Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner
Song: Bare Feast by Ratatat
Live Story: Seeing Red by Milana Vayntrub
Song: Banshee by Kendra Morris
Live Story: The Long Ride by Ray Christian
Interstitial: Take the Long Way Outta Here by Jeff Barr
Live Story: Pleasant Mountain by Smith Galtney
Song: Feeling Good by Nina Simone
I first heard about RISK maybe 4 years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since… as an artist who often works from home, long hours of podcasts are so important and, as a non-binary queer human in this world, it’s been essential for me to hear queer voices and kinky stories and very real subversive content.
I’ve been on a RISK binge today. Between listening to Ray’s story “The Long Ride” (I haven’t listened to Ray’s podcast yet but I am definitely a follower of his stories on this show and am always excited when he is on an episode) where Ray talks about this boy being wimpy looking and therefore “juicy”… what does that even mean, is that a derogatory gay term? I can’t even tell… and Malcolm Anderson’s story on the Nashville episode, “Big Rose,” where he struggles to understand Big Rose’s gender by making fun of their pronouns, use of Kool Aid as make up, and gender performance… I’m just flat out confused and torn.
I know that both people in Ray and Malcolm’s stories aren’t necessarily “good” people. And I understand that RISK is a space for many types of people with different viewpoints and life experiences. And I agree with that being important – it’s nice to see people who have different morals and values come together and share a stage. But there are so many platforms already in existence for gay bashing and transphobia…
I don’t know, Kevin, do you think there is a place for it on RISK too? Or should we at least have a discussion around this so that there is some kind of accountability and processing? Any other fellow queer fans out there who have thoughts on this?
If we’re gonna give these negative viewpoints on sexuality and gender a voice, especially on a show that’s largely a safe space for queers and weirdos, let’s at least talk about it.
Amara, I hear your concern and I’m sorry if those moments in those stories caused you duress or worry. I do hope they’re not hurtful to people.
One of the hardest parts of my job lately is responding to the complaining that we at RISK! are not politically correct enough.
It is true that a huge part of our mission is to feature people of color, people from underprivileged backgrounds, queer folks of all kinds, people who have struggled with trauma, people from different religious or cultural backgrounds, and so on. Another huge part of our mission is also to give people the space to speak the way they speak behind closed doors, without too much poking and prodding at them during the writing and rehearsal process about censoring themselves in this way or that.
So for every trans person we give a platform for sharing their story, someone will complain that the timber of voice out of which one word came out of some other storyteller’s mouth felt like trans-bashing. For every rape victim we have on the show, someone will complain that the way some other storyteller phrased an unusual expression felt like victim-blaming. For every person of color we have on the show, someone will complain that some other performer’s reference to African American vernacular was cultural appropriation. And so on and so on.
The complaining is relentless. Some, like you Amara, are kindhearted in bringing up the conversation. But since I started this process of trying to get people to open up and talk in the unfiltered way that they would to their therapists or closest friends, some people are not kindhearted about this stuff at all. People with social justice concerns have called me a bully and even “no better than a rapist.”
If I tried to iron out every potentially triggering vocal inflection, every potentially pejorative-seeming use of vocabulary, every iffy presentation of sensitive concepts… there simply would be no show. This “uncensored” show would be un-produceable. So many sentences would be chopped out of stories that the flow of the stories would become a mess.
Ray Christian is not homophobic. I know that in my heart. He takes a public stand for oppressed people of all stripes every day. He’s expressed his sympathies for queer folks in prior stories. In this story, he’s taking us back into the perspective of his 16-year old self (who, if you recall his last story, had not long before narrowly escaped the trauma of child molestation). He’s dealing with a man that, yes, he mentions seems effeminate and “juicy” (I think fat-shaming would be more the target for outrage there). But the larger context is that this older man is trying to abduct, assault and possibly rape young Ray. And, after all, Ray is a straight man who grew up in poverty in the deep South. He is just not as likely to be using the same language as that which was deemed safe to use last week on the campus at Berkeley University.
Malcolm Anderson did not rise up out of poverty. He is still very deep in it. He was released from another prison-stay only days before doing the Nashville show with us. It’s pretty clear that he’s had a limited education and a lot of struggles with all the toughest stuff. Here again is a straight man who has not been exposed to the latest politically correct ways of phrasing things. But one of the joys of featuring someone like Malcolm on the show is precisely that he has a different way of speaking than we’re used to hearing on whitewashed and watered down NPR. He clearly says to Big Rose in the story something along the lines of, “You do you and it’s all good.” I coached him to try to avoid saying anything that might hurt the feelings of trans folks and he expressed that he certainly wouldn’t mean to do that. And when you listen to the tone of storytelling, he is not maliciously making fun of Big Rose. He literally says, “Thank you,” to her and expresses that he’s flattered by her compliments. He’s clearly never met someone quite like Big Rose in this capacity and is speaking frankly about processing the whole thing. And Big Rose is veering into the territory of harassing and nearly sexually assaulting Malcolm, so it’s easy to see how he has mixed feelings.
Another complaint that came up recently was about the Amanda Seales story about a man who physically assaulted her on a subway. Amanda is African American and so was the man who attacked her, but a listener felt it was racist for Amanda to have used an African American sounding inflection in her voice when she was quoting what the man was yelling at her.
I could go on listing these all day.
We try our best to encourage our storytellers to be respectful and open-hearted. We try our best to cut out parts of stories that we feel are especially ill-worded or sharply-toned. And when it comes to trigger warnings, I always encourage people to read this essay I wrote about that here: https://m.facebook.com/riskshow/posts/10153433072242037
At the risk of sounding insensitive, I just have to say, these things will come up. They just will. There are moments that are going to be uncomfortable for some people. That’s the nature of the show. Yes, the show has its heart in the right place and is all about giving people a voice who might not have a platform to express themselves elsewhere. But is it a completely and entirely “safe space,” free of any content that might be deemed politically incorrect or potentially offensive to someone? No. If it was, it couldn’t be called RISK!
what happened to the dog from Jeff Bar’s story?!
To censor RISK would be a blow to the storytelling art form. Just like Radio and TV if you don’t like it, turn the dial. RISK is not for everyone. But for those of us who it is for, we celebrate it. Not just that but we support it! I equate it to meeting people. You will not like everybody. If you find someone you don’t like, then don’t bother with them. It’s impossible to insulate ourselves from all negativity isn’t it? It would be exhausting.
I agree with Bobby. Taking the risk out of Risk would be a castration of all that makes it a risk just listening to the different stories. Big Dick Bitch comes close to shocking me, but as in all the stories, there’s always the tender human underbelly that is bravely exposed. Kevin you are involved in some very special work that transcends base entertainment – these stories are testimonials to the human condition.
We live in an overly PC cultural landscape, where it seems people are almost looking for ways to be offended. Kevin, thanks so much for your well rounded explanation and response to Amara; I can only imagine the less respectful, accusatory and critical responses you get otherwise. It’s such a unique platform with a variety of contributors and that’s what makes it amazing!
Separately, what’s the name of the intro spoof you mentioned a while back? I want to check it out but i can’t remember.
Thanks for another great show,
Kevin, I really agree with your response to Amara. It made me think that RISK! Or any storyteller should never have to censor their experience based on if it will offend another person when the show is so obviously accepting of the differences in the world anyway. In this culture I feel the new thing is that people expect to be accepted and expect to be put in a “safe place” based on their personal needs and experience? This is not how the world works, not everyone will accept you and you will be offended in this life. This is ok as everyone’s experience is different. Our goal is to find common ground in life but not shelter ourselves from different point of views or experiences, even if they don’t go hand and hand with ours. Survival of the fittest people, give Kevin a break. There are so many stories to back up the open minded and inclusive nature of the show anyway! You have to know whoever you are out there that you ARE accepted here, as I sense that sincerity and lack of all around hate is the basis for the show. It’s about perspectives and experiences that are from different humans! Not everyone is going to accept trans people or gay people, or white people or black people etc. Some might harbor a prejudice that men can’t be monogamous or hold beliefs of a “woman’s role”. I don’t agree with that but I won’t be offended if you do, I will either leave or try to understand and find common ground. I will never expect anyone to not offend me, especially someone I am listening to on a podcast. In America these days, our political beliefs are night and day and I understand being hurt and wanting to get out of a situation where someone may support something that you believe is evil, but it’s their right. I think the key is all about knowing whether or not they are being sincere in what they believe or are they full of hate? There is a fine line, but the line does not need to start at 100% acceptance of everything I believe or nothing at all. Their opinion doesn’t make anything fact and especially if someone is being respectful in the way they know how, then we can all learn and change with each other. My point is, do not expect everyone to be a certain way, this is how “book banning” and “censorship” starts. I listened to a New York cop that had mob family ties on here, do I need him to be as progressive as I am to listen to his story? No. I would still listen to any story that I am interested in until the storyteller started spewing hate or I would turn it off if I was no longer interested. Don’t expect the world too cater to you, then write them to shame or discuss it when they cross a personal line for you. I’m not trying to change you, only reinforce acceptance of all. No ones wrong or right. We all have prejudice and fear, we have sexual preferences and different races and cultures. I admit, that I thought people with a kinky sexual desire were weird/broken etc. As a 29 year old gay middle class white woman from Connecticut, I haven’t come across kinky sex in life. I listened to the stories about kink and learned about it and the people who are into it. I’m not sure it’s for me still, but I definitely don’t hold the belief that only Pervs are into it anymore and that’s because of this show. My ignorance was changed in that case. So I hope we all try not to interpret ignorance as offensive based on what is personal to you, and I will go as far to say as the “new” non acceptance is the inability to accept someone who holds different beliefs.