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Don't Leave Me Hanging: On Difference, High-Fives, And Podcasts

I've been listening to Startup — the podcast started by Planet Money alum Alex Blumberg to talk about the establishment of his company, Gimlet Media — since it debuted in early September. It appears every other Monday, so they posted their seventh episode this morning.

I'm surprised it took me until their fourth episode, which I heard on October 10, to notice that I couldn't remember any women being heard on the show other than Blumberg's [awesome and hilarious] wife and the [less present but probably also delightful] wife of his business partner, Matt.

On the one hand, I got it: the worlds being explored were largely Podcast World, Tech Startup World, and Rich Investor World. You can probably do a lot of good-faith traveling in those worlds and simply bump into a lot of guys. I never for a moment suspected it of being any kind of an intentional omission, I never suspected they wouldn't gladly include a relevant voice of a lady, and I never doubted they would, if asked, put A Good Mix Of Voices on the list of Things That Are Important. And Blumberg's wife Nazanin has provided some of the best and warmest moments of the series, particularly in the episode about naming the company, in which her reactions made me absolutely cackle.

But it weirdly ... stung, I guess, that they'd gone four episodes and not even mentioned it. That nobody had said, "You might have noticed that other than people who entered this story by marriage, these are all men," or talked about why. As near as I can remember, that continued through Episode Six.

This morning, when I listened to Episode Seven, I suddenly heard the voice of a woman named Nadia Zonis, talking about potentially becoming a listener-investor in the company. Then a woman named Erin Glenn, CEO of a crowd equity company called Alphaworks. Then more from Nazanin than we'd heard before about how the arrival of Gimlet Media had affected her life and her obligations. Then Barbara Roper, the Director of Investor Protection at the Consumer Federation of America.

And it felt great. I don't know if it was intentional, but it felt intentional.

Because I do have a high level of trust in Blumberg (we don't know each other, but have traded an e-mail or two of the "it would be great to wave someday" variety; otherwise I'm just a fan), it was a great reminder to me of what it's like to feel omitted in the absolute absence of any hostility or ill feeling. It was a reminder that some of the time, feeling not seen in a work that you're watching or hearing or reading is not reminiscent of being insulted or consciously blown off. I mean — sometimes it is, don't get me wrong. Righteous anger is part of it, demanding recognition is part of it, addressing conscious exclusion is part of it.

But sometimes it's more like ... trying to high-five somebody, and they don't look at you, and they leave you hanging. Even if you know they don't mean it, even if you know they'd high-five you if they saw you, when you're trying to connect, to close a circuit — "I like this thing too!" — it's a letdown when you don't get your high-five. It's not necessarily a hostile judgment on somebody's work; it's sometimes more like a missed connection. It's like you can't quite lock in, because you feel like they don't know you're there. Everybody means well, but there's a funny chill.

And as a person who creates content, it was a really good reminder that in addition to anybody who actually reaches out to me to say, "You are omitting me and people like me," or "you are omitting what I care about," or "you are seeing through a very narrow lens" — all of whom also deserve to be heard — there are other people who say nothing because they're not necessarily mad; they just feel like they missed the connection — or, more correctly, I missed it. And sometimes they believe I'm trying, so they're not even mad; they just can't lock in.

So here's to Episode Seven, when I locked in.

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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.