How Romance Podcasts Are Carving Out Feminine-Coded Spaces on the Internet

How Romance Podcasts Are Carving Out Feminine-Coded Spaces On The Internet

By Erin Phelps

As I love to share, I’ve spent the last year becoming increasingly passionate about romance novels and the romancelandia internet community. I’ve just finished my first full year as a romance reader, and I am fascinated by the fact that over that year, several new podcasts have popped up that are dedicated to romance readers!

I found myself wondering why it was that just as I was finding my own place in this world as a romance reader, there were brand-new internet properties dedicated to exploring fandom that were developing at the same time?  

My personal theory about how and why romance expanded in the podcast realm is this: Romance is traditionally a feminine-coded genre, and through online connections, romance fans and podcast creators are carving out a new feminine-coded internet space that we can enjoy in a familiar and engaging way.

What do I mean by feminine-coded? Well, there’s a common psychoanalytic theory of looking at mass media as a product that is defined by a “male gaze.”  That means that mass media, from movies and television to the books we read, are usually made with a heterosexual cisgender man in mind as the target audience.  

Romance novels have emerged as a genre with an implied female gaze.  Though anyone can write, read, or be represented within romance, it is more broadly understood as a genre for women, and by women.  In other words: feminine coding means the male gaze is undermined because romance is constructed to reflect an incredibly feminine readership.  

And now, the democratized internet has allowed us to take the dismantling of the male gaze one step further.  Romance readers can take their feminine-coded gaze and desires onto Twitter, or websites like frolic to revel in the narratives we love most.  With the growing presence of romancelandia on other internet platforms, it makes perfect sense that more and more women would take the reins and sprinkle some feminine coding into a still-very-masculine form of media: the podcast.

I’m sure there are many kinds of podcasts out there that touch on the themes of romance, womanhood, book love, and so much more.  But here are three examples that have cropped up in the last 18 months that demonstrate romance appreciation and feminine coding through friendships, professionalism, and family relationships.  Hopefully one of these recommendations will be just the kind of podcast you’re looking for!

If You Just Want to Talk Romance With Your BFF: Heaving Bosoms: A Romance Podcast

Melody Carlisle and Erin McCarthy are two best friends who live across the country from one another and decided to start a weekly romance review podcast as a way to do something fun together and keep in touch.  I identify strongly with these two because my Galentine-for-life and I are separated by an 11-hour-drive (or a cost-prohibitive 2-hour flight).

However, even if your best friend lives nearby, this podcast still provides the same emotional response as getting together with your best gals, pouring some wine, and dishing about all the juiciest parts of your most recent romance reads.  

You know how there’s a special bond and connection that happens in close female friendships? The kind of bond that makes you start picking up specific phrases from one another? That’s the type of feminine coding that happens on Heaving Bosoms.  The closeness of the hosts creates a fun, warm environment that magically brings listeners into the fold, too!  

For example, whenever the hosts want to chime in about how their personal opinions/careers/expertise relate to the events of their chosen book, they’ll say something like “Bing Boom Bong! It’s time for Law and Order with Erin.”  It may sound silly, but my heart is so full every time I hear the phrase “Bing Boom Bong!” because it feels like sharing an inside joke with someone I care about.  

To get started, I recommend trying episodes 41 and 42, which are all about The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.

If You Wish You Knew More About What Makes Your Favorite Author Tick: The Wicked Wallflowers Club

The Wicked Wallflowers Club, hosted by Jenny Nordbak and Sarah Hawley, is a podcast that is much more dialed in to the personal and professional lives of romance writers.  Most episodes are author interviews that focus on upcoming or recent works that the authors have put out.

A neat thing about this podcast is that it covers the perfect intersection of authors’ personal and professional lives.  It’s always interesting to learn about each author’s inspirations and research processes. I’ll never forget how amazed I was to listen to Courtney Milan describe her process on this podcast.  Thanks to this podcast, I know that Courtney Milan starts writing distinct and important scenes, and then the rest of the book comes together by finding ways to connect those pivotal moments. This little tidbit makes every new Courtney Milan book that I read even more vibrant!  

While each episode tends to center on promoting an author’s upcoming book or body of work, there are also lots of personal tidbits that get scattered into each interview.

For example, in pretty much every episode, Jenny and Sarah ask questions like, “Can you tell us about the first romance novel you ever read?” This gives us a sense of how well-known romance authors had their first introduction to the genre, and the results are often fascinating. There’s also a round of rapid-fire questions at the end of each podcast, so we learn the answers to questions like “What’s the most unusual thing on your desk?” and rounds of everyone’s favorite slumber party game “F/M/K”.  

As someone who spends so much time engrossed in romance novels, it’s such a delight to hear what a day in the life of an author is really like.  In addition to the Courtney Milan episode, I recommend starting with episode 33 with Sarah Maclean, because she gives a ton of good book recommendations along with the deep dive into her own body of work.

If You Love The Idea Of Sharing Romance With Women In Your Family: Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club

One thing I’ve learned in my first year as a member of romancelandia is that so many of us relate our first exposure to romance novels to a female member of our family.  Maybe you were bored and picked something up off of your grandma’s bookshelf. Maybe you were always curious about the book left behind in your mom’s night stand. If your first exposure to romance was anything like what I just listed, you might enjoy checking in with Ellen and her mom on Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club.

I get the idea that Ellen may have been the one to introduce her mom to many of her favorite books, but their dynamic is still one that reflects the uniquely feminine-coded experience of passing romance novels around.

In each episode of this podcast, Ellen and her mom read and review a romance novel together.  They talk about the plot elements they like, the parts that made them swoon, and sometimes they discuss things that just didn’t work for them.  Then the second half of each episode tackles a topic like filling out the rom com March Madness bracket or discussing the ups and downs of romance novel titles.   

One thing that makes their reviews such a treat is that their mother-daughter bond keeps the conversation peppered with, “Now I know this isn’t your usual thing, but… “ or “This reminds me of one of our favorite movies… “   

The familiarity between Ellen and her mom makes listening to this podcast feel like catching up with a favorite female relative while you snack on homemade cookies.

One of my personal favorite episodes to start with is episode 19, which is about Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas.  This episode also includes the aforementioned rom com bracket!

If you’re intrigued by these romance fan podcasts, I’m sure there are even more out there (like the long-standing awesomeness of Smart Podcast Trashy Books).  But these three podcasts show something special over the last year:  women are becoming increasingly comfortable talking about a book genre that we love, and we’re showing shades of our personal, professional, and familial lives in the process.

About the Author

Erin Phelps just celebrated her one-year anniversary as a romance reader! When she’s not reading a good book or re-watching her favorite romantic comedies, Erin spends her days in an awesome retail job selling luxurious pampering products.  She occasionally works as a part-time lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies.  Erin also loves trying out new television shows, playing party games with friends, and snacking on croissants.

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