Past Present Podcast: Planned Parenthood, SoulCycle, and Caring Corporations

Planned Parenthood

On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss the Planned Parenthood video controversy, the IPO of SoulCycle, and the rise of corporate support for gay rights.

Planned Parenthood

The release of undercover videos showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing the organization’s practice of donating fetal tissue have elicited outrage from conservative outlets. The videos stand in a long tradition of anti-abortion activism, but also demonstrate the increasing power of undercover videos as a form of political activism.


SoulCycle’s initial public offering has attracted the attention of Wall Street investors, but the cycling brand has received steady criticism from cultural critics since its wheels first started spinning. For those interested in reading more about the history of fitness and wellness, be sure to check out Natalia’s essays on these topics.

Caring Corporations

The Dorito’s Rainbow chips are raising money for the It Gets Better Project. Other recent gay-friendly marketing campaigns have included Chipotle’s “Homo Estas” ads and Ben & Jerry’s “I Dough, I Dough” ice cream. Aside from these marketing efforts, corporations have played a leading role in fighting for gay rights since the 1990s.

What’s Making History

  • Natalia responded to a recent New York Timeseditorial that parents rather than schools should have the ultimate say in their children’s lunches. While acknowledging the class and cultural dimensions of food, Natalia argued that food and nutrition experts needed to have the same educational authority in the classroom that math and history instructors also hold. Natalia has written about how school wellness programs may be the next frontier in the nation’s culture wars.
  • Neil discussed Stacy Schiff’s New Yorker article, “The Witches of Salem.” (Schiff’s new book on the Salem Witch Trials comes out in late October.) Neil noted the rich historical literature on the Salem Witch Trials has included Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum’s Salem Possessed and Mary Beth Norton’s In the Devil’s Snare.
  • Niki spoke about Ari Berman’s new book Give Us the Ballot which argues we are in the midst of a counterrevolution in voting rights. If you want to read more about the battle over the ballot while you are waiting for Ari’s book to arrive, Niki has written about the history of voting rights several times in her column at U.S. News. See here, here, and here.

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