Katie Breen interviews Farah Melendes, the first-ever Political Director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA). As the head of campaign services for the organization in 2018, Farah supported DAGA’s success flipping four AG seats blue, keeping eight open seats blue, and reelecting six incumbents. On the podcast, she discusses how DAGA succeeded in electing the most diverse group of Democratic AGs in history, their recent 1881 Initiative to elect more women AGs, how DAGA became the first Democratic campaign committee to require candidates be pro-choice in order to be eligible for endorsement, and why it's so important that AGs reflect the diversity of the populations they serve. Farah also offers her advice for women interested in becoming involved in politics.
The Student Coalition for Reproductive Justice (SCRJ) exists to advocate for the reproductive needs of students at Catholic colleges and universities. Katie interviews SCRJ co-founders Lauren Morrissey and Christina Frasik about the ways in which Catholic colleges limit students' reproductive health and freedoms. Learn how SCRJ mobilizes students on Catholic colleges across the country to demand their administrations do more to protect the reproductive health and autonomy of students.
Hendrika de Vries lived in Amsterdam during five years of Nazi occupation during World War II. On the podcast, she tells the story of how her idyllic childhood changed overnight when the Nazis began their occupation in 1940. Her strong, determined mother risked their lives by hiding a Jewish girl in their home - until Nazis kicked down their door and dragged the girl out from her hiding place at gun-point, sending her off to a concentration camp. Hendrika describes how her own feminism was shaped by witnessing the resilience and power of women during wartime. Women like her mother, who fought for what was right and went to heroic lengths to keep their families alive during a winter in which 20,000 Dutch died from starvation and cold - and millions of Jews perished in concentration camps. She tells Femtastic listeners what we can learn from her story during a time of rising hatred and bigotry, and why she has hope for the future.
Fans can read more about Hendrika's story in her newly published memoir, When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew.
Meika Hollender is the co-founder and president of Sustain, a brand of all-natural, vagina-friendly period and sexual wellness products. Meika chats with Femtastic's Katie Breen about what made her want to start what was initially a condom company, how she is motivated by "the orgasm gap" in male vs. female sexual pleasure, and why it's so important that the products we put into the most absorbent parts of our bodies are free of harmful chemicals. She also discusses how activism is central to everything Sustain does (like their part in making New York the first state to mandate ingredient lists for tampons!), and why she believes a sexual and menstrual wellness company can be a beacon for change in the reproductive wellness space.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, Femtastic discusses how trauma can impact lives in the long term.
PTSD used to be thought of as a "soldier's disease," but in 2019 it's finally getting recognition as an ailment that can affect anyone who has been through an extremely stressful life event.
Katie speaks with Karen Stefano, author of the memoir What a Body Remembers: Sexual Assault and its Aftermath. Karen tells the story of the assault she survived while she was in college during the 1980s; the emotional anguish and PTSD she suffered in the days, months, and years after; and how the process of seeking justice was re-traumatizing. She also offers hope - discussing the ongoing ups and downs of her healing journey and offering advice on how to reach out for help and move forward in the wake of trauma.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are people available to help:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK (8255). Available any time of day or night, 365 days a year, this toll-free helpline AND online chat service has trained volunteers standing by to provide crisis intervention, to offer support for people in distress, and to give information and referrals to people with suicidal thoughts, PTSD, depression and in other mental health crises.
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673) or online chat will connect you to a local sexual assault service provider in your area. Trained staff can provide confidential support and connect you to local resources.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 crisis intervention, safety planning and information on domestic violence (800-799-7233).
Marika Lindholm is one of the editors of a new anthology “We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor." The book chronicles the journeys of more than 75 solo moms from a variety of diverse backgrounds: some are single parents by choice, some by circumstance, some gay, some widowed...you get the picture. It even includes a story from Amy Poehler! Katie interviews Marika about the ways that it's both easier AND just as hard to be a single mom today than in prior generations, how people who are single parents by choice face their own unique set of challenges and stigmas, and ways that we as a society can help support solo moms - interpersonally AND via public policy.
Marika is the founder of an online community for solo moms called ESME.com - Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere. Most recently, she wrote about the psychological challenges faced by solo mothers in Ms. Magazine, in a piece called Moms Need Wide-Ranging Mental Health Care.
An excerpt from the piece demonstrates the topics Marika touches upon on Femtastic Podcast:
"Until we acknowledge and grapple with the significant social challenges to maternal mental health, moms will continue to suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, exhaustion and PTSD than the general public. We must ensure that mothers get the support they need to understand the structures that make motherhood so psychologically disempowering.
Maybe then we will find the strength and will to fight for a society that frees mothers from socially harmful behavior, judgments, and expectations that keep our families from thriving."
Katie interviews Maddy Sands about the struggles that new parents encounter with breastfeeding—and how the solution to the problem is a community one.
Breastfeeding is described as the “most natural thing in the world,” but many parents come home from the hospital to find it’s not the innate skill it was billed as—and our lack of discussion of how hard breastfeeding can be leaves parents feeling guilt, shame, and frustration when it does not, it turns out, come naturally. Maddy is the director of Help Me Feed, a foundation focused on supporting new parents with breastfeeding. She understands that for new parents to meet their breastfeeding goals (while feeding their babies and maintaining their sanity), they need skills-building, advice, and support that is personalized to them. Maddy details the insights from new parents which led HelpMeFeed to design an innovative new app that creates an on-demand, professionally qualified community of support for parents, at no cost to them. It’s normal to struggle with breastfeeding, but in our connected world there’s no reason scalable solutions shouldn’t exist so that new parents don’t have to navigate these challenges alone.
Prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, abortion was illegal in the United States. The court's ruling was, in part, influenced by the hundreds of women dying yearly from dangerous, illegal abortions. A discussion of the hazards of outlawing abortion is unfortunately timely, as a spate of recent abortion bans in the United States means that millions of people are or soon will be without access to safe, legal, and accessible abortion. Katie Breen interviews Patricia Eagle, author of Being Mean: A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival, about Patricia's experience with abortion prior to its legalization. Patricia recounts her desperation to terminate the unplanned pregnancy she experienced while at the University of Texas in 1971, and the grim tale of the illegal and dangerous abortion she received in a dimly lit, private home in Denton, TX. Patricia's story exemplifies the lengths to which people will go to have abortions, legal or not, and discusses how her experience informs her views today that abortion must be legal and accessible to all.
Katie speaks with Jenna Brown, the queer doula behind Love Over Fear Wellness & Birth. They discuss what it means to doula for queer folks, what clinical and personal challenges queer pregnant people may encounter in the birth process, and ways that healthcare workers (and really, all of us!) can better care for queer parents. Jenna provides fantastic resources for queer AND non-queer parents-to-be, including why and how to hire a doula for childbirth, and where to find their new work-book, Queer + Pregnant: A Pregnancy Journal.
Katie Breen speaks with digital health expert, Katie McMillan, about what exactly is "FemTech" and why you should know about it. If you are someone who has biologically female body parts, you might benefit from the huge array of new FemTech products and services out there that can help you to better understand, control, and manage your health - whether that means periods, infertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, or something else! Katie McMillan walks us through it all and calls out the most exciting companies making waves in the field of female digital health.
In this special Oscar's edition of the Femtastic podcast, Katie speaks to law partner in civil rights and employment, Kalpana Kotagal, about one of the most Googled terms following last year's Oscars: inclusion rider. Kalpana - one of the co-authors of the inclusion rider - discusses what an inclusion rider is, how it works to increase diversity in Hollywood productions (on-screen and off), and why it comes up in the discussion of #MeToo. We also discuss ways that anyone (including you!) can make a difference to promote diversity in their workplaces, even when they don't have the leverage of a Hollywood A-lister or c-suite exec.
Have you heard of egg freezing? Katie talks to Jenny Lannon, co-founder of Freeze.Health, a resource that helps women decide if, when, and how to freeze their eggs.
Maybe you aren't ready to get pregnant now because you're focusing on your career, or you haven't found the right partner yet, or you have an illness that can affect your fertility. Egg freezing might be an option so that you have a better shot of becoming pregnant when the time is right for you. Jenny explains the reasons people may decide to freeze their eggs, what the process is like, and where to start if you're curious about if and how you need to preserve your fertility.
You probably know about the gender wage gap, but have you ever thought about the gender health gap? Katie again welcomes to the podcast Priti Krishtel, co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization using patent law to increase global access to medicines. Priti explains the ways in which women (yes, even you!) are disproportionately harmed by the high prices of drugs and healthcare, and what this means for us as we get older and need to rely more and more on the healthcare system. For example, did you know that a quarter of the twelve highest-grossing drugs in the US treat conditions that primarily affect women? This includes breast cancer drug Herceptin, which comes with a yearly price tag of over $60,000! Priti discusses the damage that high drug prices inflict on women's health, and how you (yes, even you!!) can take small steps to help lower drug prices for all.
Katie speaks with Priti Krishtel, co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK, an organization that uses patent law to fight high drug prices across the globe. Think patent law doesn't affect your life? Think again. Chances are, at some point in your life, you've been prescribed an expensive medication that did not have an affordable, generic equivalent. That's patent law at play.
Priti discusses how pharmaceutical companies abuse the patent system to keep drug prices high, how it's possible to increase global access to affordable and life-saving medicines by restoring integrity to the patent system, and what YOU as a layperson can do to help bring drug prices down at home and abroad.
Katie interviews Gerda Larsson, cofounder and managing director of The Case for Her, an impact fund that invests in for-profit companies and organizations that work on women and girl's health. Gerda discusses what an impact portfolio is and how it operates, why she and her cofounders began The Case for Her and decided on an impact investing model, and what types of initiatives the fund is investing in around the globe now. Gerda and Katie discuss the fund's focus areas of menstruation, female sexual pleasure, and menopause, and how lifting social taboos surrounding these topics has humanitarian and economic impact. Gerda also gives advice on what simple, everyday steps people can take if they want to advance women's equity but don't know where to start.
Katie interviews author Rita Dragonette about her new book, The Fourteenth of September. They discuss the critical but often overlooked role of women in the Vietnam War and its protest, the experience of being a young woman on a college campus during that time, the lessons we have learned as a country because of the Vietnam War, and the parallels we can draw between the 1960s/70s anti-war movement and activism among young people today.
Katie interviews Lindsey Pollaczek, Vice President of Programs for the Fistula Foundation. Fistula is a childbirth injury largely eradicated in the developed world, but still devastating women in the poorest countries. It's treatable with life-transforming surgery. Lindsey explains what obstetric fistula is, why it's harmful to mothers and fatal to their babies, and what we can do to stop it.
Recommendations from Lindsey for learning more about fistula -
Cutting for Stone, a fictional novel
A Walk to Beautiful, a documentary
In this episode, we share the recording of a live interview of our host, Katie Breen, at Parillume's June 2018 SHINE Soirée in Denver, Colorado. Parillume is an organization for survivors of sexual violence, and its founder, Lisa Foster, interviews Katie about privilege, authentic allyship, and activism.
To watch the video, find it on YouTube here (Katie's entrance is at 17:25).
To learn about upcoming SHINE Soirées in Denver, click here.
To learn more about Parillume, click here.
Katie interviews Lindley Ashline, founder of stock photography website Representation Matters. Lindley explains why it's so important that we see representations of diverse bodies in the media, and how she uses her platform to create stock imagery featuring people in all types of bodies - large bodies, brown and black bodies, bodies belonging to LGBTQIA+ folks, aging bodies, disabled bodies, tattooed bodies, and more. Lindley also explains how and why businesses and content creators can and should use these types of images in their work, and why it's important that ALL of us diversify the types of bodies we expose ourselves to on social media.
- The Health at Every Size Movement
- Meredith Noble's list of body-positive Instagram accounts
- Jes Baker's "135 Ways to Diversify Your Instagram Feed"
- Link to the GoFundMe for Katie's Harvard tuition
Katie interviews Torey Ivanic, author of the book "No Big Deal," a tale of surviving and overcoming childhood sexual abuse. In the episode, Torey shares her story of being sexually abused by a trusted gymnastics coach while she was in her teens. She discusses the aftermath of the abuse, her experience bringing her perpetrator to justice, and the lessons for parents and survivors she hopes we can take away from her story.
Listen to the full recording of Femtastic host Katie's TEDxBoulder talk on privilege, inclusion, allyship, and activism:
"What Does Your Activism Look Like?"
We all have some level of privilege. What do we do when we are confronted with it? How does that make us feel? And how do we use our privilege to make the world a better place?
The video recording of Katie's talk can be found on YouTube at this link.
Like what you hear? Supporters of Femtastic and/or Katie Breen can contribute to the GoFundMe for Katie's Harvard tuition here.
Katie interviews Brianna Rader, founder of Juicebox, a company whose mission is to get people talking about sex, dating, and relationships. In the episode, they discuss what a sex coach is, who can benefit from working with one (hint: EVERYONE), and the types of topics they help people contend with. As Brianna discusses, you don't need to have a "problem" or be in a crisis to use a sex coach - even if your sex life, dating life, or relationship is great, you can always make it better, improve communication (inside the bedroom and out), deepen your intimacy or pleasure, and explore new things! It's like having a personal trainer - you might already be in great shape, but there's always more improvement to be had. We also discuss Juicebox's iOS app, a platform that offers free resources for people who want to learn more about sex, dating, and relationships from experts (and peers), as well as an extremely AFFORDABLE service that connects you with a professional coach you can chat with on demand, 7 days a week. Listeners of Femtastic can even try out coaching for FREE. Listen to the episode to learn more!
In honor of Mother's Day, we are re-releasing this amazing mother-daughter podcast interview! Get your tissues ready! This episode was originally published as Episode #12, "Mother and Daughter: A Tale of Two Veterans" on March 17, 2017.
In this episode, Katie had the privilege of interviewing Debbie Johnson and her daughter, Lauren Halloran. Debbie is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served as a nurse in the Gulf War, when Lauren was just a little girl. Lauren is a former Air Force lieutenant who served in Afghanistan. Both mother and daughter talk about the difficulties not only of deploying to a war zone, but of reintegrating into civilian life upon their return. They touch on the stigma surrounding mental illness in the military, the experience of being women in male-dominated environments (both the military and the Middle Eastern countries they deployed to), how little we talk about the struggle of coming home from war, and how sharing their experiences with one another brought them closer together and helped them both heal from the traumas of war. The beautiful, heartfelt, and often tearful interview, which lasted about 90 minutes, is a powerful testament to the bond between mothers and daughters, and to the healing power of sharing our stories, no matter how difficult. (Head to Femtasticpodcast.com to see photos of Lauren and Debbie overseas and at home. There's a super cute pic of Debbie's homecoming to her three kiddos that you're not gonna want to miss.)
Katie interviews Shari and Dakota Hindman, the mother-daughter (respectively) duo behind The Mother's Center. Shari and Dakota discuss the work they do at The Mother's Center to help people honor and stay present for all of the important moments in life (pregnancy included). Specifically, Shari dives deep into the ancient practice of "circle," and how this type of collective communication is used at The Mother's Center as a tool to help people cope with and appreciate whatever life throws their way. They also discuss why it is so important that The Mother's Center's inclusive pregnancy programs honor every event that can happen on the childbearing continuum, regardless of one's gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy outcome.
This episode explores how women farmers are both the most vulnerable to climate change and also the most prepared to stop it. Katie interviews Rachael Cox, CEO of EarthEmpower, a social and environmental enterprise focused on empowering women farmers in rural Guatemala and southern Mexico to use their traditional farming practices to adapt to climate change.
Rachael describes her organization's unconventional development approach that empowers indigenous women to use their communities' centuries-old farming and conservation practices to safeguard against the threats of climate change while fostering economic development.