During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found new hobbies. Some people began baking bread, some people began crocheting and others… Well, others started podcasts.
According to Statista Research Department, podcasts have taken off in the past two decades or so. In fact, only 22% of the adult population in the United States knew what podcasting was in 2006. Nowadays, this number has risen to 78%, showing a substantial increase in general awareness of podcasting.
Statista also estimated that there were approximately 120 million podcast listeners in the United States last year.
Therefore, the demand is clearly there. A quick Google search will pull trend data that suggests that the most popular podcasts currently are comedy, true crime and personal development.
However, with a pastime that has seen such massive growth, it’s easy for problematic content to slip through the cracks and join the ever-growing pool of newly emerging podcasts. This, coupled with the ability to sit and share one’s thoughts freely on the Internet, has made it easy for individuals, most notably men, to create content based on harmful acts of discrimination such as misogyny.
A podcast that has recently gained notoriety for doing exactly that is the Miami-based Fresh & Fit podcast run by hosts Myron Gaines and Walter Weekes. In recent weeks, the duo has been under fire for making misogynistic comments about women and racially-coded comments about their unwillingness to date Black women.
On Youtube, an ever-present line in the description box of each Fresh & Fit video states, “Our goal is to help men navigate women, finances, and fitness.”
Most recently, their quest to help men “navigate women” led to a confrontation between Instagram model Brittany Renner and host Gaines on Wednesday about jabs he made about Renner off the air, specifically that she is “not special,” and “just like other women.”
“What do you gain from telling girls they’re not special?” Renner said on the live broadcast. “How does that make you feel?”
When asked by Renner what made Gaines special, he sat in silence for a few moments before saying, “I never said I was special.”
That isn’t the only incident where a female guest has taken issue with comments made by the hosts of the podcast while the broadcast was live. Rapper Asian Doll walked off the set after an altercation with Gaines after calling him “mean” for forcefully telling her to limit sidebar conversations while recording.
“She’s been doing it the whole show,” Gaines said into the mic. “I’m not mean, I just have rules, simple.”
A curse-filled argument between the two ensued before Gaines said the rapper could get out. Co-host Weekes attempted to calm the conversation down before Asian Doll silently got up and left the studio.
The trend of disrespecting women, particularly Black women on air, shows that the podcast wave has the ability to quickly turn into a pandemic of its own. The dissemination of rhetoric that hurts women, especially Black women, normalizes behavior that can lead to violence against this demographic.
The risk is very real. Statistically, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime according to Blackburn Center, a nonprofit dedicated to sexual and domestic abuse victim advocacy. This number is higher for Black women, as over 40% of Black women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research’s Status of Black Women in the United States.
The target audience of podcasts of this nature are men who are identified as incels, or “involuntary celibates.” The term incel was coined by a woman from Toronto named Alana, who originally created the term to denote a group of lonely men who found it difficult to form romantic relationships with women.
Now, the term is used to describe a subculture of men who attack and demean women on the internet, usually on forums. With podcasts like Fresh & Fit, which has 560 hundred thousand subscribers on Youtube and over 39 thousand followers, their content is marketed towards this group of men in order to build a loyal population of listeners.
While Fresh & Fit has no signs of stopping soon, the backlash they receive seems to keep their engagement high, creating a vicious cycle that reaps the benefits of mass internet backlash. Like COVID-19, it seems the “podcast pandemic” has no end in sight.