Alumni Spotlight Profiles Society & Culture

Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin: Unladylike

In March, Cristen Conger ABJ '06 (left) and Caroline Ervin ABJ '06 visited Athens and spoke at TEDxUGA. They are the co-founders of the Unladylike podcast and Unladylike Media, where they explore issues related to feminism and gender. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Creators and co-hosts of the podcast Unladylike and co-authors of Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space.


What does ‘Unladylike’ mean?

Cristen Conger ABJ ’06: The name “Unladylike” emerged out of research in feminism, gender, and intersectionality. Back in the day, ‘lady’ referred to wealthy-enough white women who adhered to traditional gender roles. Unladylike is our shorthand for the anti-racist, anti-classist feminism embedded in the media we make.

How did your experiences in Grady College and at The Red & Black shape you and your podcast?

Caroline Ervin ABJ ’06: The Red & Black was how we met. The summer I was editor-in-chief, Cristen came on as a writer, and she was one of my favorites. Cristen was game for any event. It was kismet.

Conger: Both Grady and The Red & Black taught us this commitment to journalism—instilling the hunting down of stories, new angles, and walking away educated. Reporting is still the backbone of what we do, just with different tools. Objective reporting and digging for facts is more important than ever with all of the misinformation online.

What does it mean for your podcast to explore taboo topics–that is, topics outside of the mainstream and not usually discussed in conventional media?

Conger: Often, the more taboo issues are, the more we need to normalize talking about them. It is a misnomer to call them “taboo” because they are just stories about people living their everyday lives—they are just different than ours. We don’t sensationalize those topics; we discuss them in an accessible, educational, and respectful way. Listeners feel validated when they hear it’s OK to have these feelings.

What is your favorite episode? 

Ervin: “How to Be a Bad Mom” and “How to Break the Bronze Ceiling,” which was about the statue built for women who served in Vietnam.

Conger: I also enjoyed “How to Marry Off Maiden Names” about the binary thinking behind maiden names. We revealed so many layers of identity.

What are some of the resources you suggest to help people better understand feminism? 

Ervin: We have to plug our field guide, which lays out how sexism shows up in our day-to-day lives. It’s an inside-out, holistic look at how things are for women and nonbinary people. It peels back layers and digs for context to understand how to grapple with it.

What do you see for the future of Unladylike Media?

Conger: In the immediate future, we are planning to change the format by adding advice episodes. We also are adding new types of conversations to the roster. We need to be vigilant in activism, [understanding] intersectionalities, and amplifying marginalized voices. We have to use our platform and privilege for good. We want to use our media to develop new voices and create a platform and space for their voices.

What advice can you give to those voices or future podcasters?

Ervin: My biggest piece of advice is to follow your genuine interest and lead with your authentic voice. Lead with what makes you special.

Conger: It’s advice from Grady College too: Go out and do it. You need experience to see how reporting actually happens. You can start podcasting just by recording your voice with your phone. The barrier to entry is low. Lean into your authentic voice. I mean, we started out as “accidental podcasters.”

I learned from my research that you are one of relatively few female-led podcasts. What are some of the challenges you and other women face in the industry?

Ervin: The podcast space of white and male, which is generally dominant, is changing. It’s becoming the media that we wish we had.

Conger: The barrier to entry is low, but the podcast industry at large is still very much dominated by white men. The barrier to making money is a major problem.

What’s it like to present at TEDxUGA? Why did you want to participate?

Conger: When we met at UGA, neither of us had a clue that we’d become business partners, much less podcasters. So, getting the chance to speak at TEDxUGA is an exciting, full-circle moment for us. We welcome any opportunity to spread our Unladylike motto: Stay curious. Build empathy. Raise hell.

Listen to Unladylike

Return to Talking Dawgs