Giovanna is a student at Cambridge University who was a participant in a Solutions Not Sides school workshop while in 6th Form. Here she shares her experience of the 1st COVID-19 lockdown and how she responded to it alongside her friends and a supportive teacher. If you'd be interested in an Israel-Palestine and critical thinking workshop, please contact [email protected]
Myself, my two friends and my history teacher started a podcast in the middle of a global pandemic. The first lockdown was uncharted territory for the entire world. With the overwhelming amount of free time, we were handed so suddenly, it seemed like everyone around us was trying to do something to occupy themselves and their anxious minds. Starting the podcast was something that we had previously talked about during a few of our usual ‘how can we change the world’ conversations, which were often sparked by our indignation and anger to the things we were learning about in history and politics class. The more we began to delve deep into the deep-rooted issues through our history curriculum and political system we instantly began feeling more burdened by the responsibility to expose these hidden atrocities to others. We often talked about writing our own books, following the footsteps of Bell Hooks who wrote the legendary ‘Ain’t I A Woman: Black women and feminism’ during her undergraduate degree. But the podcast was something else we talked about, and honestly the podcast seemed like more of a realistic short-term solution to our feelings of frustration and overwhelming need to point out the failures of our society. Eventually, we decided to go ahead with it, we decided that it was better to spend our time during lockdown contributing to a purpose we had for so long discussed and constantly wished we had time for, and there we found ourselves in the middle of a national lockdown with, what felt like, all the time in the world to act on our complaints.
Starting a passion project is never easy, but it was so rewarding and fulfilling. We planned, researched and discussed our project for about a month and a half before we were ready to launch it to a world of critics. Not only were we jumping into a project we had no idea how and where to start, but we also had new limitations of computer screens and dodgy internet that we had to overcome. Our initial planning stage consisted of various brainstorming sessions over zoom where we decided what our purpose and vision for the podcast was. We decided on what values we would stand for and how we would translate these to our audience. Eventually, it was time to decide on a name, and I would say this was the most difficult part of the initial process, because the name is the brand, and the brand is what differs us from any other podcast on the market. We decided on the name: ‘Don’t Patronise Me’, and this name is not only empowering for young people, but it also crucially attacks the entire premise of why there is a lack of women in politics. As young women with multiple layers to our identity, we are often dismissed when we try to speak our truth. As a working-class Brazilian immigrant, I have often lacked the knowledge and resources to be able to protect and defend myself, but this podcast has become that tool of empowerment and confidence.
After a few days of discussions, we finally wrote our mission statement that aimed to perfectly encapsulate all we hoped the podcast would become:
“The ‘Don’t patronise Me’ podcast is a passion project created by Ana, Giovanna, Heaven and Ciara. We believe in the power of a mental revolution and seek to deconstruct the status quo through conversations. As young people we have come to realise that when we speak out, we are continuously disarmed by being patronised, and so we aim to educate our listeners by presenting a counter narrative. By presenting information that differs from mainstream media we hope to decolonise the minds of the masses in order for them to engage in insightful conversations. As an intersectional movement we are committed to eradicating ignorance by uncovering systematic problems…”
As you can tell, we were angry, but our anger was our fuel. We displayed our frustrations in the beautiful words we were committed to stand by throughout the duration of our passion project. This mission statement exemplified us as thinkers and feminists perfectly, and it outlined the fundamental purpose of the podcast, which was, and still is, to create an environment for open and honest conversations away from mainstream ideas and stereotypes.
The process of researching, recording and interviewing was my favourite. During the planning stage we had complied a list of all the different topics we wanted to cover, some people that we hoped to interview; even a list of dream guests including Akala and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Since we already had so much to say, it was a lot easier to constantly be producing content. Every week we recorded a new episode, spending the first few days doing individual research on the topic by reading articles, books and watching documentaries. We would then spend a few hours on zoom discussing the structure of the episode and how we were going to promote it on social media. For every episode we created art slides for our Instagram, where we would showcase some highlights from the episode that we believed would provoke thought and encourage our audience to listen. The social media aspect of the project was also very important, because it developed our brand and expanded our reach. The Instagram was a great way to engage with our audience outside of the episodes we released, we used the ‘story’ feature on Instagram to conduct weekly quizzes and suggestion boxes where people could suggest topics, they wanted us to discuss in future episodes. In fact, in response to a few suggestions we received, we began this series called ‘Knowledge Bites’ where we did quick fire episodes discussing the legacy and truthful contribution to history of a specific person, such as Edward Coston and James Marion Sims.
Our first episode was a debate around the question: ‘Are political ideologies a waste of time?’. We had had these conversations so many times in the past but as soon as we hit the record button it all suddenly became so daunting, we were immediately made aware that our usual private conversations were now going to be listened to by people we know and even strangers. Recording the first episode made me realise that myself and my beliefs were not always going to be protected within the bubble I had created. Instead, the podcast forced me to step outside of my comfort zone by amplifying my voice and my values to people I often ignored because of my fear that they would reject me once they were made aware of my beliefs. One of the most important lessons I learnt from recording the podcast is that people do in fact want to hear my opinion, and even when I think they don’t I have the right to engage; that right is granted to me even as a young woman. This was enough reason for me to put aside my insecurities and continue participating in a project that was had a greater purpose than just exposure, but also for education and youth engagement.
A significant aim of the podcast was to demonstrate the power of young people when we are given a platform. Politics is undeniably elitist, sexist and ageist. It prioritises the voices of those that lack the lived experience, compassion and integrity needed to govern, and by doing so it silences the voices of the actual affected classes. For decades there has been a massive issue of youth political disengagement, with young people finding it difficult to find representation within politics. However, with the presence of social media it has never been easier for young people to amplify their worries and expectations of politicians. Social media has provided young people with a platform that is inherently built to our advantage, allowing us to engage in accountability in a way that was never possible before. The influence of young people on social media has forced politicians to acknowledge the fact that our voices matter and when they are united, they are a force that cannot be ignored. Not only has social media united millions of young people across the world, but it has also allowed us to create international movements such as the school strike for climate, where students across the globe staged protests calling for national governments to address and act on the climate change catastrophe. Young people are too powerful to be forced to the side-lines, we have successfully proven that we are often more capable and competent than many politicians currently in office. There is also a prevalent cultural and consciousness gap between the young and old generation. With the older generation often stuck in their traditional ways, us young people have been burdened with the responsibility to educate a generation that continuously attempts to disarm us. This podcast was our way of contributing to this mission, but in a way that suited us and allowed us to be in control. The Don’t Patronise Me podcast is in itself a declaration that we know what it is to be patronised, and we are now equipping ourselves to be able to call that out.
You can listen to the Don't Patronise Me podcast here: 'Don't Patronise Me' (podcast) - dpmpodcast | Listen Notes