Inappropriate Questions

By CBC Podcasts

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Have you ever been curious to know the answer to a question that might be intrusive or too personal for other people? On their biweekly podcast Inappropriate Questions, now in its third season, cohosts Elena Hudgins Lyle and Harvinder Wadhwa make a space for curiosity where guests can unpack the tricky questions they get asked and learn stories about them—whether they ask if polyamorous people cope with jealousy in relationships, if Indigenous people are full Native, or brave the dreaded “have you lost weight” assumption. Created by Hudgins Lyle alongside producers Sabrina Bertsch and Cindy Long, the podcast was built out of a school project while they were studying Media Production in Toronto, Ontario. Bertsch, who’s mixed-race, had been asked a lot of questions about her background and ethnicity after studying abroad for a semester. Long and Lyle, both LGBT, would also get frequently asked about their identity and sexuality. Even if these frustrations served as a jumping-off point for them, they quickly realized that they could also learn about a variety of topics from others too—especially from their parents and older generations. So they auditioned a “dad-like” figure to be a counterpart as co-host. Wadhwa, a project manager with an engineering degree, was the unanimous choice. “Harv was the very first interview we did,” Lyle says. “After the interview, he was like, ‘All right, how many more of these do you have to go?’ You know I'm it, right? You can stop now.’” In each episode, guests share stories about being asked the week’s specific inappropriate question. Though, occasionally, they'll have an expert or academic who can break down more of the historical and social aspect of the question. Both Hudgins Lyle and Wadhwa bridge together their different generational perspectives to challenge themselves and their guests, having casual, yet meaningful conversations that are engaging, unpredictable, and humorous. “Though I've been in Canada for over 20 years, I consider myself an immigrant coming from India,” Wadhwa says. “So, what the show is also trying to do is also bring the balance. Because if everybody's thinking the same way, then we lose out a lot.” Even if they sometimes step into difficult territory, what they both hope to provide with each episode is a starting point for listeners to ease into these topics. “It could be that we've left you with some new ideas and perspectives from the guests who have this lived experience,” Lyle says. “You don't need to change and develop overnight, but hopefully, we've given you a starting place where you can then do your own research or reflection.”

Episode Date
Is it helpful to ask a blind person “Do you need help?”
00:36:50
People who are blind or have low vision sometimes get approached with offers of help—whether they need it or not. Is it useful to offer help, or is it overstepping? MasterChef Season 3 winner Christine Ha joins Harv and Elena to talk about building a culinary career while losing her vision, and when she finds this question to be helpful. Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Director of Research at the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, suggests ways to make this question more useful, and explains how inclusive design could make this question less necessary. Plus, a spoken word piece by Amy Amantea about what it feels like to receive inappropriate questions as someone living with sight loss. Connect with our guest below: Christine Ha: IG: @theblindcook Tw: @theblindcook Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Sep 22, 2021
Should I ask someone with depression/anxiety “Have you tried _____?”
00:24:38
Especially in the past year and a half, lots of us have been trying new things to help manage our mental health. But can suggesting things like meditation and exercise actually help someone with anxiety and/or depression? Elena and Harv talk to comedian and mental health advocate Kelsey Darragh about what she does to cope, checking in with loved ones, and why this question can help open discussions about mental health. For another angle on this question, check out our Season 2 episode “Have you tried _____?” where we discuss this question with people who have chronic illnesses. Connect with our guest below: Kelsey Darragh: Tw: @kelseydarragh IG: @kelseydarragh Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Sep 08, 2021
Can I ask a sex worker “What was your worst experience?”
00:37:52
Whether it’s by clients, friends or strangers, sex workers are frequently asked to share their bad experiences. Elena and Harv talk with author and sex worker Andrea Werhun about the misconceptions surrounding sex work and why people feel entitled to their stories. AK Saini discusses what people want to hear when they ask this question, and shares the positive aspects of their job. Connect with our guests below: Andrea Werhun IG: @weenerwoman Tw: @andreawerhun AK Saini IG: @akaaksaini Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Aug 25, 2021
Should I ask someone “Why are you single?”
00:45:21
In a world of rom-coms and love songs, being single can be seen as a bad thing. It’s something our friends, relatives, and even potential partners ask about, but why do we assume we need a partner to be complete? Elena and Harv talk to comedian Salma Hindy about the parental pressure to get married and how to feel okay with being single. Asexual activist and model Yasmin Benoit breaks down myths about asexuality and aromanticism, and why she’s never felt single. Money and culture writer Renée Sylvestre-Williams shares how financial systems often aren’t built with single people in mind. Connect with our guests below: Salma Hindy IG: @salma.hindy Tw: @salooma911 Yasmin Benoit IG: @theyasminbenoit Tw: @theyasminbenoit Renée Sylvestre-Williams IG: @reneesylvestrewilliams Tw: @reneeswilliams Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Aug 11, 2021
Can I ask a Black friend “How can I do better?”
00:38:33
Wanting to do better when it comes to fighting racism is great—but even with good intentions, asking the Black people in your life to tell you how isn’t the way to start. Elena and Harv talk to author and activist Frederick Joseph about what makes this question frustrating, where to find resources, and how to fill someone’s metaphorical cup. Professor Andrea Davis explains emotional labour, our responsibility to seek to know, and how “doing better” isn’t a quick and easy process. Connect with our guests below: Frederick Joseph IG: @FredTJosephTw: @FredTJoseph Andrea Davis: Tw: @Adavis777A Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Jul 28, 2021
(Re-release) “Why don’t you drink?”
00:42:31
This week, we’re bringing back an episode from our first season. Harv doesn’t drink alcohol, and he doesn’t have a problem with people asking him why. He and Elena speak to numerous guests to find out whether or not they think “Why don’t you drink?” is an inappropriate question. Along the way, there’s a lot to unpack about alcohol’s role in our society and our personal lives. This episode was originally released February 18, 2019. Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Jul 14, 2021
Is it okay to ask an adoptee “Do you know your real parents?”
00:47:51
Adoptees all have different experiences when it comes to family. We might assume some parents are “real” and others aren’t—and that anyone who doesn’t know their birth parents is searching for them. But no one term or story fits for everyone who’s adopted. Elena and Harv talk to podcaster Kristen Meinzer about what’s behind the word “real” and the myth that all adoptive parents are great parents. Adoption advocate Tony Hynes shares his story of growing up as a Black child raised by two white moms, while staying connected to his birth family. Raven Sinclair, a professor of social work who was adopted as part of the Sixties Scoop, talks about reconnecting with her birth family and culture, and how social systems incentivize the removal of Indigenous children from their families. Connect with our guests below: Kristen Meizner: IG: @k10meinzer Tw: @kristenmeinzer Tony Hynes: IG: @tony_hy Raven Sinclair: Tw: @JustSaying2040 Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Jun 30, 2021
Introducing: Telling Our Twisted Histories
00:23:18
Words have the power to shape how we see the world and each other. In Telling Our Twisted Histories, host Kaniehti:io Horn guides listeners through over 70 conversations with people from 15 Indigenous communities sharing their truths about the impact of words on our perspectives, cultures, and lives. Together we will decolonize our histories – and ourselves – one word at a time. More episodes are available at smarturl.it/twistedhistories
Jun 23, 2021
Can I ask a polyamorous person “Do you get jealous?”
00:36:48
When every love song and romcom is about finding your one true love, the idea of having multiple romantic partners can raise a lot of questions. One thing polyamorous people get asked a lot is whether they get jealous. But what really is jealousy and where does it come from? And is it different for people who are non-monogamous? Elena and Harv put these questions to polyamorous therapist Laura Turnbull, who also shares the rewards and challenges of non-monogamy. Polyamory educator Gabrielle Smith gives some tips on handling jealousy and ways to hype yourself up. Connect with our guests below: Laura Turnbull: IG: @thequeerpsychologist Gabrielle Smith: IG: @bygabriellesmith Tw: @GabrielleASmith Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Jun 16, 2021
Should I ask my coworker “How much do you make?”
00:37:00
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, especially when we grow up hearing that it’s a taboo topic. It can be really scary to ask a coworker how much they make. But does talking about our salaries more openly lead to more equal pay? Harv and Elena talk to Monica about what she learned from asking this question to her coworkers. YA author L.L. McKinney shares why she started #PublishingPaidMe and whether large-scale pay transparency can lead to change. Diversity and inclusion expert Raafi Alidina talks about the limits of asking this question and what steps employers can take. Connect with our guests below: Monica: IG: @monica.yumeng L.L. McKinney: Tw: @ElleOnWords Raafi Alidina: Tw: @ralidina Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Jun 02, 2021
What does it mean to ask “How are you?” in a pandemic?
00:20:49
In the pandemic, answering “How are you?” isn’t as easy as saying “I’m fine.” Elena and Harv chat with linguistics professor Deborah Tannen and try to figure out if we should still ask “How are you?” when things just haven’t been great. Also featuring some of our favourite pandemic email greetings and signoffs. For more on this question, check out our Season 2 episode “How are you?” where we explore what this question means when you’re grieving. Connect with Deborah on Facebook: @deborah.tannen.1 Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
May 19, 2021
Is asking “Where are you from?” appropriate small talk?
00:41:05
It’s a staple of small talk, but should it be? People are genuinely curious to learn about each other’s backgrounds or cultures. While this question might start a good conversation, it can often make people feel othered and unwelcome. So where do we go from here? Harv and Elena speak with journalist Eternity Martis about getting this question as a Black woman both in big cities and smaller towns. Eva Jewell offers some insight into how this question can be a great way to make connections when Indigenous peoples ask it to each other. Psychology professor Kevin Nadal shares some helpful tips for anyone who asks or gets asked this question. Connect with our guests below: Eternity Martis: @eternitymartis on Twitter Eva Jewell: @ebaans_ on Twitter Kevin Nadal: @kevinnadal on Twitter and Instagram Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
May 05, 2021
Is it okay to ask an amputee “What happened to you?”
00:41:15
Not every amputee has a shocking story behind their amputation, and those who do don’t always want to talk about. When your experience is a visible part of you, people often ask about it. Elena and Harv talk with musician Julianna Romanyk about her first day of school speech as a congenital amputee. Comedian Courtney Gilmour shares her thoughts on “inspiration porn” and how cab drivers inspire some of her comedy. Reporter Kerry Benjoe tells us how she uses this question to start important conversations about domestic violence. And adaptive athlete Jamie Gane shares what strangers get wrong about his amputation (no, he wasn’t in the army). Connect with our guests below: Julianna Romanyk: @heyromanyk on Twitter Courtney Gilmour: @courtneyugh on Twitter and @courtneyjgilmour on Instagram Kerry Benjoe: @kerryberryxox on Twitter Jamie Gane: @jamieganeadaptiveathlete on Instagram Follow us! Twitter: @IQ_Podcast Instagram: @IQ_Podcast
Apr 21, 2021
Season 3 is getting even more inappropriate!
00:02:15
2020 was wild but 2021 is wilder with even more inappropriate questions. Harv and Elena are back to unpack more tricky conversations with our guests through personal stories, advice, and dad jokes. Season 3 is coming your way April 21st, with new episodes every other week.
Apr 14, 2021
“Can I speak to your manager?”
00:35:35
Asking for the manager can be loaded. It can reveal who we think holds the power in a business—and who we think doesn’t. So what should a customer do when they’re not getting the right service? Jason Suerte Felipe shares his experience handling this question as a retail cashier. Beauty practitioner Asha Allen-Silverstein tells us why people don’t believe she owns her own business as a Black woman. Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts sheds light on the history of the worker-customer power dynamic and where it comes from. Find the webcomic by Amie Wilensky for this episode on our Instagram @IQ_Podcast Connect with our guests below: Jason Suerte Felipe: Ig @JasonSuerte Asha Allen-Silversetin: Ig @torontobrowsxbeauty Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: Tw @alignmentquest Amie Wilensky: Ig: amiewilenskyart
Jul 21, 2020
“How old are you?"
00:36:54
Is it rude to ask someone their age? Harv isn’t comfortable telling people how old he is anymore and he’s not alone. He and Elena speak to author and activist Ashton Applewhite to debunk some myths about aging and discuss why our society fears growing older. Lifestyle writer Elizabeth Wellington explains how being seen as younger can mask the realities of aging for Black women, and actor Sam Pancake shares his story of facing ageism within the LGBTQ+ community. Connect with our guests below: Ashton Applewhite: Tw @thischairrocks Elizabeth Wellington: Tw @EWellingtonPHL Sam Pancake: Tw @jsampancake
Jul 14, 2020
“Have you tried _____?”
00:34:16
Have you tried yoga? Or changing your diet? Well-meaning people propose lots of ways for people with chronic illnesses to treat their conditions. But managing a chronic illness can be more complicated than we might think. Elena and Harv speak with BuzzFeed deputy director and author Lara Parker about handling unsolicited advice as well as navigating privilege as it relates to chronic illness and potential treatments. Advocate Sneha Dave gives her thoughts on the importance of building a community with youth who share her chronic illness, and patient expert Lara Bloom explains why it can be so hard to find treatments that help. The webcomic for this week’s episode is by Hana Shafi. Find it on our Instagram @IQ_Podcast. Connect with our guests below: Lara Parker: Tw @laraeparker Sneha Dave: Tw @snehadave98 Lara Bloom: Tw @LaraBloom Hana Shafi: Ig @FrizzKidArt
Jul 07, 2020
“Are you full Native?”
00:36:33
Many Indigenous people get asked how much Indigenous ancestry they have. But identity isn’t all about fractions. Harv and Elena talk to Falen Johnson from The Secret Life of Canada about her identity journey and her “therapy play.” Actress Kaniehtiio Horn discusses how she navigates Hollywood stereotypes and what makes her feel connected to her people. Dr. Kim TallBear tells us why DNA alone doesn’t make someone Indigenous. Our webcomic this week is by Rhael McGregor, available on our Instagram @IQ_Podcast. Take a listen to The Secret Life of Canada’s episode about the Indian Act here: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/secretlifeofcanada/what-do-you-really-know-about-the-indian-act-1.5188255 Connect with our guests below: Falen Johnson: Tw @FalenJohnson Kaniehtiio Horn: Tw @kaniehtiio Dr. Kim TallBear: Tw @KimTallBear Rhael McGregor: IG @raysdrawlings
Jun 30, 2020
“How did you get pregnant?”
00:29:36
There are lots of ways to start a family as an LGBTQ+ person, and not all of them are well understood. Harv and Elena speak to queer mom Farrah Khan about why she didn’t want to explain her pregnancy to strangers, and some of the challenges queer people face when it comes to getting pregnant. Journalist Freddy McConnell takes us through his ups and downs of navigating pregnancy as a trans man and single dad. The webcomic for this episode was created by Louise Reimer, find it on our Instagram @IQ_podcast Check out Freddy’s podcast Pride & Joy from BBC Sounds for more stories about queer families. Connect with our guests below: Farrah Khan - Tw: @farrahsafiakhan Freddy McConnell - Tw: @freddymcconnell Louise Reimer - IG: @louisereimer
Jun 23, 2020
“How are you?”
00:32:38
It’s hard to know the right thing to say to someone who’s grieving. Even the simplest questions aren’t always helpful. Elena and Harv speak to comedian Michael Cruz Kayne, who lost his child, about why we should all talk about grief more. Grief counsellor Kayla Moryoussef gives her advice on what to say next time you want to help a friend who’s experienced a loss. The webcomic for this episode was created by Sara Goetter, find it on our Instagram @IQ_podcast Connect with our guests below: Michael Cruz Kayne – Tw: @cruzkayne Kayla Moryoussef – IG: @gooddeathdoula Sara Goetter – Tw: @sgoetter
Jun 16, 2020
“Have you lost weight?”
00:35:30
Asking someone if they’ve lost weight is often seen as a compliment, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Elena and Harv talk with performer Ivory and writer Bob Kerr to unpack some thoughts about weight. Dietician Kimmie Singh discusses misconceptions between weight and health. Find the webcomic by Mollie Cronin for this episode on our Instagram @IQ_Podcast Connect with our guests below: Ivory (IG: @pureivorydotca) Bob Kerr (Tw: @mrbobkerr) Kimmie Singh, Body Positive Dietician (IG: @bodypositive_dietitian) Mollie Cronin (IG: @art.brat.comics)
Jun 09, 2020
We’re back with Season 2!
00:02:14
Elena and Harv are coming back with a whole new list of inappropriate questions. Our millennial and dad duo sit down with more guests to find kinder ways to navigate difficult conversations.
May 26, 2020
Bonus: Asked and Answered:
00:15:26
Elena and Harv sit down with Rymn, Harv’s daughter, to answer your questions! Learn about their favourite podcasts, potential questions for Season 2, and what millennial slang Harv thinks he understands. Thank you for listening to Season 1 of Inappropriate Questions! We are so incredibly thankful we got to share so many interesting stories and perspectives with you. Follow us @iq_podcast for future updates.
Mar 18, 2019
"Why don't you have kids?"
00:27:49
People are curious about the choice to be childfree. Harv and Elena discuss it with Meghan Daum, editor of Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. Sociologists Dr. Amy Blackstone and Dr. Kimya Dennis share some insight into their respective research about childfree people.
Mar 11, 2019
"Why do/don't you wear a headscarf?"
00:28:34
Some Muslim women cover their heads, and some don’t—either way, they get asked questions. Elena and Harv speak to writer and entrepreneur Mariam Nouser about her experiences both wearing and not wearing a hijab. Also, journalist Amira Elghawaby tells us why she might actually like to hear more questions about her headscarf from strangers.
Mar 04, 2019
Bonus: "How did we get here?"
00:17:38
You’ve met the hosts, you’ve met the guests, but what about the producers? Harv interviews the Inappropriate Questions team about their not-so-inappropriate origins. Hear how the project started, how Harv ascended to stardom, and some of our favourite moments from the season!
Feb 25, 2019
"Why don't you drink?"
00:41:41
Harv doesn’t drink alcohol, and he doesn’t have a problem with people asking him why. He and Elena speak to numerous guests to find out whether or not they think “Why don’t you drink?” is an inappropriate question. Along the way, there’s a lot to unpack about alcohol’s role in our society and our personal lives.
Feb 18, 2019
"Can you have sex?"
00:29:06
People are curious about sex. They can be really curious about people with physical disabilities’ sex lives. Disability After Dark host Andrew Gurza joins Elena and Harv to talk sex and disability. Elena also calls up educator and paracanoe champion Christine Selinger.
Feb 11, 2019
"What are you?"
00:24:31
Asking a mixed-race person about their background can get problematic. Elena and Harv welcome Rema Tavares, who founded Mixed in Canada. Also featuring educator Charlotte Henay.
Feb 05, 2019
"Have you had the surgery?"
00:31:13
Transgender folks can get asked invasive questions about their bodies. Harv and Elena speak to student activist Robert Molloy. Also featuring trans youth mentor Danielle Araya from The 519.
Feb 04, 2019
Episode 0: Trailer
00:02:38
People are curious and that's great. But there are some questions you just shouldn't ask—or at least not like that. Introducing Inappropriate Questions, hosted by Elena Hudgins Lyle and Harvinder Wadhwa.
Jan 21, 2019