Kelsey Novits is the creator, producer and host of "Womankind," a locally produced podcast pursuing an answer to the question: What does it mean to be a woman in today’s world? After 60 episodes, Novits told WBFO's Marian Hetherly the answer is "complicated," but that only makes her want to pursue this question more.
"Hi friends. Welcome to 'Womankind.' This is your host Kelsey Novits and I'm here in Episode 60 with my guest, Rachael Morlock, who is a freelance writer. Hi Rachael."
"Hi Kelsey. Thanks so much for having me."
It really started as a passion project, as a way for me to claim an identity as an adult with a voice, outside being a teacher. It was shortly after the presidential election in 2016. I had seen the first woman nominated for the Democratic nomination, which was so exciting and so affirming as a woman. And then, I saw someone who was the antithesis taking over the helm. So it was pretty disappointing.
Then in the weeks following, I felt a lot of hatred, a lot of people talking about how women are not up to the job and how women can't do things, and I had been told my whole life, like, Girl Power! I can be anything I want! And so I wanted to explore a little bit about womanhood and what it means to be a woman.
Every answer is completely different. There are infinite answers for what it means to be a woman. So that means I can keep doing this for eternity (laughing), if I need to do it.
"So Suniti (Thapa), what does it mean to be a woman in 2018?"
"I think to be a woman who has the freedom to speak their mind, a freedom to act on their dreams, to pursue their dreams. This is something that I want for women in 2018 to have."
Initially, my fiancé bought me a podcasting kit - just right off Amazon - and it had everything in it. It had a microphone, mixers, a thing to hook it up to a computer. And that's how I started, with that. I started with one microphone, so when my guests would come over, we would have to sit very close together and we would have to share the microphone back and forth. Eventually, I did end up getting better equipment and more things to make it a little more comfortable. And so now, in my apartment, I have a podcasting studio room.
When I first started having these conversations, I really anticipated that "Womankind" was going to be controversial. I was going to have these conversations and I wasn't sure how my students and my higher-ups in my school would take it. After I had been doing this for a year or so, I realized more what the podcast was going to be and it was going to be women talking about themselves. There's nothing controversial about a woman telling her own story. If there is someone finding something controversial about that, then that's the whole reason why I'm doing "Womankind."
Lately, I've found myself to be a little more Buffalo-centric with my guests because sometimes I just prefer to be face-to-face with someone, but I do plenty of interviews over Skype. I have interviewed women from both coasts, all over the country. I've interviewed some from South Korea, Canada, from Mexico, places in Europe.
Something interesting happens sometimes when I ask women to be on the show. The response is sometimes, "Why me? What do I have to say?" And as it turns out, everyone has something to say. I don't go into the conversations with any expectations. I'm just ready to learn.
There were a lot of things that women were fighting for in other countries - like trying to close the wage gap, trying to have better time off from work, pregnancy and maternity leave - so some of those things were common. The one big difference that sticks out to me was in an episode I interviewed a woman from Mexico and she talked about the concept of machismo.
"So Claudia (Ramírez Aguilar), what things would you like to change in 2017?
"I'm not telling you that the guys here in Mexico hit their women every day. It's not terrible, but it's way behind how the U.S. is. People here still have those kinds of ideas. I'm talking about three days (paternity leave) and they're thinking it's a waste of time, but for a woman her priority would be her family. In the smaller scheme of things, I can see see how women would avoid making a confrontational comment to a man, even if it's just basic. Like in politics, a lot of girls would support Hillary (Clinton), but you could see guys being defensive or attacking them. Immediately, the girls would shut up or change the subject. I think men don't have that much pressure, what people will think of them. Except if they were to cry, they won't be judged. Women are just supposed to be nice and supportive and not have an opinion."
In Episode 20, I believe, I turned the mic around and had my friend interview me. And when I think back to that episode and what it means to be a woman, my answer was something along the lines of having choice to do what you want to do.
"Here's a good question: Is there anything you think the world needs to know about women?"
"Yes. The world needs to know that women are human. They're not objects. They're not an entity who's only purpose is making babies. They're individuals with their own hopes and dreams and abilities, and women can do what they want without apology."
I realize now that that answer can't be for everybody because there are a lot of factors that prevent women from having choices. And so I hope through the storytelling that the podcast does, that we are starting conversations to allow more women to have those choices.
"Womankind" podcasts can be found most easily on my website, which is www.womankindpodcast.com. It's also available on Apple Podcasts and the podcasting app on Android. Following me on Facebook or Instagram at womankindpodcast would be a way to get updates and hear about new episodes and new events.