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