This blog has mocked the notion of “Excellence without Money” as the guiding meme of universities these days, because excellence has a price, and a price that can’t be paid without actual money. (It’s like all of those people who tell you that “breastfeeding is free!” These people must never have breastfed a child and/or think that women’s time and labor is worth nothing, because no one who thinks about this for 15 seconds could say anything that stupid.)
But in our new media landscape, we have the option of scooping up a lot of excellent podcasts and public radio shows without paying for them. I seriously hope you’ll reconsider this, especially if you earn a paycheck yourself, because it’s all too frequently women’s work we undervalue and take for granted. If more self-avowed feminists looked around and started paying other women what they’re worth, it would benefit all of us–women and men, feminist and non-feminist alike.
Liz Covart of the podcast Ben Franklin’s World is asking the thousands of people who read her blog and listen to her podcasts to support her work financially. I donated some coin a few days ago, and want to urge you all to think about supporting her or another independent feminist and/or or history blogger, podcaster, or someone whose volunteer labor entertains and educates you.
Here’s Liz’s pitch:
Liz has a real passion for early American history and a mission to share fascinating and well-written academic books with a wider public. A few weeks ago, after my graduate class read a book by an author she had interviewed for BF’s World and listened to her podcast (Rachel Hope Cleves’s Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America), Liz volunteered her time and talked with us via Skype about her podcast and all the work that goes into it. Far beyond the kind of work you’d expect in a podcast about books–namely, the labor of reading the books and formulating questions–there’s all kinds of work that is invisible to those of us who don’t work in radio or TV production: reading and deciding on authors’ pitches, all of the technical details that go into producing digital audio files, and then the ongoing work of promoting the podcast on Twitter and her blog, just to name a few examples.
So far, Liz has been doing this all for free. I’m sure many of you academic historians with day jobs, like me, think that at least half of our jobs should count as volunteer work considering how little we’re paid, the fact remains that we’re paid for something. So put your money where your mouth is this season and send Liz some cabbage. If not Liz–or in addition to her–send some money to another podcaster or blogger whose work you appreciate. Assign her podcasts to your students. Let’s find out if there’s a way for historians to make a living outside of (vanishing) university teaching positions or writing for a popular audience (another option vanishing even faster than academic positions, I’m afraid.)