You can sling all the sticks, stones, and nasty curse words you like at 2020, but there’s one thing that this year didn’t break — the voices of women. I watched as stodgy white dudes were put in their place by powerhouses like Stacey Abrams, AOC, and now, the first female Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris. 

My Spotify playlists and the critic’s lists of top albums and songs of the year were dominated by fierce female artists. Fiona Apple, Megan Thee Stallion, Phoebe Bridgers…and yes, even Taylor Swift overloaded my fuel tank with diverse feels that somehow all felt quintessential for 2020. Did you binge the The Queen’s Gambit? In my humble opinion, a show — and really, three words — has never so stylishly summed up what it means to be a driven yet complicated woman in a man’s world. 

When it came to podcasts, I also found myself turning to woman-hosted shows. The podcasts below were nearly part of my quarantine crew; they were the ones I turned to for laughs, for reflection, and occasionally, out of thirst. These are just a fraction of the deserving female-led shows out in the podcast sphere, and here’s why I love them.

They’re ladies who LOL

Turns out, as an adult, Splash is a very dumb and misguided movie!

My top-two played podcasts of the year, Hollywood Crime Scene (HCS) and I Hate It But I Love It (IHIBILI) are both hosted by comedic duos. HCS hosts Desi and Rachel dot their true-crime narratives and pop culture recaps with dick jokes and major-league dunking on their subjects. Kat and Jocelyn of IHIBILI comb through movies and tv shows for glaring plot holes, disappointing attempts at chemistry, and lovable-but-ultimately-shitty characters.

One of my favorite episodes of IHIBILI, a part of their T.Hanksgiving series, covered the movie Splash. The conversation bounced from their childhood mermaid re-enactments to the likelihood that Daryl Hannah’s character’s human form can have enjoyable sex to Kat’s obsession with film characters’ lack of practical things like social security numbers and credit scores.

The casual and crude banter of both pods feels like you’re listening to two gal pals next to you at the bar relay the absolute worst dates and social mishaps in human history. Both pairs of ladies know their audience is laughing with them, and if not, they are completely fine with you laughing at them.

They reflect on what being a woman now means

Yes, you can get this quote from the 1997 version of Lolita on a t-shirt

I was overjoyed when The Cut, a collab between New York Magazine and The Vox Media Podcast Network, returned in August after an 8-month hiatus. New host Avery Trufelman (previously of 99 Percent Invisible) is a curious, confident interviewer on topics pertinent to survival in the modern age, ranging from optimism to ownership of one’s image online. Noted on many top 2020 podcast lists, “Emily Ratajkowski Wants Her Pictures Back” is a startling interview for any denizen of the digital age. The show has had a tangible impact on my life, too: the “Love on Lockdown” episode was 100% responsible for my return to the dating world through the Hinge app. 

While it’s only released three episodes to date, The Lolita Podcast takes a singular subject and blows it up to a Marvel-Universe-sized scale. I’ve never read Lolita and now, maybe will never have to, because host Jamie Loftus meticulously covers the author, the novel, and what feels like every known cultural byproduct of both. Why now? Because the subject matter is presented in full #MeToo context; Loftus clearly draws parallels between Nabokov’s work and the past six decades of misogyny in film and the arts since it was released. 

They’re smart, unapologetically female voices

While ICS‘s Rachel and Desi have a tendency to refer to themselves as dumb bitches, they — and their female podcasting peers — know themselves, know their audiences, and how to engage them. The HCS and IHIBILI hosts have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and a nuanced understanding of our political landscape. Beyond that, they know why their listeners are tuning in: for a perspective that is distinctly female. Between slumber-party silliness and pussy references, you’ll learn about the legendary life of Drag King Gladys Bentley or the utter uselessness of Matthew McConaughey’s character in Contact. 

Another one of my favorite listens, Thirst Aid Kit (TAK), hosts Bim and Nichole reflect on what exactly makes men like John Boyega, James McAvoy, and Jason Mantzoukas worth our thirst. These “thirst sommeliers” discuss their catnips — facial hair, voice lilts, the way a certain leading man puts on a watch. Their steamy, end-of-show dribbles will first make you swoon, and then make you rethink ideas about your ideas about modern masculinity. The final show aired in September, but the extensive catalog of episodes serves as a reminder that there are men who get it. #RIPTAK!

Heart eyes? 😍 What about heart ears? Bim and Nichole had notable thirst object Jake Johnson AKA Nick Miller on TAK this year and it was a true joy.

Bottom line: I love that women are stepping up as surveyors of culture. If you need more lady voices in your life, or you just can’t handle another mansplanation of election results, I highly recommend any of the podcasts above.

If you have suggestions for me to feast my ears on in 2021, I’d love to hear them!

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