2016 — the year of perioducation? You bet. The Menstrual Revolution is afoot and it’s about bleedin’ time.
The Blood Cycle Conference is on a mission to modernize periods, to shift our experience of menstruation from taboo to holistic, and to bring to light menstrual health alternatives for a better, healthier, happier, more informed and respected period. Is that really too much to ask? Blood Cycle Conference founder Lana Friesen doesn’t think so. (We don’t, either!) In fact, Lana is putting everything she’s got into producing a first-of-its-kind weekend-long conference that will bring together leaders, experts and pioneers of menstrual health all under one roof in Vancouver this September.
In order to pull it all together by then, Lana just launched a kickstarter to raise funds to cover venue and speaker costs. She is counting on all of us to show our support by contributing — and by doing so, we are casting our vote for better cycling! PEER-ee-od.
We recently checked in with Lana about her inspiration for the conference, who it’s for, why it’s so necessary, and what it’s like to take on such a big project like this. She also shares her favorite go-to period tea and her thoughts on the “flawed male.” Read on!
(Disclaimer: Cycledork Founder Jennilyn Carson is helping to co-organize this awesome event!)
How did you think up the Blood Cycle Conference? What was your inspiration?
Lana: I began looking for answers to my own health issues; I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2012, and once I began finding answers that aren’t really available in the mainstream, I became very passionate about sharing that information and resources with others.
I also found that while there were all these great movements happening to end taboo and stigmatization of periods and menstruation, the crucial missing component is health! There’s this left-over assumption that debilitating pain, irritability, food cravings, etc. are all just a “part” of the menstrual cycle. I’d like the conference to help people realize that having a period doesn’t have to entail being in pain.
A conference just seemed to make sense. There were so many different parts I wanted to include: dietary health, information about hormones so we can actually understand cycles, self-care techniques like uterine massage, and non-hormonal contraception. The more I dug into different aspects of health, the more I found information that just seemed SO vital, and yet SO not in the mainstream.
Who is this conference for?
It is for every single menstruator who is seeking to make their period different in some way: less painful, more peaceful, less disruptive, more predictable, less mysterious…something that can be remembered with joy, and maybe even celebrated! The reality is, it’s 2016. This natural phenomenon doesn’t need to be the big mystery that it has been for so many years.
Dealing with PCOS myself, I still sometimes have missed periods. And although I’m by no means an exemplar of a perfect period, I’m trying to view my period as a “monthly report card” like our Keynote Lara Briden recommends in her book. If you start understanding your cramps as an attempt from your body to communicate with you about your lifestyle, or about your overall health, it can really change the narrative!
Why is it necessary?
The conference is necessary because it’s the next progressive step in feminism. The birth control pill was so liberating because it gave people a choice about when to have children, or to choose not to have children. We have to go beyond that. We can’t settle with something that gives one benefit, but at the same time compromises our health and requires huge sacrifice (like our happiness, our libido, etc!). We need to continue expanding our choices: choices in contraception that don’t mess up our bodies, choices in menstrual products, etc. And with these expanding choices, we need to have the information needed to make informed decisions.
The conference will pool together people and products to make informed decision-making easier and more accessible.
What sort of alternative health methods and products will be found at the conference?
Attendees will be able to check out reusable pads, menstrual cups, and I’m hoping some different forms of contraception, because that’s a HUGE step in period repair. There will also be many different books available, and some alternative methods like movement hygiene: your uterus motility is also an important yet neglected element in menstrual health!
What’s been the most daunting task in your planning so far?
I’ve put on other events before, and it was always a very linear process: choose a date, place a deposit on a venue, book some performers/presenters, sell tickets, and voilà: you have a show. I knew planning a conference would be a much larger initiative, but it is actually an entirely different ball game.
I’ve found a lot of things to be constant “chicken or egg” dilemmas. I needed sponsors to help book a venue. Sponsors needed to see what speakers I had. Speakers wanted to know what date. To decide a date, I needed to book a venue. And on and on it went in this cycle! Luckily I just decided I had nothing to lose and I started emailing people. The community has very been very supportive, as Jen Lewis told me they are! It’s been heart-warming. I’ve got an excellent roster of interested speakers who have been very understanding of the tentative nature of things. I’ve spoken to potential sponsors who are interested in helping at varying levels. I was pleased to meet with Madeleine and Suzanne from Lunapads who didn’t just offer financial support: they went beyond that and gave me some entrepreneurial advice that I very much appreciate — it’s clear that they and others in the community are very interested in this conference becoming a reality.
A lot of menstruators hate their periods…what would you like them to know that could help them (maybe) not hate them so much?
I just want to encourage them to ask “why?”…Why do you hate your period? Is it painful? Why is it so painful? Is it debilitating? And then I want to emphasize: it doesn’t have to be that way. There are options. There are ways to solve it. If you’ve tried everything your doctor told you, chances are you haven’t tried everything yet.
Try thinking about the actual anatomy of your uterus and if retroflexion or retroversion is causing any problems. Try thinking about how your diet impacts your hormonal and gut health. Try thinking about how your contraception choice might be influencing your body and mind.
Look for answers. Be your own detective. Don’t settle for the idea that you’re just going to have to suffer through it for the rest of your life. I believe that’s part of what patriarchy has left us with: “well, of course you’re going to suffer, your anatomy is the “flawed male” (quoting Aristotle here). No, thank you!
March is Women’s History Month. Is there a woman in history who inspires you most?
My two favorite figures from history are Audre Lorde and Simone de Beauvoir. Simone de Beauvoir’s observation of women as “the Other” rang true in her time and continues to ring true today as many of her predictions about the future of society’s view and treatment of women came true. Elizabeth Kissling summarizes de Beauvoir’s view in her apt SMCR post: “menstruation does not make women the Other; it is because she is Other that menstruation is a curse.”
Whether or not people consciously think of female-bodied people as “flawed males,” the treatment of us as “the Other” continues in so many ways to this day. We could have the equivalent of the pill for men for contraception, and yet such options aren’t really available. Why would men risk their happiness, their libido, their weight and compromise their health when they don’t have to? But why should women?
When a doctor’s standard approach for acne, irregular periods, irritability, etc. is to “regulate the period” by prescribing synthetic drugs that actually suppress the hormone-producing organs of our bodies, there is no denial that some remnants of Aristotelian thought of anatomy is playing at least an unconscious role.
The idea that our bodies and our processes need “regulating” from external synthetic sources and that we’re better off with such regulation is damaging not only to our bodies, but to our psyches.
I’d like to think that Simone de Beauvoir would be interested in speaking at our event, if she were alive today. I’d like to think that she sees this shift in our view of menstruation and of hormonal contraception as a big step in re-asserting ourselves and advocating for our female reproductive health.
What’s your personal go-to period remedy?
I would say a tea I make that makes things better for me on a variety of levels. It’s relaxing, alleviates cramps & prevents them, and helps my period start when it’s maybe been a couple days late. It’s got: motherwort, mugwort, lavender, nettles, raspberry leaves, parsley, and sometimes licorice root to sweeten.
I also have a special yoga routine I do just for the menstrual phase — it helps my lower back!
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