Christine Garvin 0:02
Hey, everybody, welcome to this week’s episode of hormonally speaking, I am really, really excited. I mean, you guys know I love doing this podcast and all the amazing people that I get a chance to speak with. But this week, I’m speaking with somebody that I think has been essential in changing the narrative around things that are particularly important for women today, and that is, how we give birth, and then how we take care of our reproductive system and the choices that we have around that. And her name is Abby Epstein, and she made her film directing debut at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival with the documentary V day until the violence stops featuring Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek and Rosie Perez. The film won and audience award Vancouver’s Amnesty International Film Festival and premiered on Lifetime Television, receiving both an Emmy and a Gracie alum award. In 2007. She teamed up with Ricki Lake for their widely acclaimed documentary, the business of being born, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released by New Line Cinema Netflix and broadcast on Showtime. The film success led to their follow up series, more business of being born, featuring Cindy Crawford, Alanis Morissette, Gisele Bundchen and Christy Turlington plus a book your best birth, published by hatchet. Next, the duo teamed up for the weed the people, which premiered at the 2018 Southwest. SX s a w Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the Nashville Film Festival. We the people was acquired by Netflix for distribution. In April 2022. They released the business of birth control, which premiered at the DFC, NYC and had played at Sheffield doc Fest and human rights Film Festival Berlin. It opened an IFC theaters in New York City. Under their company Bo BB films Miss Epstein and Miss Lake produce the documentaries breast milk and the mama Sherpas. Prior to her film work, Miss Epstein directed Broadway theater helming national tours and international productions of rent and the Vagina Monologues. Welcome, Abby,
Abby Epstein 2:13
thank you happiness,
Christine Garvin 2:15
oh, my god, reading through the via you’ve done so, so much. It’s just powerful, so much more than I even mentioned before we delve into your bio. So let’s start off with I was wanting to start off with the business of being born. But let’s actually backtrack to the Vagina Monologues. Because that is a hugely impactful thing that changed so many lives, too. So how did that even come about in the first place?
Abby Epstein 2:44
Yeah, it’s funny I was at I was telling you the 25th anniversary of the day last night. It’s hard to believe. But yeah, I mean that really. So for me, that show was kind of my transition from theater to documentary film. So I was direct. And that’s actually how I met my producing partner Ricki Lake. He was in the New York production used to have like three celebrities rotating and in the show, and she was in one of my companies, and we became friendly that way. And yeah, so I wouldn’t had directed the play off Broadway and did a bunch of the national tours. And I had a production running in Mexico City for 10 years. I mean, the show was yeah, it was really crazy hit. resonated, I think with so many. And it’s hard to think back. Right. But like we couldn’t actually say vagina like the New York Times would not print the ads.
Christine Garvin 3:43
Right. Crazy, right? How much is Yeah. So thank you. Thankfully, some things have changed. Right? Yeah, have some to go of course, but
Abby Epstein 3:54
I know. So yeah, it was a real kind of breakthrough revolutionary like piece of writing. And it was such an honor to be a part of that. And so I had suggested to the author that we like should document some of the traveling we were doing and the productions that were going on, and mostly the stories of like sexual assault and abuse that we were capturing all over the world and how these women were really being transformed and like turning their pain into power. And so that became my first documentary. That’s kind of a trial by fire. I just kind of jumped in and didn’t know much about documentary film. And it was a very steep, hard learning curve, but
Christine Garvin 4:44
my favorite way
Abby Epstein 4:47
The film opened, Sundance was very successful. So yeah, so I’ve just always really, you know, been involved in I guess, kind of like female and Our moment through the arts. And I think one of the interesting things is that in the Vagina Monologues, you probably don’t remember but like the last monologue of the show is called, I was there in the room. And it’s when the playwright Eve Ensler describes being at the birth of her granddaughter. And we used to get a lot of pushback from the furry community, because they didn’t like the monologue. And they thought, God, you have this whole show empowering vaginas. And then the last monologue, you have this woman and it has these lines, like the doctor stitching her up, and you know, very kind of passive. And at the time, I was so kind of undereducated. You know, I mean, 20 in my 20s, I mean, I wasn’t thinking about having babies, and I just thought, Oh, my God, those midwives are relentless, you know, like, what do they want from us? Like, I have so many issues, you know, can’t they just see, this is just art. And she’s just like, you know, a witness to a birth and she’s just riding, right. But then, you know, a couple years down the line, Ricky asked me, she had had this home birth. And she had said to me, you know, we I really want to do something with this, like, topic. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s a book. I don’t know if it’s, you know, and I was like, Okay, and again, I was like, the midwives
Christine Garvin 6:39
are gonna come for us, man.
Abby Epstein 6:42
And I really was like, I just didn’t know much about it, Christine. And so she Ricky gave me kind of a Gaskins book spiritual midwifery. She gave me Robbie Davis Floyd’s book, birth is an American rite of passage. And then she showed me like some home footage of her home birth. And I swear to you, I mean, I’m, I think a lot of people experienced this when they read animes book, but it was like, it was a real awakening for me. And I didn’t understand fully I understand the bodily autonomy, intersection with feminism, as it had to do with abortion and reproductive rights and abuse and rape. I didn’t understand the intersection of bodily autonomy when it had to do with, you know, more positive rituals, you know, childbirth, the menstrual cycle, and you know, Hormonal Health, like, I really didn’t understand that. So, making the business of being born was really a journey for me, you know, into understanding why, like birth shouldn’t just be viewed as like a clinical medical event. And, of course, like, if you’ve seen the film, you know, that I ended up getting pregnant during the filming, and then my birth, and my birth story became part of the movie, which was very unplanned and unexpected. So, yeah, it was a really special film, and we’re actually having our 50th anniversary this year. And so we’ve got plans to kind of re release the film. And we have some, like exciting ideas of like new interviews and new stories, and really taking a look at like, where birth culture has come right, in the teen years and where has really failed.
Christine Garvin 8:38
So for those that haven’t seen that movie, what are some of the big highlights that you took away from that experience, especially since you ended up going through the experience of having a child while creating this movie? What do you think that you really discovered about our system of birth health care?
Abby Epstein 8:58
Yeah, I mean, I think the big takeaways from the movie and the reason that I think to this day, 15 years later, nothing has replaced the movie. And pretty much, you know, if you go to a childbirth education class, or if you hire a doula, pretty much the first thing they will say is watch this movie. And the reason is, because, you know, I really recently saw the movie again in front of an audience and I was kind of shocked by it, because it’s very brazen. It’s very bold, like, I’m not sure we could get away with it today. I actually not sure that like, you know, a Netflix would have picked it up kind of thing, because nowadays, we are so scared of canceled culture. And we’re so scared of like, oh, a big group, like doctors being mad. Mm, yeah. And the doctors did get mad at us for the week and we did a negative press, but that didn’t stop you know, a network or Movie Studio from releasing it and submitting it for Academy Awards and all that. So I think, you know, anyway, back to your question, the big takeaway really from the movie is that the way that birth evolved, you know, in the United States is it was really taken out of the hands of midwives, you know, be it black granny midwives in the south, or, you know, be it immigrant midwives who come from Europe and trained, you know, it was really taken away and taken over by a surgical profession, you know, the obstetric profession and moved into the hospital. And I think now, it’s almost like the system of birth, you know, in the United States, is something to be very wary about. And you really need to be incredibly proactive. It really is all about money and liability. Yeah. And it is really not centered on mother and baby. You can see that in our horrendous mortality rates, or maternal mortality rates for black and brown men and women. Yeah. The highest in the developed world. But you, you know, you can also just see that in, you know, when I was making the film, I was just shocked, you know, by the sheer amount of parents and mothers who kind of went in with this trust and this naivete, and just said, Well, yeah, I wanted a vaginal birth. And of course, but then you know, this happened, and that happened, and then the clock ran out. But then they told me, you know, that they needed to start this drug, and then that drug had this reaction. So then they said, they had to get the baby out quick. So then we ended up with a C section. I mean, these were like, 80% of the story is, yeah, everybody thought their C section was necessary, you know, everybody really thought that they could just sort of, you know, go in blind, and just trust the system, and they would get the best birth. And that’s truly, truly not the case. So, you know, those are really the big takeaways of the movie is just that there are options. If you are one of those people that just, you know, wants to be as numbed out as possible and as disconnected from the experience as possible, and you just want the baby placed in your arms at the end. And you don’t want to go to a childbirth class, and you don’t want to learn how to, you know, manage labor, and then great, I mean, the film probably has nothing for you. But if you, you know, have a feeling that birth is a spiritual, emotional, sacred experience, and, you know, an empowering experience, and you would like to, you know, be in the driver’s seat, so to say, and really create a supportive birth team. There are options out there, and there are many kinds of options. And it doesn’t mean you have to be at home with a midwife. I mean, if does focus on a lot of home births, but it also shows birth centers as a
Christine Garvin 13:31
birth centers, or, you know, with three and we’d like, but yeah,
Abby Epstein 13:35
yeah, so that’s really, I would say, like, a lot of the big takeaways, but it’s, it’s, it’s distressing. And I think nowadays, you know, I don’t know, I think even when we were making the film, it was so controversial, because back then it was sort of controversially, like, challenge women’s health on any level. Yeah, yeah. Or challenge health care. Now. It’s more accepted. Right, right. Like right now we’re getting a lot more been the disservice and The Understander service. So
Christine Garvin 14:11
yeah, well, you know, it’s, I talk a lot about this on the podcast, because I went through my own experience, not with having a child but having a reproductive surgery. So I had a fibroid removed, right? First surgery ever, and they unknowingly burned me in three places in my intestines During that surgery. And I landed in the ER with sepsis. Two weeks later, lost half my colon, ended up having an ostomy bag for six and a half months, you know, on and on and on and the naivety I went with into that situation, you know, and never hearing about this kind of thing happening. And it happens. I mean, I’m a bit of an extreme case, but there are a decent amount of women that do get nicked in their colon or their bladder during a reproductive surgery. And this is not talked about, you know, people are just floored when they hear my, my story. And so it’s been a, you know, big thing for me to talk about this and share about this and that this happens kind of in this secretiveness, you know, because medical malpractice, when it comes to these things is really, really, really hard. Because technically, it’s in the, you know, the mounds of paperwork that they give you that you have to sign your life away. And people’s lives are sometimes I was lucky, I was able to be reversed. And, you know, get rid of my ostomy bag, but there still will be certain situations that I have to deal with for the rest of my life because of that. And there’s a lot of other women that aren’t as lucky. And they do hysterectomy. He’s, like, you know, I mean, similar to C sections, right? It’s just like, let’s something’s wrong here. Let’s just do a hysterectomy. And without taking into consideration, so many things, like, what the uterus is important for beyond just giving birth, you know? So my goal always is to educate as many women around these issues as possible. And that’s why I’m so grateful for you guys putting together these movies, right, both the business of being born and then your more recent one, the business of birth control, which is certainly mind blowing for so many women because this information about birth control has not been out there. Right. Until very recently, we haven’t been talking about what birth control does to women’s bodies. So how did you guys end up deciding to make this movie?
Abby Epstein 16:39
Huh? Well, we were making this other movie at the time called weed the people kind of a different wheelhouse about medical cannabis, and children with cancer. And I was sent a book called sweetening the pill by Holly Griggs ball. And Holly had sent me like unpublished manuscripts, you know, kind of galleys, like the book hadn’t been out yet. And she said that she was a big fan of the business of being born. And she could really see this as like a documentary, you know, potentially, and she’d been trying to get it off the ground and hadn’t really gone anywhere. So I remember I was on a flight from New York where I live to LA where Ricki lives and on that flight, I read the books sweetening the pill. And I swear, when I landed, I like got to Ricky’s house. And I just said, I mean, I think this is our next movie. I went, I was blown away by the book, I had so many, like personal epiphanies, about my own hormonal contraceptive use in my life, you know, reading the book, covering things. And I just said to Ricky, this is gonna be really tough. Nobody really wants to hear this. But I feel like we’ve been out there before we’ve taken the slings and arrows, you know, and like, I just feel as a service, you know, to the next generation, we need to make this documentary because nothing is going to change in the hormonal contraceptive landscape. If there’s no push, right, if there’s no demand for for different options and options for men. So that was that and you know, it was it was really totally interesting, Christine, because we were, as I said, in the middle of another movie. And usually when you start a movie, it it just takes so long to get to that first day when you pick up a camera. There’s so much fundraising and plant running. And it’s very hard to raise funds for independent film parents. And something about this movie, like you the universe was just funneling the budget to us. Wow. It was very bizarre, surprising. Yeah. It was kind of like, oh, well, let’s do a Kickstarter. And then we did this Kickstarter. And we could see right away, we got 2000 backers, and, you know, raised a lot of the budget on Kickstarter. And we could see from just the Kickstarter community, like how many people were desperate for a movie like there was big support, and there was support from one of the families who lost their 24 year old daughter to a pulmonary embolism, which was caused by the Nuva ring device. So we had families, a bunch of families who, you know, lost daughters and they really wanted to see the movie happened. So there was kind of like a lot of impetus. so that, you know, fundraising wise, are people who wanted this message up there. And so yeah, we did it. And it was it was in a way that was probably the most difficult, like filmmaking journey I’ve ever had. Because we kind of had finished the movie ish, like, rate when the pandemic broke out. And so are you. Stuck? Yeah, kind of had to wait for a year. And then
Christine Garvin 20:32
how of timing right. It was really
Abby Epstein 20:35
like, I know, I wish it had been finished and able to be like released during the pandemic, I think, have been perfect. And then we had the terrible misfortune of having the movie premiere last April, and then having Roe v. Wade overturned in June. So then it became even, like, more hostile because no one talks about right, the downsides of birth control when abortion has been taken off the menu. So it has been very challenging, and people are incredibly reactive to this topic. It’s very polarizing, either people are like, you know, thank you, thank you for validating my experience, you know, thank you for sharing this. Or, you know, I would say there’s more like, liberal progressive feminists that are coming at us saying, aren’t you just feeding into the right wing narrative? Right? Yep. Or so it’s like, you know,
Christine Garvin 21:42
it’s such, it’s like this black and white thing, right. And so nobody can see this middle ground and that we need more options, right? I mean, it’s, yeah, I can only imagine that happening around Roe v. Wade, and, you know, just all of all of the polarizing issues around that, and how deeply that is a part of the divide in this country. And so so many women are just like, well, what is my what is my choice here? You know, I’ve got to take birth control, you know, although we know a good chunk of women that do take birth control, they are not necessarily taking it for birth control purposes, right. They’re taking it for the horrible periods they have for the acne for all of these things. And these pills are being handed out to 15 and 16 year olds, right when their reproductive system hasn’t even come completely online yet. Yeah. So you know, that’s, that’s for me. A topic I you know, I think it’s so overwhelming to think about, okay, so how to do we keep women being able to plan their lives by not having to have babies when they don’t want to have babies, but also protect their health for the long term? Yes, yeah. So yeah, I can imagine some of this was what came up in the movie and everything, too.
Abby Epstein 23:11
Oh, yes. No, I mean, absolutely. And I think that, you know, it is it’s very divisive. It’s very black and white. I think that, you know, we also are, I would say at a moment in not only feminism, the word even still has any,
Christine Garvin 23:28
if you can’t even say it anymore.
Abby Epstein 23:31
I don’t know what it means. I think for Gen Z. It’s like a negative thing. Yeah.
Christine Garvin 23:35
But I think it depends on who you talk to. It’s like, right, we’re getting back and forth. Right.
Abby Epstein 23:39
All right. But I also think we’re at a particular moment. Where, and I’m sure, you know, we’ve been there before, but right now, I find there’s a big generational divide around this topic. So it’s quite extreme. And we felt that, especially when we were trying to, like sell the movie for distribution, if there was like, a young female executive, you know, in the room, like, either in, you know, her late 20s, early 30s, she immediately got this movie said, All my friends are talking about this, none of us want to be on the pill. This is the most important movie, I think of all of my generation. And then you would have maybe the like, you know, over 40 or 50 year olds in the room that were like, well, I mean, you know, we fought so hard for birth control, and you know, it’s really like, how can we sort of like shoot this gift horse in the foot and so I just, I found that also extremely interesting and a lot of like, Mother daughters, right, or like, fine. So, as you were just saying about, like, putting, let’s say a 15 year old number To control. It’s interesting, we did a screening last month for Australia, New Zealand. We had an amazing conversation afterward with Dr. Laura Bryden. And Dr. Peter Wright, and Lucy peach. And, you know, Dr. Peter Wright is a gynecologist. And she, as a practice feels very strongly about not putting a young teenager with a developing menstrual cycle on birth control, you know, and she had a lot of great metaphors, you know, for what that is actually doing. Like, she said, it’s like, you know, if I think she said something about like, almost like, if your reproductive system is a piano, and you’re like, learning to play, you’re figuring out the chords, it’s like, you don’t then just like, put it on, like player piano speed, you know what I mean? It’s just like, automatically playing for you. Right? So I thought that was so fascinating, because, you know, your hormonal experience can be really affected by the philosophy of the physician or the practitioner or the midwife, us, you know, and people don’t realize that they’re very trusting of doctors. And, you know, so there are all these kinds of different beliefs floating around, and it makes it really hard for people to land on, like, what’s, you know, healthy, what’s not healthy? And, you know, I think the other really confusing thing, Christine, is that we’re in this age of the influencer right now, in this age of the guru, right?
Christine Garvin 26:42
Deep in it. Yep. in it.
Abby Epstein 26:47
And I mean, you know, we’ve got these podcasts of people drink their urine every day. And we’ve got right like, we’ve got all like, wars over plant based diet, yes. Diet, and, you know, and it’s really hard. And a lot of these people are selling snake oil, I don’t want to say all of them, but a lot of them are vested in some way financially, right product, yep. products, and what they’re preaching. So it was really hard in the movie, you know, to even find like, experts who like would sort of speak out against the status quo. But, you know, we’re MDs, or, you know, we’re kind of, like, professionally trained people that, you know, I mean, some of them, there’s just like a blur right now, you know, like, I had an interview with somebody, and she said, Why do you have so many influencers in the film? And I was like, God, you know, really so like, you think like, Dr. Sarah Godfried is an influencer? And I was thinking like, I don’t know, what’s the line is sheet cuz she does sell a hormone treatment plan, like she does Martin,
Christine Garvin 28:06
you see her, you know, on social media and in these different places, so people can qualify somebody is being that
Abby Epstein 28:12
an influencer? And I’m like, Okay, well, because I thought she was like, a Harvard train. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I believe that she’s really very, very bright. And yes, you know, so so to me, that that’s also a slippery slope, because everybody is sort of thinking, Oh, you’re giving this like, faux science? Group of Five. Right. Right. But I think that the, the problem with that theory, let’s say for our film, right, is that a we’re not making a dime on the movie. We, I mean, if you want to say we’ve lost money on right, because we raise all this money to make it and you don’t make a dime. Yeah. So we’re not making money on the movie. We’re not selling anything. Yeah, we don’t have an agenda. And we’re not right wing conservative, you know, Catholics, like we don’t have a ideological agenda. So, you know, it makes it kind of hard. And, and I think that when we premiered the movie in Europe, and when we done screenings in Berlin, and London, for whatever reason, again, I’ll use the F word feminism is in a more evolved place over there, I would say where they understand that there can be a liberal critique of the and I found that when we showed the movie, a lot of the talkback was kind of really based on solutions, like, okay, but you know, what should we do? Because, like, I’m doing fertility awareness, and a lot of my friends are doing it but then I have a lot of friends who fell pregnant doing it. What do we do because you know, it’s hard to do and like it was It wasn’t there were no politics and all right. There was no pushback of like, this is so dangerous, the message you’re sending, you know? So I find, like, that’s another piece that just makes all of this very tricky.
Christine Garvin 30:13
Well, and I can see that in America, right? Because we are so polarizing that at this point, in very few things, are people talking about solutions, right, literally what we need to be doing, and everything is talking about possible solutions. And what people are doing is digging their heels in, on whatever side that they are and calling the opposite side, the devil, you know, trying to take over the world. And, and so, I mean, we’re just stuck in a lot of muck right now, right, and so many different areas. So certainly, anything around women’s bodies is going to like be ratcheted up to here. And, you know, it is I’d certainly, you know, I will come out here on the podcast as a liberal, you know, I consider myself a liberal, and understanding that we have to evolve, right, like, Thank God for birth control being developed, and giving so many women choices. For the first time, really, you know, I mean, for the first time, let’s say, in modern history, I think there was a lot of, you know, knowledge that women have for centuries before to inhibit getting pregnant that that we lost along the way, but in modern times, but why do we want to just stay there? Right? Why don’t we now that we have this deeper information, and this is true for most medications, right? You don’t know, within even the first few years necessarily, how they’re going to impact our bodies for the long term. We know even less around women’s bodies, because science has decided to just start actually really studying women’s bodies within the past decade or so. Right? Because our hormones made it hard for them, supposedly, to be able to truly research us. So now that we have this information, let’s say, what is the next level? What are we going to evolve to, you know, how are, as you mentioned, bring in men and into the picture, how are we going to come up with things that don’t completely shut down our own hormones, and all the implications with that, and yet still be able to protect us if we do not want to have kids? You know, and, and I love them. But you know, that can’t be the only solution to I get it. You know, it doesn’t work for everyone.
Abby Epstein 32:30
No, absolutely. And I think, you know, the conversation is I just a friend sent me an article in The New York Times today about, you know, women being misled, or around menopause. So I was reading the article this morning, and I you know, it’s, it’s another thing that just fascinates me, right? Because it’s like, okay, so you get to this part of your hormonal journey. You’re kind of like misinformed and misled from like, menstruation through write was, and then even within the menopause world, you know, I just kind of shocked that I live in New York City. And I have friends getting absolutely polar opposite advice
Christine Garvin 33:23
from their gynecologist in terms of like hormone replacement therapy is Oh, yeah. Yep.
Abby Epstein 33:28
Like, I have a friend whose doctor is saying, you know, just put up with the hot flashes, put up with all of it, because it trust me, it is way better than doing hormone replacement therapy. I still think it’s dangerous, it increases cancerous blah, blah, blah. Then you I have other friend and you know her doctor saying the exact opposite, right? Yep, get on this stuff. During this very specific window before you’re told. This is going to really like change your quality of life and I. So I think that if you look at something with perimenopause and menopause, there are two categories of women, right? Like, there’s women, I’ll put myself in this category. And I’m assuming because my mother was similar, like I haven’t had any, any very long. Peri menopausal. Some, you know, since I mean, you know, everything that’s happened to me is like par for the course you know what I’m saying? Like, like changes in your cycle, things that you’re expected and everything with me is absolutely manageable, and not negative. And then I have friends who couldn’t get out of bed,
Christine Garvin 34:40
right? So anxiety levels, right that some women and have experienced energy
Abby Epstein 34:45
level, yeah, the you know, drop in their hormones. And again, like, you know, we’re at a place now where I mean rates of fertility. Just In general, right, the amount of assisted reproductive technology. That’s right, like so many people conceiving and IVF and being on, you know, hormones for however many years, I mean, we don’t know what that’s doing to their menopause. We don’t know what’s on the pill for 20 years does chair menopause. So we’re sort of like an experimental, right. 100% generation. So, you know, I think that that’s, it’s the same place we are, I think with cycles, birth control with menopause, it’s like, we’re just in this very, like, dark, confusing space where they’re saying this study was valid, oh, no, it wasn’t valid, ignore that study. We’re doing it like, and it’s, it’s just, it’s just impossible to even understand data, like something that’s supposed to be right. Like,
Christine Garvin 35:58
I think we’re seeing the limitations right around. I mean, science is so important studies are so important data, so important. And there’s limitations around them too, right? Plus, it comes down so much to the bio individuality of each person to right, which we don’t, as a health care system, take into account at all, it’s that we do this across the board, right, this is if this is going on, we’re gonna give you this pill. And, you know, simply, you know, my goal certainly is to educate women on just what their hormones are supposed to be doing each month, you know, and understanding the process that their body goes through, so that they can start to understand when something goes off, you know, and be empowered in that place. Because, unfortunately, so many of their doctors don’t even understand
Abby Epstein 36:48
the stones. And also, you know, I feel on some level, like, you know, what is wrong with Anik data? Right, like, we’re getting attacked, yeah, that our film has too much anak data. And it’s like, I find it really funny that there’s this one little piece of the film that a lot of people harp harp on, which is this, you know, I’m sure you’ve seen it, it’s been like, kind of, it’s been like, actually on a lot of like, I think wellness podcasts and, and talk, but it has to do with like hormones and pheromones of attraction right now, right? hormonal birth control effects, how you are able to receive and detect the pheromones of a potential knee. Okay. So, you know, again, this goes back to this question of like, how much research is enough research and what research is, you know, accepted, and I had a kind of very robust debate with a journalist recently. And she said, Well, why would you have included that in the documentary? That’s like, so clearly kind of junk science and this and that, and I said, Well, did you read Dr. Sarah Hill’s book, this is your brain on birth control, because she actually does a great job of like, putting all the pheromones studies, you know, together. And, and this reporter said to me, yeah, but one of those studies had like, 1200 people in it. I mean, come on, she, you know, the studies weren’t good enough for her. Okay, I said, I respect that. And I said, but I’m going to tell you that this pheromone side effect, you know, happened to me. And it happened to many, many women that I know. So that’s enough for me. Yeah. As Yeah. You know, what it’s like, if there have been some studies that have shown, you know, maybe they’re not double blind, placebo controlled, but, you know, they’re certainly not junk science. And again, they’re certainly not studies that are funded by pharmaceuticals, right? Funded by, you know, they’re independent studies. And that’s, you know, even it blows my mind Christine, it blows my mind to this day, that when people write about the link between hormonal birth control, and depression and anxiety, something that has been honestly at this point, really, really conclusively exhaustively detailed. In a study a Danish study of over 1 million went right and that they will still write you know, in an article you know, oh, there is inconclusive research write it infuriates me didn’t agree it’s me, because anak data on
Christine Garvin 39:54
that alone, right, right. Well, and even the journalist saying to you There’s no research backing this up. And then you say, actually there is and she says, Oh, that’s not real research, you know, what, where do we draw the line here? You know, I mean, going back to the fact that we have not researched women’s bodies for very long, so you’re not going to have a lot of studies, the ones that, you know, unfortunately are going to come out, are often influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, just like, generally across the board these days, you know, so at what point I mean, we have to understand that anecdotal evidence is hugely impactful to and that we’re not going to get everything that we want from scientific studies, right? It doesn’t mean that we, I mean, it drives me insane when simple things. They’ll just say, like vaginal steaming, for instance, right? Because that’s, that’s a that’s a big issue. Right? Because supposedly, like, you know, Gwyneth Paltrow brought it to people. But do you know who steamy chick is? No. Oh, so she’s this amazing woman, black woman that actually before it came out via Gwyneth, right. She was going and doing research around the whole world, and how vaginal steaming has been used. I mean, she has, I think it’s still on our website, she has links to everywhere in the world where it’s shown up in different texts and all that stuff, you know, and it drives me crazy, right? Because everybody focuses on the Gwyneth Paltrow, goop pneus of it, rather than this thing that a very rarely is going to cause any damage. And be there’s lots of evidence that has been used for 1000s and 1000s. of years, and that it’s been truly beneficial for women, you know, and we had to just be busy tearing it down. Instead of being like, Oh, this can be helpful. And actually, I was just reading, I think the other day, they are now doing in the Czech Republic, because of the work that steamy chick has done, that there were so many that did a training from her, I think that was in the Czech Republic and brought it maybe a nurse that brought it to the hospitals there. And they are doing it 80% of the time for women giving birth now, because it helps with the birthing process, right. And so this is what we do is we take these things, and we get in Back to the influencer culture, right? It’s not real, it’s not good. It’s woowoo if it’s been talked about by this influencer, and like, can we get away from that and look underneath, and think about these things that can support women’s bodies, particularly that have been around for so long, we’ve gotten rid of so much of that wisdom. And if we’re able to come back to that, you know, a lot of these things will be a whole lot easier. Even talking about the menopause part, right? If you look at some traditional cultures, their transition into menopause is much, much much, much easier in general than ours in the West. Why is that? Right? Because, I mean, there’s probably tons of reasons but the sort of stressful life, the views around it, right? In a lot of these traditional cultures getting older as a woman is seen as a good thing. You become the wise elder, right? And here we become, go to the corner and be quiet, you know, situation. And so, yeah, it just it drives me absolutely crazy. When we have to just jump on and tear down these things instead of saying what can we learn from the situation? That’s right.
Abby Epstein 43:33
And I get it, like I understand that there is like, you know, this kind of knee jerk like, reaction again, I get that and I think you know, with the Gwyneth Paltrow vaginal steaming thing, again, I really think that you know, she’s somebody who’s like, laughing all the way to the bank. Sure. Right. So it’s like, a think because her brand is so much about selling women things they don’t need. Right? I thought that was brilliant, though. Like the vagina candle and like all this.
Christine Garvin 44:10
Like the brain marketing, right?
Abby Epstein 44:13
goofy stuff they did like the GE diapers that are like, I didn’t even hear about those. Yeah, like they did a fake product. Like,
Christine Garvin 44:21
Abby Epstein 44:23
diapers with gold pins and, you know, $100 a day for delivery
Christine Garvin 44:27
like something so they were making fun of themselves essentially making
Abby Epstein 44:31
fun of themselves, which I love. But I just think that that listen underneath it all. You know, I respect what one is doing. And I risk you know, even if it is in profit based, it’s kind of like it’s okay. I do you think like, it goes back to like the beginning of our conversation, right? It’s like maybe vaginal Steaming is something that you know, was lost. And that’s kind of the same thing with midwifery with cardamom traditions. I don’t God knows what kind of perimenopause and menopause traditions and, you know, kind of like other kinds of solutions potentially might have been, you know, lost in this in this, like generations of thinking, you know, we know better than our ancestors. And it’s really, you know, like, there are kind of, you know, look, women have been, women’s bodies haven’t changed, right? And so it’s like, there’s there always going to be these things. It’s like, you know, I love like B Dixon, the founder of honey pot company. And like, she talks about how this kind of remedy that she came up with for BV, Gnosis literally came to her in a dream from other Oh, I’ve never heard that. Yeah, she was an ancestor. And I think it was an ancestor that she’d never met, and B was struggling, you know, with BV. And she had a dream and our ancestor gave her this, you know, formula. And she ended up bottling it and selling it at small, you know, health fairs. And now she’s got this, like, huge company, I love it, but it’s like, okay, like, I believe that because I believe, like, you know, that we have to kind of, you know, at this point, I would say, you know, modern science has failed. Women has failed us, and we talked about this in documentary, but we’re sicker than we’ve ever been. You know, we have poor menstrual health. We have poor body literacy. We have incredibly high rates of endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, anxiety, depression through the roof. So, you know, look at all this. This is how we got here. Yay. Yep. So I mean, it’s kind of like, it is time to sort of either go back to the ancestors, or like, reinvent the wheel or put some of this burden as far as contraception goes on people with penises.
Christine Garvin 47:22
Like, it is time. Absolutely.
Abby Epstein 47:25
Just shift. And and and I think that, you know, that’s another thing that I think I’ve seen with releasing this movie. Oh, is that this younger generation Gen Z, whatever you want to call them, they are ready to embrace this mess
Christine Garvin 47:40
yet? Yep. Absolutely. And I love the anecdote that you just shared about the honeypot founder, because I have a friend that works at ions. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that institute for Noetic Sciences. And she was in a training where they talked about, you know, the the five senses. But when we talk about the sixth sense, that sort of our intuitive sense. And they said, our first sense was actually this intuitive sense, right? And if you think about it, humans before, you know, communication existed before we were, you know, sharing things in the ways that we do now, we had to rely on our intuition to stay alive, to be able to run from that, you know, Saber toothed Tiger, et cetera. And that’s something that we’ve kind of lost or dampened along the way, right. And I think this is a part of not every woman or cycling persons, you know, power, I don’t want to say, but for some of us that there’s such deep power and there that’s, I feel like as welling up right now, right, particularly when it comes to our health and so tapping into that I just, that’s why I think that story is so beautiful, right? Because not just because it ended up being a successful thing. But because when we tune into that part of ourselves that can really guide us, especially in that bio individuality that we’re talking about. Right? Like I mean, I’m like ancestors come tell me what’s up. Tell me what to do. I like it. Yeah. So let me ask you one controversial question before we close out. I’m assuming Dr. Jenn Gunther has been has had some things to say about possibly the movie and everything.
Abby Epstein 49:30
That’s not controversial. Oh, yes. Oh, no. It’s gonna be because Jen Gunter. When we were premiering in San Francisco, one of our producers was pretty good friends with her. So we sent jen an invite to the opening night in San Francisco, and we sent her a link to the movie, and we actually invited her to come see, you know, because the point of the movie is not for us to be the final authority on everything. The point of the movie is to open conversation. You know, and I always say that every time we have a talkback panel with the movie, I’m like, You do not have to agree with this entire film. Agree with parts of the film, and you can take issue with parts of the film. You know what I mean? It’s so anyway, I thought it was funny. So Jen Gunter, she wrote back to our mutual friend that she couldn’t come because she’d be too angry.
Christine Garvin 50:28
She hadn’t seen the film yet. She’s like, I already know.
Abby Epstein 50:34
I already know I’m gonna hate this. So yeah, I know. She she she was upset. Like, we were on Jameela Jamil is podcasts. And, uh, Jimmy love the movie. Oh, yeah, most did some really emphatic quotes about it on Twitter, right before she left Twitter. And so Jen has Jen Gunter has like some cronies, and I think they love to be that kind of attacking like Twitter mob. So they kind of jumped on, like, Jamil is so I we knew she was you know, but we knew she’s aware. Maybe she don’t see the movie. So then I think I didn’t read what she posted. But I know she posted some kind of blog or something on her like blog post. And it’s kind of funny, right? Because we actually had another obg riot, OBGYN write a response to Jen’s P. Okay. And we haven’t published it yet. But we will. Okay. And I think it’s kind of funny because I again, I don’t, I can’t like read all this stuff. But I didn’t read everything. You know, Dr. Gunther broke, but I thought it was interesting that in her kind of online persona, she seems to have this community. And this is very typical of like, what social media has done to us, and especially around women’s health, where all these communities are very, like insular kind of like self confirming. You know, rabid? Yeah. Like, like, but basically all the comments on our thread was sort of, like, how irresponsible How dare they, you know, have this documentary without the proper research represented, or whatever. And it was like, these are all people who’ve never seen the movie. And course, you know, the same thing happened to us on the business of being born, it was the same thing. You know, it’s like you’re killing babies and homebirth kills babies, and like, no one had seen the film. So it’s just, it’s interesting that it’s almost like, I feel like with Gunder it’s like, you know, she attacks people to raise her own, you know, public profile, which is how, you know, I think why she attacked Gwyneth Paltrow. And got a lot of press over that, you know, 100%. And don’t forget, again, Jen Gunter selling books. Yeah, so she’s pointing at all these other people saying they’re influencers, and they’re charlatans, but she’s selling books. She’s going on podcasts, you know, I have another 100% agree. I have another good friend, Dr. Dr. Gillberg. Lens. She just wrote a book called menopause bootcamp. We did a thing with her and we were like, Oh, watch out and Gunter territory. She’s gonna come for you. And you know, what we’ve heard from other and she did, by the way, of course. And then what we’ve heard from other female OB GYN, which is really sad is that most of them secretly abhor gender benders style and her online bullying and the way she goes after people, but they don’t want to speak up against her because they don’t want to deal with the trolling.
Christine Garvin 53:55
Yeah, yep. 100% Yeah. And
Abby Epstein 54:00
it just, it doesn’t like affect us. Because, you know, if you, you know, you were like, not kind of, I guess, like, for everyone, and we’re not trying to convince anybody, right like that. Right? The movies on our both our movies, you know, we’re not trying to convince you to have a home birth, we’re not trying to convince you to go off the pill. We’re just trying to, like, get women to deeply understand and be informed and have informed consent around medications and procedures, and make choices and we’re not trying to like, demonize any of those choices and like, whatever, if you’re on a particular birth control that works for you, and you feel great on it. I mean, you know, we are not ideological in that way. So it’s, that’s why I think it’s like you It’s funny to me because, you know, none of it none of the controversy for what it’s worth, you know, it only sort of helps us. You know, because then people are like, Yeah, yep. She’s so mad about, you know. Yeah. And also, I think women see through things now, like, there was one kind of snarky review that was posted in some magazine. And I saw on the Instagram thread that in the comments, all the top comments were like, alert farmer sponsored, Farmer sponsored, you know, articles. So women are seeing through the fact that, you know, a magazine is taking a certain point of view that film because they’re all supported by, you know, farm ads. Hmm. So everyone’s, you know, seeing that, I think, seen through that now.
Christine Garvin 56:01
Yeah, it’s such a crazy mixed up labyrinth of all of it, right. And it goes back again, to the sort of two sides, that we’re just on these extremes and trying to win out, you know, but, but it’s like, the controversy is helpful to to get the message out there. And, you know, I mean, I just think about, in my small, little, you know, world in terms of the women that I work with, I always think of it is I’m just planting a seed, right? They may or may not run with it. Now, they may or may not run with it. Five years down the road, but maybe 10 years down the road, that kind of comes back and they recognize things in a different way. Right. And that’s really what education is all about. That’s what informed consent is all about. So, yeah, so it’s an incredible, incredible thing that you guys have done to put these movies together. Let everybody know how they can actually see them both business of being born in business. Yeah,
Abby Epstein 57:01
birth control. Well, they’re, they’re up on Amazon. So they’re Amazon, US, UK, and Germany. And otherwise, the easiest thing is you can also just link out and see them on our website. And our site is either you can just go to the business of birth control.com, super easy. The business of being born.com, or our Instagram, which is at business of birth control.
Christine Garvin 57:31
Perfect. And I know for a little while you people were hosting viewings of it, is that an option for people to do too? Yes, yeah,
Abby Epstein 57:43
we’re gonna do like a big screening event for International Women’s Day on March 8, for example. So you can host your own virtual screening, you can host your own, you know, in person screening, we have one coming up in San Diego in a few weeks. So yes, the film is out there to be like a grassroots tool and a learning tool. And we’ve also started something new on our website, which is super exciting for both for just like consumers, but also like for practitioners, like yourself, we started something called the business of film circle. So, you know, we have 10 films. And instead of kind of renting them all, like individually and having 48 hours to watch them, we have this membership now where you just pay one kind of lifetime access membership fee. So it’s a one time fee. And you’d basically then get lifetime access to our entire library of not only all film, but every month, we have conversations and we archive those on the website. And as it is we have like, I think over 40 hours of different like classes and courses, we have a six part body literacy course, you know aimed at like figuring out the right birth control. So it’s, it’s kind of a cool thing, because he opens you up to like this sort of University of Education and films, that’s our film circle. Members saying,
Christine Garvin 59:25
I love that idea that’s so helpful for so many practitioners that are really trying to learn, right, and we don’t always know where to get the information. So we’ll put links to all that in the show notes so people can get directly there. Abby, thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing all of your wisdom and all the work that you’ve done is incredible. And I’m so excited for those that haven’t seen the film to see the film and I live in Nashville and I want to try and do a screening here at some point. So that’s why I was like, let me check in about the screening situation. So there Yeah, absolutely. 100% and I know exactly where I want to do it so yeah All right thanks again for being here with us today and thanks everybody I will see you next week
Transcribed by https://otter.ai