Absolutely thrilled and delighted that this humble little podcast has caught the interest and praise of the Austin Chronicle. A photographer dropped by earlier in the week, but told me she didn’t know the specifics of the assignment. I couldn’t have imagined that it was for this. Thanks to everyone who has agreed to be interviewed for this project and supported it. It motivates and inspires me to continue collecting a variety of stories in all of their bodily glory.
In this conversation with Assistant Professor of English at UT Austin Julie Minich, we discuss categories of disability, how the concept of health affects bodies, especially “irresponsible” or “deviant” ones; citizenship; obesity; flaws in the health care system; health surveillance; the myth of “choosing” your health; the myth of human perfectability; and the collective responsibility of health. Julie is currently working on a book that discusses these issues and more. She is the author of Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico (Temple University Press, 2014).
In this episode, I talk with Double Dick Dude, who now goes by “Clark,” about his two penises, his life since coming out on Reddit in January 2014, his new book, his butt, body positivity, representation of bodies, and many other topics. Clark was a joy to interview and holds nothing back when discussing his body. Be sure to check out my piece about him for the Daily Dot. You can purchase his first book here, and you can follow him on Tumblr and Twitter (NSFW images included on these pages). I’ve also posted the op-ed he reads aloud (about an episode of 2 Broke Girls that featured a character with two penises), and you can get read that here.
In the past few years I’ve noticed that society in general has slowly begun to take steps towards showing compassion for people as well as fostering acceptance of differences in practically every possible circumstance. The trans-community is finally getting a voice, regardless if it’s Caitlyn Jenner’s voice or other trans-people standing up to say she doesn’t represent them. That’s simply one example of a minority who has been kept under lock and key that are finally getting a voice and a platform to give themselves an equal (and long over-due) opportunity to be represented. I don’t even need to go down the long list of individuals who live with differences in mental and physical capacities who are finally getting the fair treatment they were never afforded before. It’s not cool to call someone a ‘retard’ anymore. The long faded faces of the past who lived in “freak show” troupes as a means of survival have been so embraced by current pop culture that a hit television series was able to successfully dedicate an entire season representing a world very few (if anyone now) ever knew. Simply put, different isn’t weird anymore and weird isn’t an excuse to condemn. In many cases, weird is a cause to champion and lift-up. It’s not cool to refer to someone or something as ‘gay’ just because you don’t like it. It’s finally being recognized as offensive to use a term for sexual identity as a disparaging epithet. Celebrities from all avenues of fame have stood up and out for the victims of verbal and physical abuse. We have public service announcements for children, letting them know “It gets better.” Entertainment and pop culture, the veritable temperature of our society, is finally admitting that we’ve got to change how we treat other people. People have started listening, or so I thought.
In this episode, I speak with teacher and musician Phil Ajjarapu. Phil has experienced a number of physical affronts to his body over the years including typhoid, a violent car-jacking, and a motorcycle accident that probably should have killed him. We touch on all of these – the car-jacking bit opens up our discussion to broader ideas about racism and I get a little riled up! We also discuss his career as a musician and teacher and the album he made after his accident. Phil currently lives in Portland, where he teaches music to grades K-8.
In Episode Eleven, I talk with cyborg aficionado Richard MacKinnon. Richard is the founder of Borgfest, a festival and expo that celebrates and supports people interested in human augmentation, enhancement, body modification, and wearable technology. In graduate school, Richard studied political theory and identity in cyberspace, which led him to his interest in all things cyborg. We talk about how his personal experience as a queer Asian American affected his conception of the term; how the cyborg label could be used to define many aspects of the marriage of the human and the technological; how the film Ex Machina fulfills certain sci-fi tropes and applies to Richard’s conception of the cyborg; and how the sex industry could be affected by the evolution of technology. A provocative and insightful talk!
In this tenth episode of The BodPod, I talk with Professor Neville Hoad. Neville is an associate professor of English and affiliated faculty with the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the Center for African and African American Studies, and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas at Austin. He authored African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization (Minnesota, 2007) and co-edits (with Karen Martin and Graeme Reid) Sex & Politics in South Africa (Double Storey, 2005). Areas of research include African and Victorian literature, queer theory, and the history of sexuality.
We talk: growing up in apartheid South Africa, sexuality, gender, drag, exercise, the “truth” of the body, the aging body, the “butchiness” of Texas women.
In Episode Nine, I talk to Stacy Zoern. We discuss bodily insecurities, accessibility, dependence upon other people, how the institutional model fails people with disabilities, losing all modesty, and how her company, Kenguru, seeks to change the way wheelchair-bound people get around by starting production of its wheelchair-friendly, autonomy-supporting electric cars sometime this year.
Here is her short bio:
Stacy has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and has never walked.
She graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in philosophy and psychology with highest honors and went on to attend the University of Texas School of Law.
Stacy practiced patent litigation at Daffer McDaniel for six years and also had the privilege of clerking for a federal judge in Austin, The Honorable Robert Pitman.
A published author, at the age of twenty years she wrote a memoir entitled “I Like to Run Too: Two Decades of Sitting.” She is also a public speaker and is well connected to the disability community.
In 2010, Stacy founded Kenguru, Inc. and currently works full-time for Kenguru as President. Kenguru designs, markets, and sells a 100% electric vehicle that is purpose built for people in wheelchairs. With the KENGURU, a wheelchair user is no longer trapped on his street or dependent on others. He can now travel up to 60 miles a day at 25 mph, accessing his community independently. The KENGURU is also popular for its ease of use, allowing drivers to enter by the push of a button, and to drive while seated in their own wheelchair. The KENGURU is a game changer for the wheelchair community.
For the eighth episode of The BodPod, Amy Gentry and I conducted a mutual interview. Amy writes The Good Eye, a column on style, culture, and feminism that appears every week in the Austin Chronicle. The BodPod was featured in her January 9th column. Amy holds a PhD in English from the University of Chicago and reviews fiction for the Chicago Tribune. She writes her own fiction as well, and is currently working on a novel that she describes as a “Houston mother-daughter noir.” We covered a lot of ground in Part One: parental body policing; exercise in high school and beyond; changing fashion creating new insecurities, mainly for women; dance. In Part Two, Amy discusses her experience as an advocate for SafePlace, an organization that provides safety for individuals and families affected by sexual and domestic violence. We also discussed other issues, including Amy’s horror fiction inspired by her SafePlace experience, and our feelings about Texas and post-Wendy Davis filibuster. Both parts are solid!
The BodPod and its host (me!) are honored and humbled to be featured in the latest issue of The Austin Chronicle for Amy Gentry’s column, The Good Eye. You can read the web version of the article here. Episode Eight will feature our mutual (very long!) interview.