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I upset female listeners by featuring Tom Leykis on my podcast

Tom Leykis was on Your Last Meal with Rachel Belle. (Courtesy photo)
LISTEN: I upset female listeners by featuring shock jock Tom Leykis on my podcast

Tom Leykis has been a syndicated radio host for decades, most famous for teaching guys how to sleep with women while spending the least amount of time, money, and effort.

Not being in the show’s prime demographic, I was only exposed to Leykis last year. I was appalled to hear him calling women the “b-word,” using a high pitched, naggy, whiny voice to impersonate women talking and generally describing females as gold diggers who lose their looks, and therefore their worth, after the age of 30.

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So when I learned I would be at the same podcasting conference as Leykis, I was eager to book him as a guest on my podcast, Your Last Meal. I wanted to ask him why he talks about women this way. I wanted to talk to Tom Leykis the real person, not Tom Leykis the shock jock.

We chatted for two hours in his hotel room and, to my surprise, he was perfectly lovely. Charming, interesting and a great story teller. We talked about all kinds of things, including his last meal.

“I think the key to making a great steak is never buying them at supermarkets. Ever,” Leykis  said. “I buy my steaks from a butcher. When I was a kid my mom used to take me to the butcher in the Bronx, on 170th Street. It was next to the Luxor Theater which is no longer there. Going to the butcher and and talking over the counter to the butcher was part of my ritual as a kid. So I’m very comfortable with it today.”

We also talked about his relationship with women.

“I refer to myself today as America’s original feminist because you can pay for your dinner and I can pay for mine,” he said. “And by the way, you stay in your apartment an I’ll stay in mine because we’re equal. You don’t need me to pay for your rent. You got your own job. Women are the majority in colleges now, they’re getting most of the degrees. Why should men be paying?”

Tom Leykis feedback

But since the episode has gone live, and I’ve posted it on social media, I’ve gotten several emails and messages and many comments from disappointed female listeners who are upset that I’ve given him a platform.

One woman wrote me and said:

“I cannot understand the reasoning behind bringing someone on your podcast who spews such venom towards other humans, especially women. I realize that’s his schtick, but apparently Harvey Weinstein had a schtick for many years that was condoned by silence.”

She told me the reason she decided to write to me was because: “One thing I took away from the #metoo movement was to speak up.”

Reading these messages made me feel guilty. They made my stomach hurt. Am I unnecessarily giving a platform to a man who makes a living disparaging women? Am I betraying my own values and the values of the women who listen to this show and my podcast?

But what I was trying to do was talk to somebody I didn’t agree with, someone who says things I don’t like, and trying and understand him. To see him as a person. To ask him why he is the way he is. To figure out what happened in his life that caused him to feel this way about women. I think asking these questions is important. Not only so I can get out of my bubble and speak with someone I don’t agree with, but so he is also questioned about his choices and not insulated in his own bubble.

In the podcast I try and present him fairly neutrally, from both sides. There’s Tom Leykis the misogynist, and there’s the Tom Leykis who likes to make his own chocolate syrup at home.

A lot of women have written to say that they love the podcast, but they will not listen to this episode. Especially now, in light of the whole #metoo movement. And that’s fine. But please know my intention is not to put the spotlight on misogyny, but to simply understand it.

You can listen to the podcast here or download it on iTunes or wherever else you get podcasts.

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