Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline Ervin.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Caroline. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When I was growing up, I was going to be one of four things: a teacher, a writer, a rock star or Indiana Jones. Does feminist podcasting fall in there somewhere?
I met Cristen Conger, my Unladylike work wife, and podcasting partner, during the summer of 2005, I was working as the editor-in-chief of the Red & Black, UGA’s student-run newspaper, and Cristen was a reporter. We were both newspapers majors at the time — a major I believe the journalism school no longer even offers — and hit it off right away. We went our separate ways after graduation, and I spent four long years in Augusta working as a copy editor at the daily paper, where I honed both my editing and booze-based skills.
After quitting with nothing lined up — a move I wouldn’t entirely recommend unless you’re as desperate to leave a place as I was — I wound up back in Atlanta and reconnected with Cristen, who had become a writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks.com. We picked up right where we left off, and it’s a good thing our conversations flowed so naturally. When her original Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast co-host departed, Cristen reached out: Did I want to supplement my terrible editing job in Buckhead with some podcasting?
So, in July 2011, I joined her. For the next three years, I worked with Cristen and HowStuffWorks on a contract basis, traveling back and forth between their office and my full-time day job. Who needs free time? I came onboard as a full-time HSW employee in October 2014, and getting to work alongside so many brilliant, creative nerds was a dream come true.
The hundreds of podcast episodes we’d created — and, in Cristen’s case, hundreds of videos, too — did not belong to us. Everything, from the show name to the intellectual property to the files themselves, belonged to the company that had hired us. Cognitive dissonance set in. Here we were, every week, telling our audience to know their worth, ask for what they deserve, be the change they want to see in the world… and we didn’t even own our own work. It was time to walk the walk.
At the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, Cristen and I stepped out on our own, together. With a book deal in hand and an attorney on speed dial, we created Unladylike Media. It was stressful and sometimes terrifying, but whatever happened, we knew we would own it — the mistakes, the successes, and, you know, the constant anxiety of writing a research-dense book and launching a brand-new feminist podcast all in the same year. Hiring a brilliant financial advisor, graphic designer and set of merch mavens — all Atlanta women — was key to getting the whole enterprise off the ground, too.
As we worked on the book, Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space, we were also partnering with the incredible folks at Stitcher to create our new podcast, Unladylike (we’re consistent). The goals? Create feminist media that moves. Bring in as many voices as we can to tell stories of women and nonbinary folks who break the narrow rules of gender norms just by living their lives. Raise hell.
I think we’re on track. Our book came out in October, and the podcast’s third season wraps the first week of December. It’s been a wild, rewarding ride, even if I didn’t grow up to be Indiana Jones.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been a windy, curved road. I haven’t always known what’s around the corner, but my M.O. is to trust that I’m headed in the right direction. It’s the gut feeling that spurred me to trade the gloom of the University of South Carolina for the bliss of Athens. The feeling that told me to quit my newspaper job and move to Atlanta. The same feeling that convinced me to grab the mic alongside my work wife.
And if we’re being real, those bullet points tell me that I have a lot more privilege under my feet than rough roads. I’ve been able to make some pretty nutty decisions because my desk jobs have allowed me to save money, access health care and invest in retirement accounts. My relationship with my parents meant I had financial support and could move back in with them when I quit my job. My years as a loudmouth feminist podcast co-host meant, I already had a visible platform that allowed me to build a great new show.
So, in that regard, my struggles seem pretty flimsy. The long, chaotic book-writing process cut me off from family and friends, but that was a failure of my own work-management abilities. It also brought mental-health issues to light, but having insurance meant I could go to my doctor and start a new medication. I am lucky, and I have worked incredibly hard, but as a white, straight, cisgender woman from a financially stable family, I also benefit from systems and privileges I had no part in creating.
Through my work, it is my goal to interrogate those systems and, y’know, smash the patriarchy.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Unladylike Media is the umbrella over our book (Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space), our podcast (Unladylike) and our live events. Through our research, reporting, and interviews, we seek to uncover why things are the way they are. It’s much easier to dismantle systems when you understand how and why they were set up in the first place. And no matter what we create, we never want to tell our audience how they should live their lives. We want to arm them with information, build empathy and stoke the fires of productive rage. What you do with that rage is up to you.
What were you like growing up?
I suppose I should start by saying I’m a Sagittarius and was raised an only child, which tells you a lot right off the bat. Perhaps without meaning to, my parents raised me to think for myself, which turned out great if you agree with my politics.
Growing up, I was a bit of a self-righteous, self-involved mini adult like so many only children. I was definitely girly to an extent — I loved Barbies, She-Ra puzzles, stick-on glitter earrings, and jelly shoes — but I also loved playing with the boys next door, traipsing through the woods and getting dirty.
I’m honestly not sure much has changed.
- Website: unladylike.co
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/unladylikemedia
- Facebook: facebook.com/unladylikemedia
- Twitter: twitter.com/unladylikemedia