Wisconsin-based therapist Rachel Zentner began to be more open about the people in her life—about her own eating disorder, alcoholism, and relationship issues.
These women didn’t know each other, but they had something in common: The changes they made in their lives were inspired at least in part by Glennon Doyle, a former Christian education blogger who became feminist icon. They’re part of the latest chapter in Doyle’s story, in which women who fascinately watch her push the eject button in her old life begin to question their own limitations.
You remember the Doyle story, right? Her viral blog posts on parenting young children and finding your place in Christianity became a best-selling collection of essays. It was followed by another bestseller about how she learned her husband had been cheating on her and how they worked to save the marriage.which one was published only Doyle is now married after splitting from the aforementioned husband after falling madly in love with football legend Abby Wambach.
Doyle has no regrets. She opened her latest book, Untamed, in which she wrote about a conversation she imagined with a cheetah named Tabitha she met at the zoo. “something leave About my life,” Doyle imagined the cheetah saying, bemoaning her cage, and fantasizing about “unfenced, open savannah”—and then chastised herself for doing so, saying, “I should be grateful. I have a good time here. Craving for something that doesn’t even exist is insane. “
“Tabitha, you’re not crazy,” Doyle imagined his response. “You’re a damn cheetah.”
Doyle thinks the book is doomed when it comes out in March 2020, Because the pandemic is changing people’s lives in all the wrong ways. It turns out that an unending period of lockdown — which proved to be uniquely destructive and burdensome for women — has left many in the mood to imagine themselves as cheetahs speeding across remote plains. Doyle’s books have sold over 2 million copies. (Actress Sarah Paulson will play Doyle in the TV adaptation developed by JJ Abrams’ production company.)
Then, in May 2021, Doyle launched a podcast “We Can Do Hard Things”, which included conversations and her sister, Amanda Doyle, a witty ex-lawyer with two young children and a degree in gender studies. “Since everyone has their own podcast, I even find the idea of starting a podcast embarrassing,” Glennon Doyle told The Washington Post in a Zoom interview from her and Wambach’s home outside Los Angeles.
Still, she is eager to continue the conversations that “Untamed” had already begun, and increasingly believes that social media is a toxic, polarizing environment in which conversations can take place. So, she complied.
“Our assumption here is that by talking about hard things, we can make our own lives easier, and you’re just a little bit easier,” Doyle said in a recent episode. she talks about her Depression and alcoholism, her control issues, her eating disorder and her difficulty forming close friendships. About her anger at patriarchal norms. About how outraged she is at an industrial park where women focus on lasers and are always unsafe about their appearance – despite this awareness, she still dreads appearing on TV without makeup.
Wambach was a guest on an early episode and then continued to return, offering optimism and stories of her own struggles with addiction and self-acceptance. Together they talked about orgasms (real and fake), fun (or lack thereof), how to know when to give up on something, and the stress of modern parents. In one episode, Amanda Doyle unravels the simmering resentment that is familiar to most moms who find themselves in positions of heavy chores and emotional labor. Women responded in droves, most of them saying “same here”.
By the end of the year, “We Can Do Hard Things,” produced by Audacy’s Cadence13, was named Apple’s new favorite podcast. It’s regularly featured on Apple’s top 20 podcasts.
“There’s a trail where we live and women would walk past us and they would say, ‘We’re listening to you right now.’ It’s unbelievable,” Wambach, who joined the podcast as the third host, told The Post said. “I don’t think people even remember that I played football.”
Fans gather in SMS chains, WhatsApp communities and Facebook groups, where they compare pictures of their cheetah tattoos and tell each other about the hard things in their own lives.
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“I have a lot of life regrets,” one woman wrote To members of Doyle-inspired Facebook groups. “I did what a ‘good girl’ was supposed to do and didn’t think about myself. …I found myself nearing 50, feeling so sad for the life I’ve never lived, but scared for the future Make a decision because I don’t even know who I am.”
“A baby is a gift,” another wrote. “I’m angry that I’m pregnant [and] I’m so angry that I don’t want to get pregnant. “
“My skin was crawling when he touched me, date night was so awkward, romantically/emotionally/physically, it didn’t suit me anymore,” a third wrote. “How do you know when to leave?!?”
Alyson Weaver, 37, who works in university administration, has assembled a “squad” of Austin residents who share her commitment to Doyle’s podcast. The goal is to replicate what the three podcast hosts seem to have with each other: “Fellow human women discuss things you don’t like talking about with your friends or even family.” Weaver’s pod squad, which meets twice a month, now has 14 members, Among them are a few.
“What if a woman told the truth about her life?” the poet Muriel Rukeyser once asked in a poem. On the next line, she replies: “The world will be split.”
We know what happened when Glennon Doyle told the truth about her life. Women who follow her do the same, what will happen?
“I struggle with likability and perfectionism and want to fit in,” says Monica Huckleberry, curly hair Texas woman.
She started listening to “We Can Do Hard Things” and was impressed by the host’s bravery.The 54-year-old I’m starting to feel a little brave. When a colleague said something hurtful or racist, she would say it — something she would never have done in the past, “because it made them uncomfortable,” said Hispanic Huckabay. “And women are always trying to make people feel comfortable, even at their own expense.”
Those colleagues stopped inviting Huckleberry to lunch with them, But “it’s so worth it,” she said. “I feel more about myself than I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Abby Mercer, a 39-year-old Indiana nonprofit executive, came to Doyle’s work through “Untamed,” which she read on a plane just after her divorce.
“Before getting on the plane, I was a different Abby than when I got off the plane,” she said. “It allows me to do what I want.”
She gave up on friendships where “withdrawals are much more than deposits”. She’s no longer trying to fit into a conservative Christian brand that doesn’t seem to want her. She decorates her house with rainbows, sometimes jokingly calling herself a “gay baby” or a “late bloomer.”
These days, Mercer listens religiously to Doyle’s twice-weekly podcast. “I can recall many times on the way home from my commute and my eyes were yelling, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on,'” she said. “It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to talk about, but no one ever talks about. “
Of course, that’s the whole idea. “Sometimes the weirdest and most personal and most personal things end up being people taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, yes. Why don’t we talk about this?'” Amanda Doyle told the Washington Post at a coffee shop near her home in Falls Church. “What are you actually thinking when you start your day? We say out loud all the things you don’t feel allowed to say.”
Wisconsin-based therapist Rachel Zentner was puzzled at first. Podcasting is too close to home. The hosts always invited listeners to call and email them, so Zentner left some voicemails expressing her discomfort with hearing them speak openly about her long-hidden subject. “I felt a strange betrayal,” she said. “I would say, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be talking about eating disorders because it’s going to be a secret for us forever.'”
Trying to tell her own truth often made Zentner’s body tremble. But she is struggling to talk to her friends and clients, especially her daughters. She didn’t want them to internalize the same message she did. “I should have made my body smaller,” she said. “I should have narrowed my opinion down.”
Because Doyle started out writing mostly about parenting, she has been classified as a “mom blogger” for years. But Doyle has long since risen to rarer heights, said Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, a sociology professor at Valencia College who studies gender and media.
“If we’re going to include her in books that change women’s lives — Betty Friedan, Erica Jon, Gloria Steinham — she’s a good fit,” Trier-Bignac said. “But she learned from where they failed. She found that you can’t tell your story without talking about your flaws, or where you don’t know, or where you failed epicly.” For example , Doyle is aware of her privilege as a cisgender white woman, and “in saying ‘I have a seat at the table and I’m going to raise as many different voices as I can, I’m doing well, I’m going to Let them talk and I want to listen. ” “
Trier-Bieniek sees Doyle’s podcast as akin to the women’s sewing circle at the turn of the 20th century, where women ostensibly gathered to sew together exchange stories and plan to gain voting rights. Doyle’s gift is her ability to articulate a woman’s inner experience. She talks to her co-hosts about menopause and self-care, and knowing when to quit a job or a relationship, but Trier-Bignac sees something deeper going on: “What she’s doing,” the professor says , “It’s saying, ‘Guess what? You don’t have to sit in that seat because that’s where people say you should be. You can get out.'”
So if the poignant private conversations about female sexual function on podcasts make listeners angry at the lack of scientific attention to the matter, that’s largely intentional.
“For me, telling the truth has always been about making women feel less alone and showing women that they have no problem,” Doyle said.
“If 98% of women realize they don’t have any problems and take a deep breath, that’s good enough for me. But if some of them also like, ‘wait a minute’ — then start voting, start marching, start organizing — — that’s one of the ultimate goals.”
Therapist Zentner is embracing a revolution. But for her, the impact of Doyle’s work is more immediate and intimate.
“These days,” she said, “I’m shaking a little less. When I tell the truth, I’m a little less sick.”