Ask any of my friends or family members. I’ve been a fan of Barstool Sports since I was in college. It embodies some of my favorite things: sports, pop-culture, and a politically incorrect sense of humor.
Their Instagram account never fails to make me laugh and I love listening to their podcasts. I love Chicks in the Office and Schnitt Talk because it feels like I’m just listening to my girlfriends. I like Spittin’ Chiclets and Pardon My Take because it feels like I’m listening to my guy friends. In short, I like Barstool because it’s unapologetically real and hilarious.
Until recently, their most popular podcast (and the most popular podcast in the world with female hosts) was Call Her Daddy, a sex and comedy podcast where best friends Alexandra Cooper, 25, and Sofia Franklyn, 27, discussed their sex lives and navigating the dating scene of New York City. It’s risqué and smutty, but it has it’s funny moments. I’ve never been a regular listener because it’s sometimes too much for even my un-PC sense of humor and I’m not a fan of the majority of the advice they give. However, I still enjoy listening from time to time.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view the podcast), there has been plenty of drama surrounding the podcast, their hosts, Barstool, and one of the host’s boyfriends over the past week. In this article, I’ll break down the drama and also focus on some of the problems with the podcast that reflect larger societal issues.
Breakdown of the Drama
Fans of the popular podcast (known as the “Daddy Gang”) were shocked when Cooper and Franklyn stopped posting episodes in mid-April. On April 21, they posted to their Instagram, “We are always 100% transparent with the Daddy Gang but legally we can’t speak out yet. What we will say is…We will never f***ing leave you Daddy Gang. The minute we can speak WE WILL! #FREETHEFATHERS”
After a few weeks of silence, Barstool Founder Dave Portnoy (a.k.a. “El Presidente”) released an episode under the Call Her Daddy podcast titled “Daddy Speaks” on May 17. I would encourage you to listen to the podcast (it’s only a half-hour, and Portnoy is hilarious) if you want the full story, but I’ll break it down.
The drama is mainly over the ownership of the “Call Her Daddy” intellectual property.
The drama is mainly over the ownership of the Call Her Daddy intellectual property (IP). When Portnoy first heard the podcast, he contacted Cooper about signing a deal with Barstool. He initially thought he was just bringing her on, but Franklyn came with the deal, and they gave their IP to Barstool as a part of their three-year contract. The podcast blew up, leaving both hosts with around half a million dollars (which is ironic because they always claim they’re poor to seem relatable to their listeners) after their first year.
They decided they wanted to renegotiate their contract after the first year was up. A lawyer sent Barstool and Portnoy a list of demands that included “$1 million guaranteed, for each of them," according to Portnoy. They no longer wanted to be Barstool employees and they wanted 50 percent of all money earned from the brand, including merchandise and ads. And they wanted to own the brand.”
In short, they wanted their IP, and they wanted out of Barstool and their contract. They allegedly wanted to take their brand somewhere else to make more money. Portnoy refused to accept the demands, and things went on as normal, but rumors were swirling that Cooper and Franklyn were shopping the podcast around. Portnoy asked if they were, and they denied.
Later, after it was confirmed that they were indeed shopping around the podcast, Portnoy “offered them a deal that would guarantee $500,000 each, plus bonuses. It would also knock six months off the women’s contract and let them walk away at the end with their intellectual property. He estimated that the deal, which paid them both equally, would net millions.”
Cooper wanted to accept the deal, but Franklyn refused, allegedly under the influence of boyfriend Peter Nelson.
Both hosts said they needed time to think about it. Cooper wanted to accept the deal, but Franklyn refused, allegedly under the influence of boyfriend Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President of HBO Sports. Nelson allegedly helped the hosts shop the podcast around to other outlets like Wondery. Cooper was then offered 75% of the IP to host the podcast herself. Franklyn backed out of the deal, citing she felt betrayed by Cooper and has allegedly threatened to sue Portnoy for the IP. The women are no longer on speaking terms, and Cooper has yet to make a statement.
In short, the podcast is on pause until the two hosts can make a deal. When discussing the incident, Portnoy said, “In my 17 years of doing this, I have never dealt with anyone as unprofessional and disloyal and greedy as [Alexandra and Sofia].”
Now that we’ve got the drama, covered, it’s important to discuss the problems with the podcast itself.
Hookup Culture and False Empowerment
The podcast can be very entertaining, but they give terrible and unhealthy dating advice. This includes how to cheat on your partner without them knowing, how to make a sex tape, and ways to manipulate your significant other to get what you want. The show is also about how hookup culture is empowering. They play up that they’re empowered through their sexual freedom, but they also contradict their message in their podcast.
Amber Athey of The Spectator USA says it best. She writes, “Call Her Daddy is ultimately a show about young women who find themselves deeply disillusioned with modern dating, but their solution is to allow men to use and abuse them while insisting that they’re actually the ones in the driver’s seat. Feminism described the sexual revolution as ‘taking back control’ of their sex lives and their bodies, but it also made women unhappier and gave men greater freedom to reduce women to sexual objects.”
Titling one of their episodes “You’re Just A Hole” is a perfect example of Alex and Sofia themselves reducing women to sexual objects. It’s a message they tell their listeners to avoid getting hurt by men who use them, but not giving these men (I’m using that term lightly because boys like these don’t deserve to be called men) the time of day is the truly empowering thing to do. There is nothing more empowering than knowing your worth, and you’re worth way more than to be just a plaything for a guy who wants to use you for his own sexual pleasure.
Madeline Osburn of The Federalist argues that this attitude is a part of a larger societal problem. She writes, “Women like Cooper and Franklyn were raised in a cultural pond that elevated feminists to be the authorities on female happiness. Feminists agree that happiness and power are derived from sexual liberation, even though women in the throes of hookup culture find themselves feeling more depressed and less powerful. The economics of hookup culture means an increasing number of men who are coarse and entitled and women who feel used and discarded.”
The economics of hookup culture means an increasing number of men who are coarse and entitled and women who feel used and discarded.
Osburn has a solid point. Like Cooper and Franklyn, I’m in my mid-twenties and agree that women our age grew up in a culture that taught us casual sex was empowering. However, there is plenty of psychological research that shows that women who participate in casual sex are more likely to experience psychological issues like anxiety and depression, proving that casual sex might not be the best thing for our mental health.
This is further proof that it’s important to teach young women not to find their worth in their sexuality. As women, we shouldn’t be giving ourselves away to guys who want to use us for sex, while claiming we’re sexually liberated and empowered.
Peter “Suit Man” Nelson and the Male Feminist
Needless to say, fans of the podcast are not happy right now. Fans know Franklyn’s boyfriend, Peter Nelson, as “Suit Man” because that’s what she called him on the podcast. After his identity was revealed, fans began roasting him on Twitter. (Everyone expected him to be attractive, but he looks like a mix of Quagmire from Family Guy and Lord Farquaad from Shrek.) Are the memes funny? Yes, but there are other points to make about Nelson and his involvement in the scandal.
Nelson is cited to believe that the “sports industry needs to do a better job of elevating women's stories.”(He also said that one thing his friends would consider to be “so him” was “not tweeting,” so I’m fully convinced this guy is the worst.) As a woman who has been involved in sports writing for over three years, I agree with the sentiment, but it also comes off as very pandering.
Any man who claims to be a “male feminist” is a creep.
It could be because I’m bitter after having some bad experiences with men like this, but I’m convinced (and comedian Bill Burr agrees with me) that any man who claims to be a “male feminist” is a creep. If a man really believes in empowering women and wants to help his girlfriend elevate her career, he needs to show it with his actions rather than his words.
Someone of Nelson’s caliber (he’s the EVP of HBO Sports) should know that shopping around the IP of the podcast was a recipe for disaster and could end in a lawsuit. He can claim that he was trying to help Franklyn find a better deal, but if he really cared he would have let her finish out her contract before finding something better. This leads us to think that this was just a power grab on his behalf. Nelson’s actions show he doesn’t care about Franklyn’s career, and he’s the biggest villain in this whole scandal. It’s also incredibly hypocritical for a woman who claims to host a podcast about women being empowered to throw her career away over a man’s advice.
In short, don’t trust a guy who can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
The Call Her Daddy drama is a lot to take in. However, it’s important to acknowledge some of the underlying problems of the podcast and scandal including the lie that hookup culture is empowering to women and that there’s a difference between men who claim to be “male feminists” and men who are actually respectful to women.