How did this get played with two podcast hosts

Toxic masculinity can be defined as a set of behaviors that are generally perceived to be “manly,” but can be harmful to either the person exhibiting them or those who surround that person. An obvious example of toxic masculinity is a man who picks fights when he sees people looking at his girlfriend. A less obvious example is a father criticizing his son for crying.

Even though most of us male nerds are not hyper-manly, Nerd Culture is certainly not immune to toxic masculinity. Nerdy subcultures may actually have greater problems with toxic masculinity than other parts of society. However, nerd toxic masculinity does not take physical form. It tends to be more intellectual (but equally gross). 

Many of us nerds are often obsessed with being “correct,” and that correctness is often racist and sexist. We often see this in statements such as: “Stormtroopers can’t be black.” and “Dr. Who can’t be a woman.”

(Now, dear reader, take a breath. Did you catch that spike of anger that just shot through your brain when I called the main character of “Dr. Who” something other than the Doctor? Did you actually yell at your newspaper, “Well, actually, they call that character ‘the Doctor’.” That type of well-actually-ism is exactly what keeps nerd culture toxically masculine.)

Listen carefully fellow (cis-white-male-hetero) nerds. We all know you are smart. You do not have to correct people when they get dumb pieces of trivia wrong. (I am partially yelling at myself here.) Research conducted on implicit bias suggests that if you are the type of person to correct someone for trivial purposes, you are probably more likely to correct a woman than a man. 

Podcast Suggestions

Before I start in with my suggestions, I have to acknowledge that most of the people hosting these podcasts are men. That choice is deliberate. There are many podcasts hosted by women (and that may be a great topic for a future article). However, by looking at how men who challenge toxic masculinity present themselves, we are able to see what a non-toxic man looks like.

Myths and Legendsis a podcast where classic stories are retold. Sometimes they are slightly adapted to illustrate problems in our society, sometimes the host focuses on issues of sex/race/class in other societies. When there are issues in the story, the host recognizes it with metacommentary that calls into question the gross assumptions of previous eras (beauty = goodness, all step-mothers are evil, etc.)

How Did This Get Playedis a video game review podcast. Broadly, it focuses on strange video games. Those games are typically from previous eras of gaming and they are usually the bad ones, but they often cover games that are very good but very strange (For example Katamari Damacy.) This show made the list because of the dynamic between the hosts. Nick Wiger is a cis-hetero (but non-toxic) dude; Heather Anne Campbell is a cis-lesbian. Their conversations are not typically centered on gender, but they don’t veer away from it when it comes up. When a game is overtly sexist (or even a bit screwed up), they will talk about it and explore what that means to them today, and what it may have meant to them as kids playing these games in the 90’s. It is a fun (but certainly crass) exploration of how games shaped these two and many of the rest of us.

Wonderfulis hosted by Rachel McElroy and her husband Griffin (Griffin is best known as the youngest brother on My Brother, My Brother, and Me). This podcast started as a show about “The Bachelor” (which was called “Rose Buddies,” and is also certainly worth a listen). However, Rachel and Griffin eventually became disgusted with the sexist tendencies and bad behavior exhibited by individuals on the show. The new reincarnation of Wonderful focused on things that the couple found to be really great. Not only is the listener treated to some incredibly uplifting and funny conversations about what makes the McElroys happy, it also introduces the listener to some legitimately great things.  “Things” is about as broad as that term can be. Topics covered have included hair conditioner, jacuzzies, video games, brie, virtual pets, the smell of rain, summertime, poetry (sooo much poetry), the concept of the Hero’s Journey and Pokémon.

Jeremy is a college lecturer and is on the Board of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism. He teaches at The Ohio State University, Otterbein University and The Cleveland School of Cannabis (but his views are his and his alone.) In Summer 2020, he will be teaching a course on Environmental Justice at OSU Marion that will focus on applying solarpunk thinking to societal issues created by Climate Change. More information about his projects can be found at  

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