YoniFest, Aviva Romm? Really?

Yonifest word

You cannot make this stuff up.

Earlier this month Quebec hosted YoniFest. That’s right, YONIFEST!

Apparently this is a festival celebrating vaginas. Let me amend that. It’s a festival fetishizing the role of the vagina in birth. Just in case you thought natural childbirth and homebirth are about creating a meaningful, spiritual experience for birth, a bunch of immature, giggly girls have held a festival to set you straight.

Can you imagine a group of men’s health professionals speaking at WeenieFest or DickFest? Me, neither. But apparently this makes sense to the homebirth crowd.

According to the doula from Doula Sharing:

Last weekend I had the chance to be part of the very first Yonifest! The yonifest is an emerging space, a festival about birth. Around 400 midwives, doulas, mothers and more gathered at a beautiful piece of land in the eastern townships, for 3 amazing and rich days of learning and sharing about the actual issues around birth. we had the chance to see and hear Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Kathleen fahy, Joëlle Terrien, Isabelle Brabant, Aviva Romm, Betty-Anne Daviss and many more!

Ahh, yes, a bunch of legends in their own minds. It is horrifying to speculate how many infant deaths they may be indirectly responsible for.

But I digress.

Look at all the fun they had at YoniFest!


You absolutely must check out the picture on the doula’s page. It is a classic example of the fact that homebirth advocacy is for fools.

As far as I can determine, the doula has a knitted uterus on her head (I think that’s supposed to be a cervix on top), an anatomically correct placenta bag, a plastic baby, and a knitted uterus/fallopian tubes/ovaries.

I totally understand why the usual clowns are there: Ina May (“I might want to have a cunt one day and a twat the next”) Gaskin, Michel (I hid during my own child’s birth) Odent, Betty-Anne (bait and switch) Daviss. It’s not as if any real medical professionals want to hear the nonsense that dribbles from their mouths. It’s YoniFest or nothing.

But what’s Aviva Romm’s excuse? She has a real medical education, yet there she is at YoniFest, a festival that couldn’t even manage to use anatomically correct words for genitalia.

Apparently, Romm is not too proud of her attendance. On her Facebook page she alludes to “teaching” in Quebec but I can find no mention of Yonifest itself.

So here’s my question for Aviva:

If you were too embarrassed to even mention YoniFest to your own followers, why did you go?

How can you lend your name to a festival where people are wearing knitted uteri on their heads? Do you actually think that the other folks there are doing anything other than making it all up? Doesn’t it bother you that babies die preventable deaths as a result of this nonsense? Or was it simply another marketing opportunity to shill your books and services?

I’m really curious how you justify this to yourself.

  • CanDoc

    Yep, there’s Aviva, teaching “Induction: Should we get the party started?”, “Conscious Preconception: As upstream as we get”, “Prenatal Nutrition”, and “Design your birth: fear, insight and outcomes”.

    • CanDoc
    • Shiva Devottee

      “Conscious Preconception: As upstream as we get”

      People need to be conscious when they conceive, and by that I don’t mean *just* “not drunk” – which no doubt many are when they have sex, but there can be a spiritual component to sex and some say there even *should* be. At any rate, the carelessness with which so many go about sexuality and “oops!” pregnancies is just astounding.

  • Sue

    I’ve heard of idiots being described as ”d-heads”. Is there any conventional epithet for a v-head?

    • Amy M

      c-word aka C U Next Tuesday

  • Sara

    This just reminds me of a ripoff of Mardi Gras. The Bearded Oysters, Camel Toe Steppers, and friends. Except the parade clubs aren’t intent on endangering women and babies.

  • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

    OK, something seems to be missing in this discussion of the Yoni-Fest –

    Were there cupcakes?

    • sdsures

      Oh, I DO hope so!!!!

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        • sdsures

          Those are the ones. Looks like more than one of em has a yeast infection. I applaud the icing artist, because those are so intricate…but they are at the same time really, REALLY gross. You think someone paid an especially high price to get those made?

          Sigh, I miss ye olde tymes when a cupcake was just a cupcake.

  • sdsures

    As insane as this is, could this be a new niche for my knitting business?

    • sdsures

      I also wonder how the fabrics that are used in those listings do not slip. Anybody know?

  • MichelleJo

    This is just so sad.

    • sdsures

      Maybe they can’t see themselves.

  • MS

    How embarrassing. What a disgusting display in unprofessional behavior. And these people expect to be taken seriously?!? Giving birth is not a joke. Being a legitimate health care provider is not a hobby, and real professionals certainly don’t prance around in ludicrous costumes like they were in a circus. These people have lost their damn minds.

    I’m with everyone else–if my OB had attended anything as ridiculous as this, he would no longer be my OB. I expect my healthcare professionals to act with a little dignity.

    • sdsures

      Aren’t doctors supposed to attend things like *medical* seminars to, y’know, improve their skills in practicing REAL medicine? Something to do with keeping up to date with the latest research and techniques as their career moves along?

    • sdsures

      OTOH, this is about as funny as Bette Midler dancing with an inflated boob on her head. But at least when she did it, she performed in gay bathhouses and was FABULOUS!

      Wiki: Continental Baths

      “Due to her performances at the baths, Bette Midler earned the nickname Bathhouse Betty. It was at the Continental, accompanied by pianist Barry Manilow (who, like the bathhouse patrons, sometimes wore only a white towel) that she created her stage persona the Divine Miss M.

      ‘Despite the way things turned out [with the AIDS crisis], I’m still proud of those days [when I got my start singing at the gay bathhouses]. I feel like I was at the forefront of the gay liberation movement, and I hope I did my part to help it move forward. So, I kind of wear the label of ‘Bathhouse Betty’ with pride.’

      —Bette Midler, Houston Voice 23 October 1998″

  • Shiva Devottee

    As a native speaker, yoni can mean “vagina” in Sanskrit but it can also mean “vulva”. However it is mostly used as “womb”. That usage is also literal and metaphorical. For instance, the center of the earth would be called a “yoni”. It also has metaphysical and philosophical meanings. Its never used as slang so “coochie fest” would not be interchangeable. I believe these women choose the word yoni to signify something other than vulgar slang terminology.

    The Sanskrit male equivalent would be “linga”. So if men had a fest regarding their reproductive organs it would be “linga fest”. Like with yoni, in Sanskrit usage linga means many things, none of them crude, vulgar or slang.

    Linga is often tied to my namesake “Shiva”. The Shiva-linga in classical South Asian culture contains a lot of philosophical and metaphysical symbolism.

    • Amy

      So it’s a bunch of well-off western white woman appropriating terms from a language and culture they know little to nothing about. Kind of fits with their “blessingways” and “sacred pregnancy” nonsense.

      • Shiva Devottee

        I know being “anti-appropriation” is en vogue right now but I personally welcome all the interest in my culture that westerners are currently showing. My culture is beautiful and great and I’d also be into it if I were a westerner. From my experience the westerners who use Sanskrit terms do it respectfully. The only places where I’ve seen “yoni” translated into foul slang terms is right here in this comments section. Read some of the other comments with their “coochie fest” etc.

        • Amy M

          That was a joke.

          • Shiva Devottee

            Amy M, I wasn’t offended. I’m not easily offended even though that seems to be en vogue these days. If I was I would see Yoni Fest as “cultural appropriation” and “orientalism” which I don’t.

      • sdsures

        Yep. Pretentious.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      I get your point about the word ‘yoni’ and the meaning within your cultural context and respect that perspective. I personally do not and have not ever used the term yoni to describe a woman’s vagina because I feel silly doing doing so because that isn’t my culture of origin. The only time I have used it to refer to a person because it is that person’s name. I haven’t ever heard a western person refer to the word ‘yoni’ in a manner that had any other context other than referring directly to a woman’s body part, vagina, vulva, etc. In the western context, it really doesn’t have any other meaning and thus is interchangeable with other words. I am not offended at all by the use of words like cunt, cooter, pussy, etc, and I don’t find them to be crude or vulgar, only humorous. Or maybe more to the point, I find it humorous that people get so bent out of shape by their usage. They are after all, only words, and they take on the meaning that we assign to them.

      • Shiva Devottee

        ” I haven’t ever heard a western person refer to the word ‘yoni’ in a manner that had any other context other than referring directly to a woman’s body part, vagina, vulva, etc. In the western context, it really doesn’t have any other meaning and thus is interchangeable with other words.”

        The westerners who use the term are generally somewhat familiar with one or more aspects of Hindu philosophy, such as Yoga (a philosophy by the way). I’ve never heard a westerner totally ignorant of India, Hinduism or Indian culture/philosophy use the term.

  • Timothy Renzi

    This is nothing new, freshly minted 18 year old boys from the northeast have been participating in yonifests in montreal ever since the drinking age in the US went to 21

  • Dr Kitty

    Meanwhile, in India, a woman swam for an hour across a flood-swollen river so she could give birth in a hospital.


    Homebirth- I think it might be on the wrong side of history.

  • OttawaAlison

    I went to university in the Eastern Townships, beautiful are, but I kind of facepalmed the idea of yonifest when I read about it.

  • Liz Leyden

    I live 45 minutes from the Canadian border, not far from Montreal and the Eastern Cantons. Frankly, I’m not surprised. I just wonder if she plans to show “The Vagina Monologues”.

  • Somewhereinthemiddle

    I really would have preferred the name Cooterpalooza.

    • Somewhereinthemiddle

      Clam Jam 2014? Cunt Faire?

      • Roadstergal


        • Somewhereinthemiddle

          See? We’ve come up with far better names in just a few hours. These folks aren’t just a bit ridiculous, they are boring and unimaginative. YoniFest? Try YawnyFest. See what I did there? ;)

        • guest


          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Ooooh, Vagina-rama, Vulva-rama…

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa


          • Zornorph

            The Bearded Clambake?

          • guest

            Or as Miranda Bailey calls it on Grey’s.. the Va- JJ..

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

            The original master….

      • MLE

        Pussy Galore

        • guest

          Ah yes, good old 007 and Pussy Galore!! Or “Alota Vagina” as in the Austin Powers parody.. loved those movies…

    • Zornorph

      I am trying to come up with a clever name that uses ‘Vagina’, but I’m really drawing a blank. VaginaFest just really doesn’t flow off the tongue. I wonder what they would have done if I’d have shown up dressed as SuperVagina holding a sign saying ‘Every Vagina has superpowers!

      • Somewhereinthemiddle

        Me too and my brain is failing me. I’m shooting for vulva too…

        • Zornorph

          Va-Va-Vulva? The Cuntvention?

          • arianne

            Viva la Vulva?

        • KarenJj

          MontreaI Minge festival.

        • Mel


  • Monica

    Oh what we will do for that almighty dollar.

  • Beth S

    I have no need to attend a “festival” celebrating my vagina. Especially in that idiotic costume that the woman is wearing. I’m a mother three times over, and just took custody of my niece and nephew giving me three children under 6 months old in the house. I have more to worry about.
    I’m also in agreement that if I found out my OB attended this mess he would no longer be my OB.

  • Mac Sherbert

    Gross. I can’t even bring myself to read the post.

  • Zoey

    Some I know locally attended this event as a speaker. I do think he has an important message about how care providers should deal with trans identified people during pregnancy and birth, but I can’t decide whether the rest of the speakers and topics make me want to laugh or be filled with disgust. “The holistic stages of labour,” Kathleen Fahy on PPD hemorrhages…no thanks.

    • Dr Kitty

      Any bullet point headings you could share re: antenatal care for trans people?

      I assume ” use their preferred pronouns” and ” just because they have a particular set of genitals doesn’t make them a particular gender” are up there.

      I have patients who are trans women and parents, but as yet no trans men who are parents.
      Usually asking the child ” who have you brought with you today?” as an opening gambit prevents me putting my foot in it.

      • Zoey

        I don’t have any bullet points, but he did write up his experience as a trans male in the ER when he went in for a miscarriage that may be helpful for someone in a health care setting:


        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          Very interesting! Thanks for sharing that.

        • Trixie

          That was totally awesome.
          Not to take away from it at all, but he was also at Yonifest. http://www.milkjunkies.net

        • Dr Kitty

          I’m consciously trying to be better at trans health care issues.

  • RNMomma

    Two immediate thoughts: Gross. And I wonder what these women would say if a bunch of men wanted to have a Penisfest celebrating the role of male genitalia in conception. (Granted, you don’t have to use a penis to have a baby, but a lot of women don’t use their vagina to deliver one either.)

    • Amy M

      Kanamara Matsuri in Japan. It already exists.

      • RNMomma

        And they use it to raise money for HIV research. Nice.

    • Cobalt

      What man goes to a festival to celebrate his penis? It’s already so celebrated in his daily life and general culture, a festival would just be a waste of money.

      • Zornorph

        Well, I think you could get a lot of gay men to go to an event called DickFest.

        • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

          Lois: “You called your country ‘Petoria’?”
          Peter: “I was going to call it ‘Peterland’ but that name was already taken by the gay bar downtown.”

    • UsernameError

      What about testicle festivals? I mean, there are some parallels here. NCB advocates eat placentas, and at the testicle festival they eat testicles. Kinda the same thing. I wonder if testicles have magical properties like placentas?

      • Beth S

        My stepdad insists Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles) are both an aphrodisiac as well as a stamina builder, my DH has yet to try them.

        • RNMomma

          I’ve never seen Rocky Mountain oysters in person, but when I worked as a vet tech castrating horses was my least favorite part. I will never get that smell out if my head.

          • Amy M

            I’ve helped castrate bull calves, lambs and piglets (back in college) and yeah, it sure it messy. So I guess I’ve seen Rocky Mountain Oysters in person, but they were raw. And really fresh.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

            When we used to cut pigs, we actually kept the testicles because my BIL knew a guy that liked them. We’d end up with a 5 gallon bucket full.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

        Calf fries or Rocky Mountain Oyster dinners (or any other place where people are go to eat testicles) are no more about celebrating testicles than Fish Fries are about celebrating fish.

        And they happen for pretty much the same reason for fish fries. There are people who like to eat them, but testicles are hard to come by. You can’t easily get them at your local butcher, because they are not part of the steer (by definition), just as you can’t get good fresh fish in the store. Therefore, someone gets a whole bunch and shares it with those who want them.

    • Trixie

      It’s not to late to get tickets for the Intercourse Sausage Fest! http://www.padutchcountry.com/event/details/8499

  • Are you nuts

    What my doctor does in her own time is none of my business….. but I have to say if I saw she had attended yonifest, I would be finding a new doc asap!

    • attitude devant

      Well, I have a BIG problem with her speaking there. She makes a big deal of her Yale M.D. at the same time she’s doing really craven, money-grubbing crap like this. Basically being the darling of the woo set with all the attention whoring and essential oil hawking it entails AND claiming the privilege of her Ivy League credential. It’s disgusting. Hey Aviva! My Ivy League med school is older than your Ivy League med school, and I actually live an ethical life and practice medicine appropriately. It’s genuine, life-affirming, and truly woman-centered. You should try it some time. Sheesh!

      • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

        She makes a big deal of her Yale M.D.

        Sorry to go on a tangent, but I’ve been dwelling on this particular detail for a while.
        Not to diminish the value of an Ivy League credential, but going through university as a mature age student (assuming no other responsibilities) is significantly easier than as a fresh faced high school graduate – you have vastly more life experience, emotional stability, self awareness, organisational abilities etc
        At her age, it’s not quite the badge of achievement she is making it out to be.

        • AF

          Getting through any university is significantly easier than getting through a medical school of the same university.

          Having said that, if you have good memory, it’s not all that difficult to get through a medical school. It is not like graduate school or law school, where in addition to being a parrot being able to regurgitate previously learned FACTS you also have to be able to reason and argue your way through applications of facts.

          • Dr Kitty

            Maybe true before the age of the OSCE.
            Medical school is no longer “describe 5 eponymous syndromes and their management” or “describe the pathognomonic feature of Hairy Cell Leukaemia”.

            You have to show you can take a history, do an examination, come up with a differential diagnosis, arrange appropriate investigations, and come up with various management plans based on the various hypothetical results of said investigations. It is ALL about using logic and reasoning (and pattern recognition) to apply facts.

            And then you get marked on how well you can explain your reasoning and conclusions and management…to a patient.

            Not just memory and regurgitation, trust me.

        • Therese

          High school graduates don’t typically go straight to medical school. If she were bragging about her Bachelor’s degree, maybe you would have some sort of point, though I still think it’s weird to say a Bachelor’s is only an achievement if you were immature and unstable when you earned it.

          • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

            I said it was less of an achievement, and immaturity and instability are relative.
            Perhaps your experience of university was different from mine, but I felt overwhelmed for much of my undergraduate degree, socially and academically.
            Coming back in my late twenties for postgrad was pretty easy despite the massive workload.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

      But the “yonifest” is not REALLY “in her own time.” Notably, it is professional development.

      And if that is what she is doing for “professional development” then yes, I am out of there.

      • Dr Kitty

        I’ve just spent my annual appraisal providing evidence of my CPD AND REFLECTION on it.
        You’re not supposed to just go, you’re supposed to show you learnt stuff.

        “I learnt to Trust Birth” BTW doesn’t count, it has to be new knowledge with direct impact on your practice (or at least it does for a UK GP).

        For example, I can’t just put “read a lot of Skeptical OB- engaged with peers and patients in active discussion- confirmed my belief that the safest place to give birth is a hospital” as CPD.

        • Haelmoon

          Its too bad though, this would be fun CPD!!

          • theadequatemother

            Make it a personal learning project. I did that with a few of my evidence based blog posts.

          • Haelmoon

            In all fairness, I have learned a lot from this site. I deal with the woo more now than where I worked previously. Dr T’s insights into the mindset of the NCB world have really helped me tailor my counselling to patients who would have other wiser written off what I had to say because they were anti-medical establishment. I think I mentioned before a patient who want a second opinion from Gloria Lemay. At least now I understood where she was coming from and able to guide her to the safest delivery (oligo breech at 41+ weeks, ultimately delivered by c-section at 42 weeks).
            THANK YOU DR T!! Your help is not unappreciated!!

  • Smoochagator

    At any of the lectures, Q&As, discussions, networking events, etc., did anyone bring up Gavin Michael’s death, and what can be done to prevent more mothers from needlessly suffering the heartbreak of losing a child on the altar of interventin-free childbirth?
    Didn’t think so.

  • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

    Apparently this is a festival celebrating vaginas.


    Let me amend that. It’s a festival fetishizing the role of the vagina in birth.


    • Zornorph

      I don’t know if you remember that silly 80′s movie called The Party Animal, but I’m imagining a misguided Pondo Sinatra showing up as YoniFest going ‘Hound Dog’s gonna eat that pussy!’

  • PreggieLady

    1. What is with people who make a living discussing genitalia who either can’t or won’t use the real medical terminology for said genitalia? 2. Why do they always choose Sanskrit as the alternate term? Cultural appropriation much?

    • PreggieLady

      I do want the knit reproductive system outfit, though.

      • InvisibleDragon

        This is close, but not quite as in-your-face.


        As far as the festival goes… I’ve had to stop facepalming; nearly gave myself a concussion. I’m not sure it wouldn’t be worth it for this abomination.

    • Amy M

      Would “coochiefest” have been better, because at least they wouldn’t have been ripping off the Sanskrit culture? ;)

      • PreggieLady

        Yes. Yes, it would. :)

  • Amy M

    Check out the discussion/lecture list:

    No Chatting, Hatting, Patting with guess who? (Carla Hartley) She also had “The Built in Safety of the 3rd Stage.”

    The Cosmic Yoni: Ecogenetics, Woman as First Environment, by someone named Katsi Cook

    Evidently Aviva Romm discussed induction. It’s not clear from the schedule what methods of induction she discussed, or when she thinks labor should be induced. She also talked about optimal prenatal nutrition and designing birth.

    And Kathleen Fahy thinks midwives are the key to reducing rates of prematurity.

    I was able to get the site in English, but some of the discussion list is still in French, and I can’t read it. Anyone here who can, let us know if there are any other fabulous discussions we should know about.

    • Jackie Barnett

      I speak french, but don’t see where the discussion list is…:(

      • Amy M

        If you click “schedule” right at the top, it will take you to a tiny calendar. If you click the calendar, it will show you the pdf of the schedule.

    • Carolyn the Red

      I can translate any of the french if you’d like. I noticed they said that the workshops qualify for continuing education for l’Ordre des sages-femmes du Québec. (Another reason I don’t get why so many women I know recommend/want midwife care)

      There’s a few fun ones “What free-birth teaches us” and “What to make of birth pain” that I saw

      • Carolyn the Red

        “From calling to career – are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater” ???

        “Vaginal exams and the art of observation to reduce them”

        “The fourth trimester of pregnancy” (no clue)

        Something about Aryuvedic medicine

        “When the midwife is in mourning for her own delivery”

        • Amy M

          Wow. I wonder what percentage of the audience was other midwives? Clearly they assumed a lot of CPM types would attend, but it seems to have been open to the general public. Wouldn’t they be shooting themselves in the foot (feet?) by allowing potential clients to hear some of those discussions? Or maybe all the potential clients are so far off the deep end, it doesn’t even matter?

          Meanwhile, there was a also a burlesque show.

        • Bombshellrisa

          I thought the fourth trimester was the first three months postpartum. There is a “fourth trimester” birth education class taught locally which covers how to treat yourself and your newborn. It’s pretty woo-ish, at least the version I am familiar with.

          • Zornorph

            Well, it’s also a term used by that ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’ author, but he’s not very woo and I doubt they were referring to his methods.

          • Roadstergal

            On purely mathematical grounds, I strenuously object to the term ‘fourth trimester.’

          • Bombshellrisa

            If I have learned anything about the masters of woo, it’s that they are really bad at math.

    • anne

      That list makes me feel like a failure at life. Why won’t somebody pay me to spout off on topics that have no basis in reality?

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

        I’ve said it many times, life would be so much easier if I didn’t have ethics.

        People are so easily fooled.

  • DrDEG

    how is a festival a space? Never mind an emerging one…started choking right there.

    • Amy M

      Well, it was full of space cadets. It was IN a space. We’d like to send some of these people to outer space. And of course, the most important job of a “birthworker” is to hold the space, so perhaps this festival is creating a space they can hold. (with kitchen chairs and orange street cones, that’s just what my New England brain keeps coming back to when I read “hold the space.”)

      • Roadstergal

        Or have your daughter (me) jump out of the car and run across the street to stand in it while you turn around… ah, memories of growing up without a garage.

        Something about a bunch of reasonably affluent, mostly white women using the word ‘yoni’ to talk about their ladyparts really annoys me. I like ladyparts fine (some of them more than fine), and I understand tht it’s really hard to find decent terms for them that aren’t loaded with misogynistic baggage and/or juvenile, but that one just isn’t doing it for me.

        • Who?


        • Dr Kitty

          I have difficulty with patients who describe any part of their anatomy covered by their underwear as “down below”.

          I do not want to spend five minutes working out exactly where your symptom is, especially if you decline an examination so I can’t see for myself.

          I don’t mind if you don’t know the medical word, but I object to playing 20 questions to find out whether we’re dealing with a uterine prolapse, a urethral carbuncle or piles.

      • attitude devant

        Best. Comment. Ever.

      • Petanque

        Nah, I don’t think a birthing space can really be held properly unless there’s knitting going on in the corner!

        • Amy M

          Some sort of knitted net to keep the space in place?

          • Petanque

            A net sounds perfect! Unless of course the knitters form small hat shapes and put them on the baby’s head, that’s just courting disaster with the power of knitting.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

      You see the new age -woo influence.

      Loons. All of them.

    • Susan

      I sort of thought emerging space was a birthing pun? No?