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Stripped Bear podcast tells stories of identity and belonging

February 12, 2021

Courtesy of Esther Park '23
ALL SET UP: In order to practice social distancing, Esther Park '23 has a recording space separate from her cohost's.

Co-hosted by Maya Dowling-Wolfe ’23 and Esther Park ’23, the Stripped Bear podcast explores self-identity and self-love every Friday. Each month has two solo episodes—one hosted only by Dowling-Wolfe, and one hosted only by Park—one joint episode and one “wild card” episode. The podcast, which launched on January 1, covers episodes related to the Bowdoin experience and beyond, and has spanned topics from allyship to dating at Bowdoin to fatphobia.

“I think the goal of the podcast, in general, is just to amplify marginalized voices and give people a chance to tell their story,” Dowling-Wolfe said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I think everyone has a story and a life that no one really knows about.”

For Park, the podcast is an extension of her own contemplation of topics such as BIPOC and women’s places in college campuses and male-dominated spaces, which she had pursued through her own work in courses and YouTube videos. She hopes that the episodes also reflect a similar atmosphere as the affinity groups she belongs to at Bowdoin.

“Topics about Black women’s experiences, Asian experiences—that’s a big interest for me because those affinity groups were the avenues that really helped me cope and helped me find happiness and connection at Bowdoin,” Park said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

The podcast began in December, after Dowling-Wolfe was inspired by her friend’s podcast,“Whitman’s So White” in November, and texted Park.

“[Park] was immediately on board,” Dowling-Wolfe said. “We wanted to change the vibe of the podcast to be more personal so we could have more creativity with it.”

Along with their shared passion for examining topics pertaining to race, gender and sexuality, Dowling-Wolfe and Park’s friendship has also been a key part of the podcast.

“I think the podcast works really well because we have such different life experiences,” Dowling-Wolfe said. “We communicate a lot, and we’re pretty honest with things that we want changed or we want fixed.”

Communication has been especially important for the pair as they’ve had to work across a nine-hour time difference, with Park Zooming in from Dubai and Dowling-Wolfe from Maine. In addition to juggling recording times, the Dowling-Wolfe and Park have had to divide production responsibilities such as editing and social media management.

“We’ve been sharing tips and tricks and trying to streamline the content while we take turns on editing, which is kind of hard because the editing really does have a big part in establishing the tone and the voice of the show,” Park said. We’re working on it; it’s a learning process.”

While the pair enjoy working together, both Park and Dowling-Wolfe pointed to how important their individually-hosted episodes have been to them.

“The first solo one that I did which was longing and belonging,” Park said. “The U.S. is the fourth country I’ve lived in. I’ve kind of talked about what I’ve picked up along the way and what I’ve kind of lost along the way. That was really special for me because it’s a big part of my identity and something that I feel like I don’t talk about at great lengths often.”

Dowling-Wolfe added that her first solo episode, which focused on her adoption, was valuable not just in its creation, but in the response she received afterward.

“I was really overwhelmed with the people who listened to it and who reached out,” she said. “It was just such a vulnerable moment for me, and to be met with loving kindness was amazing.”

Both Dowling-Wolfe and Park have appreciated the feedback they’ve received on social media and the support for their content.

“Yesterday I had a friend private message me on a Zoom call in our class being like, ‘Your podcast is so cool, I listened to it!’” Park said.

The pair plans to continue their podcast and to welcome guests from beyond the Bowdoin community in  upcoming episodes. They look forward to continuing their podcast and to learning more about themselves, each other and these impactful topics with every new episode.

“I just want to acknowledge that we’re far from perfect, and we try to word things perfectly and to edit things to the best that we can, but we’re still learning,” Park said. “I thank everyone for their support. It’s a two-woman job and we’re trying our best.”

Courtesy of Maya Dowling-Wolfe '23
PODCAST PRO: Maya Dowling-Wolfe '23 prepares to record another episode of Stripped Bear, safely distanced in her personal workspace.


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