SXSW Moments: Women’s Health

The Forrest Four-Cast: May 23, 2019

Hugh Forrest
6 min readMay 24, 2019

Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.

In a direct attack on women’s autonomy, Alabama’s female governor signed the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, with the stated goal that the coming legal fight will give the U.S. Supreme Court the wherewithal to overturn Roe v. Wade. And even if this bill doesn’t do it, there are plenty of other states vying for their chance to institute mandatory pregnancy continuation for all girls and women, no matter what their circumstance, even in cases of rape and incest.

Along with threatening doctors who perform abortion with lengthy prison terms, the bill also makes clear that many people in positions of power completely fail to understand how women’s health works. An Alabama bill co-sponsor, State Senator Clyde Chambliss, made the bizarre argument that women could still end their pregnancies before they know they are pregnant, while admitting he’s not smart enough to be pregnant.

Tragically, this isn’t the only chasm in women’s health care. SXSW 2019 took a look at several pressing issues surrounding women’s health and ripped off some of the secrecy and prejudice that prevents open and honest discussions around how the female body works. There’s never been a more urgent time to have them.

Hysteria No More: Data, Doctors and Women’s Health
Reproductive healthcare in the U.S. is failing women. History dismissed women’s health concerns as “hysteria,” and women still struggle to get clear answers about their fertility, receive low value pregnancy care, experience bias if they are black or brown, poor, rural, lesbian or transgender, and are cast aside by our healthcare system as new mothers. In a self-examining view, this discussion features three young Ob/Gyns who share why women turn away from their doctors and toward other kinds of solutions. They expose the gaps in reproductive science and care delivery, and the most promising solutions in social media, telehealth, biometric tracking, and other technologies to ensure women care, validation, and bodily autonomy.

Cindy Eckert of The Pink Ceiling/Pinkubator breaks barriers by investing in and mentoring other women in the healthcare space.

Is Healthcare a Tale of Two Sexes?
When Viagra was up for approval through the FDA, the little blue pill was submitted with data from 4,213 subjects, was granted priority review to expedite the cause, and went through a six-month approval process. When Addyi, the first drug for female sexual desire approached the FDA, it was denied priority review despite having supporting data from 13,851 subjects, and faced a six-year approval process. The gender gap in pharmaceuticals is egregious. Despite addressing an unmet medical need, drugs for women have had a harder time going to market because of the pharmaceutical industry’s sluggish and antiquated processes. This session with Cindy Eckert of The Pink Ceiling/Pinkubator covers the gender disparities in healthcare and what we can do to fix them.

Maria Shriver

Featured Session: Maria Shriver, Alexandra Socha and Farida Sohrabji With Ashley C. Ford
Hundreds of thousands of women are losing their minds to Alzheimer’s each year, and no one knows why. Of the minds that develop Alzheimer’s, two in three of them belong to women. Maria Shriver, founder of the nonprofit the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and one of the nation’s leading advocates for women and Alzheimer’s, hosts this candid conversation about women’s brain health and the mind-blowing implications. Joining her are Dr. Farida Sohrabji, founder and director of the Women’s Health in Neuroscience Program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and actress Alexandra Socha, who became an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 50. Women are at the center of this global health crisis, but they may also hold the key to unlocking a cure for everyone.

Women’s Health: How Do You Market Taboo Topics?
How do you talk about important health issues or facts of life if you can’t use their actual names? The women’s health industry has faced this dilemma for decades — life-changing products like tampons or vaginal dryness solutions can’t use words like “vagina” explicitly in ads or on vital consumer marketing platforms like Facebook. Imagine educating consumers about contact lenses or saline solution without being able to use the word “eye.” In this cross-industry panel discussion, experts discuss how to effectively market “taboo” topics such as vaginal health, how to create vocabulary for the complexity of female sexuality, and why it’s important for today’s leaders and biggest brands to destigmatize pressing health and aging concerns for women.

The Public Pubic: Conversations Beyond the Bush
Georgia Scott, author of “Down There: Narratives About the Joy, Aroma & Overall Existence of the Bush,” says talking about the hair down there — what we like, don’t like, are willing to do, and unwilling to tolerate — helps shatter taboos, overcome fears and spark conversations. Building on hundreds of global narratives, Scott’s work draws on several disciplines including psychology, art history, sociology and economics, and spans cultures and genders, with themes of self-discovery, finding your voice and building relationships.

Ilyse Hogue and friends at SXSW 2019.

How Media Fragmentation Fuels Online Toxicity
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue speaks on this panel that provides a framework for how we can fight back against online hate and misinformation that spreads lies about women and reproduction. White supremacists, misogynists and other extremists exploit social media platforms to spread hate and lies, grow their ranks, and harass anyone they disagree with. This online abuse puts more individuals, communities — especially women and people of color — and our democracy in harm’s way. Hogue has pushed the conversation around abortion access to be one of fundamental human rights and self-determination for women. NARAL works to be certain that reproductive freedom and family planning are part of the national discussion about supporting working women and families by connecting the dots between reproductive rights, economic security, and our nation’s prosperity.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
Change is Coming
Urban Mobility
It’s Time for Sports!
Saving the Ocean
Military Matters
Social Media Power
Telling New Media Stories
Marvel’s Magic
Future Health
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Growing Unicorns
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Disaster Response
Hacking Democracy
Pete Buttigieg
Kara Swisher
Arlan Hamilton

Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface from July 1 through July 19.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.