why he thinks fetishizing the n-word does more to incite racism than fight it. He also explains a rhetorical concept he’s come up with called “star-manning.”  
 
Guest Bio:
Angel Eduardo is a musician, photographer, and designer based in New York City. He is a staff writer and content creator for Idealist and contributes a monthly column for the Center for Inquiry called Searching for Better Angels. Learn more about him, see his visual art and hear his music on his official website, angeleduardo.com.
 
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