Tatler House Stories: Shattering The Stigmas Surrounding Women’s Health
It was only 50-odd years ago that, in a protest against a Miss America beauty pageant in New Jersey, a group of women threw bras, mops, lipsticks and high heels into a “freedom trash can” and birthed the iconic image of the “bra-burning feminist”. Today, while there are more open discussions, more resources and more visibility surrounding women’s issues than ever before, there's still plenty of work to do—as indicated by the #MeToo movement started in 2017, and the ongoing fight for equal pay and body autonomy.
The latest edition of Tatler Hong Kong’s monthly House Stories series at The Upper House was a taboo-shattering event titled I Am Woman. It was a special edition, taking part during our inaugural Tatler Wellness Week sponsored by Lululemon.
Hosted fireside in The Sky Lounge, I hosted a panel made up of Sabrina Villard, a shamanic energy healer; Olivia Cotes-James, founder of toxin-free period products brand Luüna Naturals; and Petra Greening, co-founder of We Are Fk, a local platform that promotes sex positivity. Positioned as “girl talk for grown-ups”, the lively and empowering discussion was centred around women’s health and flowed through the topics of sex, self-pleasure, fertility, periods and spirituality.
Petra Greening (Photo by Anna Koustas)
Petra Greening, Olivia Cotes-James, Sabrina Villard and Coco Marett (Photo by Anna Koustas)
Olivia Cotes-James, Sabrina Villard and Coco Marett (Photo by Anna Koustas)
Olivia Cotes-James (Photo by Anna Koustas)
“Gender inequality is systemic and it’s nuanced in cultures around the world, but it’s a global problem we all face,” said Cotes-James who, through Luüna, provides education to schools, corporate environments and to underprivileged communities to shed light on “the myriad ways taboos around menstrual health affect our lives. On a personal level, our wellness, our empowerment and also our planet.”
It’s something few of us think about, but the fact is, millions of women around the world miss out on life-changing opportunities in work or school simply because they don’t have access to basic sex education and period care, ultimately leaving them stuck in the cycle of period poverty.
“By talking more about these topics, we become more comfortable talking about [issues like] sexual health,” says Greening. “We need to be more open with each other; we need to not be afraid and hopefully that will create positive changes for the next generation of women. We Are FK stands for celebrating ourselves and our individuality.”
Photo by Anna Koustas
Photo by Anna Koustas
Photo by Anna Koustas
Petra Greening, Olivia Cotes-James, Sabrina Villard, Coco Marett and Kristina Snaith of The Upper House (Photo by Anna Koustas)
Other topics included societal pressures faced by women in the workplace, celebrating the feminine, how women perceive other women, exploring self-pleasure—each member of the audience went home with a special gift from Hong Kong-based sex toy company Womanizer—and the relationship between sex and spirituality.
“There should always be some sense of magic in sex,” said Villard, who inherited her craft as a shaman from her great-grandmother, a Bedouin shaman who lived to be 123 years old, and who specialises in working with clients who have experienced trauma, including sexual abuse.
“A shaman is the connection between the unseen world—the spiritual world—and Earth,” Villard explained. “With my clients, I help them shed light on their strengths, and release any blockages and traumas relating to their past that resulted in life-long feelings of fear, guilt or shame.”
She added, “As women, it’s important to remember that our softness, vulnerability and tenderness are not weaknesses. They are strengths.”
Watch the full hour-long panel discussion below.
This article is part of Tatler’s first ever Wellness Week––a week-long programme of events and articles hosted by Tatler Hong Kong and Lululemon, designed to inspire you to take a pause and celebrate yourself. From July 19-23, Hong Kong’s leading wellness experts will take over The Upper House to host a series of events––from an energetic run club and morning meditation to fireside chats uncovering taboo topics and workshops to help you unearth the magic of manifestation. Visit the Wellness Week content collection for practical guides, inspiration and advice on a new way to be well.