Q&A: Professional killjoy Melody Hoffman on women in podcasting

A&E sat down with the podcaster to talk “Feminist Killjoys, Ph.D.,” place theories and academia on the airwaves.

Illustration by Harry Steffenhagen

Harry Steffenhagen

Illustration by Harry Steffenhagen

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

The podcasting world is often described as male-dominated, a space for men to share their opinions.

These feminist killjoys want to change that. 

Melody Hoffmann and Raechel Anne Jolie completed their doctoral degrees in critical media studies at the University of Minnesota, where they quickly became friends.

Together, the two women created “Feminist Killjoys, Ph.D.,” a podcast where they discuss pop culture, current events and “feminist-y stuff.”

A&E caught up with Hoffman to talk killjoy moments, DIY podcasting and what it means to be a woman in the media.

How did the idea for “Feminist Killjoys, Ph.D.” come about?

[Jolie] and I were actually friends in grad school up in the communications department at the [University]. Then we moved apart … and we were still talking on the phone at least once a week. We were talking about like feminist-y stuff and current events and just kind of complaining about the status quo of the world. 

At the same time, we were listening to some new podcasts … but we were like, ‘Man, we have these same conversations, but we have them at like a deeper level.’ We bring in academic stuff and theories. It was also fun because we wanted to learn how to do audio stuff so it’s like a … challenge for us. 

We basically just turned our weekly phone calls into a recorded phone call, I guess, and published it for the world to listen to.

How did you come up with the name?

There is an academic named Sara Ahmed, I don’t know if she coined the term ‘feminist killjoy,’ but she talks about the feminist killjoy in her academic work. 

I had seen that term being used colloquially. I remember it at a zine fest in Chicago, and I was like, ‘I love that!’ The concept speaks for itself. Ahmed talks about it in a way that should be celebrated and not criticized. But of course, feminists get that stereotype of just always ‘killjoying’ everything and having no sense of humor.

I have an amazing sense of humor, I’m basically a stand-up comic, so that’s clearly a false narrative. 

It was kind of an homage and reflection of Ahmed’s work, but I think it just encapsulates really well what we do and how we talk about things. We’re always excited about pop culture … but then we always have a spin on it, that is like a killjoy moment.

We remind people like, ‘Oh you could also look at it this way,’ and so sometimes we just ruin your fun but at the same time it’s important.

Your website says the podcast is “using the airwaves to take up space in a world that tells you not to.” Can you tell me a little more about that?

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but women are not in a lot of space sometimes. In the podcasting world specifically, if you look at the top podcasts, they’re overwhelmingly run and hosted by white men.

I will say [that] I’m sure that white women take up the second slot, so it’s not like we’re marginalized in the same way that women of color are, for example. But there’s just a ton of dudes out there doing podcasts. They use their privilege and their confidence that their privilege brings them. 

So, we really had to fight through some of that imposter syndrome and thinking that we didn’t know anything about audio to get our podcast up on the air. But that’s really what we’re trying to interrupt — that very male-dominated space. Also, because we’re both really loud and opinionated … we’re very blunt with our opinions. I think that’s another way that we’re taking up space as well.

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.