Reproductive Pairing: Books, Podcasts, and Taboos

We consume much of our media by proxy: by listening, overhearing, and exchanging stories with those around us. Constantly on the move, many of us rely on radio, audiobooks, podcasts, and music to fill the quiet spaces in the commute or morning jog. It’s easy to open Spotify or Audible and let the algorithm decide which new title to listen to or what is “trending” in the charts. Audiobooks are essential to those long summer road trips. In the style of the New York Times list “What (Books) to Listen to This Summer,” this particular compilation is a playlist with an added bonus: curated podcast-novel pairings designed to enhance the listening experience through both mediums. These pairings focus on the recent surge in dystopian novels that explore the future of women’s health and reproductive rights.

There are quite a few recent novels that deal with “dystopian futures” in which our world is threatened either economically, politically, or environmentally. Perhaps the most magnetic of these are the ones in which women’s health, bodies, and rights have been regulated and restricted by political means. These titles, like Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale, do massive work in generating conversation around reproductive healthcare and women’s rights. Why is there a threat to our freedoms? What do these freedoms look like to us? How are we each impacted by this discourse? Until recently, I never had to think too much about birth control or if I even wanted to have children. Now, these topics consume the media and my mind. It’s helpful to have a fictional way to explore the potential fallout that faces us when our government makes decisions about our bodies. These novels offer context and shine a beam of empathy into a situation that has become highly politicized. Ravenous for more information, I took a dive into digital conversations surrounding health, reproductive rights, and motherhood.

Novel: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

From Portland State University’s own Leni Zumas, Red Clocks follows the lives of four Oregon women whose stories are affected by recent government restrictions on their bodies. In an imagined future, abortion and in vitro fertilization are illegal across the US, and access to adoption is limited. The lives of four women are woven together to illuminate the complexity and anxiety that comes from the loss of bodily autonomy. Zumas has her finger on the pulse of a tangible and real threat to healthcare and freedoms.

Podcast Episode: “The Abortion Wars, Part 1: The Last Clinic in Missouri” on The Daily
The Daily takes a look at two different midwestern states tackling abortion legislation in opposing ways. This first episode in a two-part series explores what Missouri is doing to erradicate all abortion clinics in the state and how that affects residents of the state. As a companion to Red Clocks, this podcast offers a real-time look into the current political movement in some states.

Novel: Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

In Before She Sleeps, Shah imagines a not-so-distant future where men vastly outnumber women. The government regulates reproduction, requiring women to take multiple partners in order to reproduce faster to “save the planet.” Yet some women resist. This novel shines a light on the dangers of gender selection, seclusion, and authoritarian control.

Podcast Episode: “The Abortion Underground” on Science Vs
Science Vs uncovers the painful history of America before Roe v. Wade and interviews two revolutionary women who ignited a movement for women’s health and reproductive education in the 1970s. This podcast puts the facts in front of the taboo and infuses fact and science into a debate that is often overwhelmed with emotion. Similarly to what Shah has done, Science Vs gives voice to the revolutionary women who take big risks for what they believe in.

Novel: Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

In Motherhood, Sheila Heti explores the meaning of motherhood: what our mothers teach us and what motherhood or the pressures to become a mother can imply for each of us. This book was particularly relevant after I heard women around me talk about their decisions about whether or not to have abortions, get IUDs, or even adopt children.

Podcast Episode: “What If You Regret Becoming a Mom?” on The Cut on Tuesdays
“When the baby comes, you’ll change your mind.” But what if motherhood isn’t for every woman? This episode of The Cut examines motherhood, choices, and personal identity through candid and truthful conversations with mothers and those who chose not to go that road. As a companion to Motherhood, this podcast follows up with more honest perspectives from women in various places in their lives on a subject that we don’t often get to dissect so boldly.

Listen and Learn: How Audiobooks Helped Me Get through College

I’ve known for a long time that I learn best through listening and through verbally discussing a topic. My favorite classes have always been the ones where the professor was a great orator, because it meant I could just sit back and absorb what they were lecturing on. All I ever needed to do was jot down some key words or phrases in my notes, and when I studied later the entire lesson would come flooding back. People thought I was crazy, but it worked for me.

Unfortunately, while entering college meant a lot more lectures, it also meant a lot more assigned readings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fantastic reader—I wouldn’t want to go into publishing if I wasn’t—but only when it comes to fiction. Nonfiction, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

When I try to read any nonfiction, even if it has a narrative component, my brain decides that it can’t focus on the words and I get distracted every other sentence. So trying to read so much nonfiction for my classes—sometimes hundreds of pages a week—was just agony to get through, and on top of it all, I could never remember what I had read.

In my sophomore year of college, I noticed my dad had the audiobook version of a book I had to read for class. Instead of renting it from the campus bookstore, I just logged in to his account and downloaded it to my phone. I plugged in my headphones, set the reading speed to 1.5, and sat back to start listening. An hour or so later, I was completely done with the readings and had even gotten a jump start on the next week’s assignment. I could even remember and understand what I was supposed to have learned. It was like something just clicked into place in my brain.

Listening instead of reading allowed me to experience nonfiction in a way I never had before. When I’m reading, I have no concept of the author’s voice, but when I’m listening, it’s as if the author is casually explaining everything to me in a conversation. I started by just listening to assigned books for classes, but I quickly began consuming books about any subject I found remotely interesting. From the fascinating technical explanations in How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg to the deep insights about life found in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, I listened to it all.

Interestingly enough, it seems like I’m not the only one who’s recently discovered audiobooks. According to the Association of American Publishers, revenue for the nonfiction category has grown by 28.4% since 2013, and “nearly 150 million more adult nonfiction books were sold in 2017 than in 2013.” When possible, every nonfiction narrative should be released as an audiobook. The numbers don’t lie: there’s a whole legion of people out there who are just like me—about 30 percent of the population, in fact—and I guarantee they would love to listen to these books if they were made available in audiobook form.

Social Media Tools & Ooligan

As social media continues to boom through today’s generation, businesses must use these platforms in order to market their own companies and organizations. But how exactly are these companies benefiting from their social media, and how do they know what to post to further engage their followers? The answer is social media tools.

Various apps, or social media tools, are being created in order to help businesses and industry professionals like publishers discover what their consumers and customers are looking for, what they might be talking about, and what they are most interested in. These social media tools collect and gather data through user clicks, views, and in some instances, voice recognition. By centralizing and combining all of these different social media efforts onto one dashboard, such as Twitter or Instagram, businesses are able to tailor their messages and posts to their target audience or network based on the information they are receiving.

With over fifty different social media tools, companies and businesses have a lot of options to find a specific app that best adheres to their needs or product. Apps like Reviewinc allow companies to see over 200 different review sites at once. From there, companies can gauge and organize how many negative versus positive reviews they may be receiving. The Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro is another tool used by professionals and marketers. This particular app focuses on keywords or phrases that connect to the specific company using it. Marketers are able to learn who is talking about their brand and what they might be saying. Although these can all be very useful, Ooligan primarily works with Hootsuite, tracking specific analytics through each social media platform, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Within the Hootsuite application, Ooligan has control over all three of our social media accounts in a single dashboard. This tool allows the press to schedule, manage, and report our social media accounts, as well as analyze results from a simpler application. Through a feature known as “sentiment,” Hootsuite identifies language and provides a graph gauging which posts are sending out negativity or positivity to followers. In this feature, Ooligan is also able to search keywords, phrases, and even hashtags to learn what our community might be talking about in regards to our brand. Additionally, Hootsuite schedules social media posts, making platform control much easier. Ooligan uses social media analytics as well. Twitter displays demographics of current followers, including where they live, their occupation, age, gender, and even their interests. By understanding who is following us, Ooligan is better able to manage what we post and what will reach our audience in the most effective way. Facebook’s analytics provide Ooligan with information on what audiences we are reaching in our posts, and how that compares to competitors. Instagram shows followers and when they’re most active, giving Ooligan information about what days and times are the best to post. Each of these social media tools improves the effectiveness of posts and engages the audience in a much more advanced and useful way.

Reaching out to customers and potential buyers through social media is one of the most effective strategies today. Applications like Hootsuite and Reviewinc are making it easier for professionals to keep track of their following and maintain their brand. Understanding your audience and who you’re marketing to is just the beginning of finding success in your company or publishing house.