These Feminist Podcasters Are Driving The Resistance Movement

by Elizabeth Strassner
Sarah Lerner

No matter how many times I write about or reference it, there will always be a tiny part of me in denial about the fact that America elected a president who was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women "by the p*ssy." But for those times when I'm still feeling incredulous, there's Hellbent. In a time when women in America are facing threats to their reproductive rights and are watching a man with a history of misogynistic rhetoric lead the country, Hellbent is a feminist Trump resistance podcast. Hosted by Sarah Lerner and Devon Handy, Hellbent serves as an outlet for frustration, a hub for current events information, and, ultimately, an act of self-care — according to its hosts.

"It's an avenue for us to channel our anger and fear," Lerner tells Bustle. "It actually recharges me, doing the podcast and just learning as much as possible and being involved."

Tuning in amid a lengthy news cycle, it's easy to understand why Lerner finds production cathartic. Twice per week, Handy and Lerner clue their listeners in to developments on major U.S. news — but unlike traditional outlets, they don't hold back. Monday's episode, for example, was "Donald Trump Will Never Be F*cking Presidential"; other recent episodes include "Maxine Waters Brought the M*therf*cking Fire" and "Dickwads Be Gone."

Rep. Waters, in particular, is an inspiration to the team at Hellbent, who admire her willingness to speak frankly. "Language is a huge part of politics," Handy tells Bustle, "and so when people refuse to use those strong words or to call things what they are, it really softens the discourse, and we make an effort to stop softening it."

The other defining feature of Hellbent is what Lerner calls its "unapologetically feminist" perspective. In some ways, this feminism is as bold and as brash as their episode titles.

However, Handy and Lerner also describe themselves as eager to adapt to criticism, particularly to understand their own privilege. "Especially as white women, we know that our perspectives can be limited," Lerner tells Bustle. "It's incumbent upon us to listen, learn, and grow."

I think that the way I choose to raise my son and the way I choose to interact with my family is definitely part of what is going to make this overall change.

In an era where roomfuls of men debate whether maternity care should be covered by insurance providers and Planned Parenthood's funding is put at risk time and again, women are uniquely affected by the current president. However, the women of Hellbent argue that the same forces that shape sexist norms in the United States have also made American women uniquely well suited to resisting Trump.

For example, one recent study of Americans making calls to their elected representatives found that the vast majority of callers were women. "I think making phone calls is a perfect example of this behind-the-scenes, quiet, invisible labor that women are often doing," Lerner says.

I do think my motherhood is an act of resistance.

This idea of "invisible labor" isn't unique to resistance. For decades, women have continued to do the bulk of domestic chores in American homes, even as they become likelier to work full-time. Several recent studies have indicated that this problem extends to the workplace as well, where women are often assigned "necessary but unrecognized" tasks. There are many problems with the failure to recognize women's accomplishments, including disparities in salary and promotion rates. However, it also means that when there's a large amount of unglamorous work to be done, women are used to stepping up, even if it means foregoing credit.

"I feel like that's a very typical thing for a woman to do: behind the scenes work, organizing, and rallying the people in your immediate circles, and making sure that they're showing up, too," Lerner says.

As the mother to a young son, Handy believes the fight against bigotry and systemic oppression begins at home. "I think that the way I choose to raise my son and the way I choose to interact with my family is definitely part of what is going to make this overall change," she says.

As a result, she aims to raise her son "to reject some of these traditional notions of sexism and racism and misogyny." Ultimately, she says, "I do think my motherhood is an act of resistance."

Women have historically been denied credit for their role in group accomplishments and made to do larger shares of so-called "grunt work." Even in liberal circles, that is still the case, says Lerner. "Your Bernie Sanders still gets peddled as the progressive leader to watch, when it's really, a lot of times, it's women, especially women of color, who are leading the charge here."

However, that also means women are ready and willing to do that same grunt work now. The Hellbent tagline is "A Feminist Podcast For Those Who Resist & Persist," and it's an apt description of how women have responded to the 2016 election. The long history of American sexism may have kept women out of the White House, but it's also shaped us into the people best suited to resist the current administration. The president may not be female, but the resistance certainly is.