What are you doing this weekend? Yoga? Brunch? A long walk in the sunshine? All solid choices, but what about educating yourself on your sexual and reproductive health? A trio of women are organizing a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind, radically honest, and totally vital gathering this weekend to educate people of all walks of life about women’s menstrual, hormonal, reproductive, and sexual health—and we got to speak with one of them to find out why it’s so important to take matters in our own hands (literally) and educate ourselves about our own health issues. (For starters—if we don’t do it, who will?!)
If you’re in the NYC area, swing by Cycles and Sex on Sunday, April 30. All day, from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., panelists will be weighing in on everything from the female orgasm and egg freezing to male fertility and an exhaustive inventory of birth control options. It’ll be a veritable cornucopia of intelligence about living as a woman in this country in 2017. In other words—it’s unmissable.
Whether you feel super educated about your body or in desperate need of answers, you’ll be able to learn a thing or two (or 100) about women’s rights, sexuality, mindfulness, and general wellbeing from this all-around awesome event. It’s the co-creation of Lauren Bille, activist and founding partner of meditation and wellness gatherings Medi Club and The Big Quiet; and Natalia Hailes and Ashley Spivak, birth doulas, reproductive health advocates, and founders of Brilliant Bodies.
The trio found that there’s a need and a serious appetite for information about women’s health and wellness—now more than ever, as the zeitgeist rallying cry goes—and so they banded together to make this thing happen. It’s at 404NYC on April 30, and you can get tickets here. But even if you’re not in the NYC area, read on for an interview with Bille to learn more about the importance of educating oneself about sexual and hormonal health—and why it’s so vital at this moment in history.
STYLECASTER: Can you talk a little about why it is so vital to be educated about one’s own sexual and hormonal health?
Lauren Bille: Well, an obvious reason is—vital means necessary for existence, continuance and wellbeing. Women’s bodies are necessary for the continuance of the human race. And they do this through sexual and hormonal health. Even if a woman doesn’t want to ever give birth, her body will still be functioning to do so. Being educated about our bodies’ main function gives us more power, more freedom, more success, more autonomy. It supports a better future for us and the generations behind us literally—because with information, we will be making better decisions when it comes to bringing life into the world—and figuratively, because when we are more empowered, we are shifting cultural paradigms—ones which are set up to disempower women—and creating new paths for our children.
SC: How does being informed about one’s own sexual and hormonal health lead to being more satisfied and healthy in a relationship?
LB: When you are informed—you are empowered. When you are empowered, you are more comfortable, more confident, more autonomous in your decision making. Knowing yourself allows you to share yourself more clearly and vulnerably with another.
SC: In terms of the timing, why now? Why is this summit so important at this particular moment?
LB: The wellness industry is on the rise, women’s empowerment is trending in the recent years (especially since the election), menstruation is becoming more normal to discuss, some innovations with sex and organic sustainable products have entered the scene—but it’s all still very fringe at times, and disconnected from one common message of health, wellness, rights.
Also, our president demonstrates patriarchal, misogynistic behavior quite publicly. Our vice-president believes in conversion therapy. As the conservative administration takes over the national government, they also have trifecta control in 24 state governments. Roe vs. Wade may be on “solid ground” at this point, but the states and national politicians have already started to do a lot of damage. In 2016, 50 new antiabortion laws were passed in the US at the state level, bringing the total of new state laws since 2010 to 338. 43 states have bans dictating how late into pregnancy women can get abortions. New York State has the second-most abortion clinics after California, and it’s been 47 years since our state updated its abortion law. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, so New York’s law actually predates the seminal court case.
The current law criminalizes abortion, has no exception for the health of the woman or if the fetus is not viable, and only allows doctors—rather than advanced-practice clinicians, like nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants—to perform abortions. We feel like there is no time to wait.
SC: If a woman already feels super educated about her own sexuality and hormones, what can she still learn at Cycles and Sex?
LB: First, I would challenge her. I’d be really surprised if she was fully educated about all her hormones, fluids, sexuality, options, politics, vaginal care, etc. If she was fully educated—I’d probably ask her to jump on board to help this movement. I’d ask her to come to support getting other people educated. I’d ask her to bring all her educated friends. I’d ask her to take a look at our roster and vendors and help us build relationships with people and experts we may be forgetting.
SC: What about if a woman feels super behind and feels like she doesn’t know enough about her own sexuality/hormones/fertility? What would you say to someone who feels intimidated by an event like this?
LB: I would ask her to be brave. I would tell her we are here to raise each other up, and no one will be left behind. I would say she is more than welcome—she is one of the most important people in the room. The only way we can have freedom and power to make the best choices for ourselves and our bodies is to become educated about our choices and our bodies.
SC: What’s the number-one reason why you’d tell a close girlfriend to attend Cycles and Sex?
LB: My close girlfriends should attend because this is for them. It’s for us. It’s to raise us up. It’s for people to be set free from shame and intimidation around their bodies and sexuality. I want my close friends to be confident, empowered, brave, free, generous of spirit. Attending will support them, support me, and support all the people in their life.
SC: How have you used your background in meditation and wellness to inform this event?
LB: All of us—Ash, Nat, and I—bring a integrative, mindful approach to every aspect of the event, ever since it was just an idea. From how we treat each other, how we make decisions, how we interact with all the people helping us, how we communicate with people we hire, how we treat the vendors, speakers and partners, we are being thoughtful, we are pausing, we are letting go.
For me, meditation is a tool for how I live my life. Meditation has helped to support me when I feel overwhelmed because I have so much on my plate, or when I want to run away and give up, or when I’m paralyzed my fear that it’s not going to work out. I’ve walked through those feelings gracefully, which I would attribute to meditation and a few other wellness practices. My involvement in the wellness industry has shown me that there is a huge gap when it comes to shining light on reproductive and sexual health as an integral part to overall wellness.
SC: What do you hope will come of the event?
LB: I hope men, women, and gender non-conforming folks attend. I hope they leave informed, engaged, empowered, and committed to continuing to support women in all areas of their lives to strive for autonomy. I hope it evokes self-reflection about their own relationships to sex and bodies and inspires them to think more critically and keep learning.