Relational Culture

cancel culture: the act of damaging someone’s life or career because they made human error


  urban dictionary


In this day-and-age, it would be nearly impossible to have not witnessed firsthand the modern phenomenon of cancel culture. Cancel culture operates under the guise of accountability, yet the process by which cancel culture occurs lacks enough integrity to actually be supportive of any sort of true accountability. When a person or institution is “cancelled” due to a past or current mistake or even intentional harm, they are boycotted and publicly humiliated. But at Nurturely, we align more with the goals of accountability culture. Accountability culture, according to Urban Dictionary (which to be clear, is a crowdsourced – not a peer reviewed – source of evidence) means: “when a person is held accountable for their words or deeds by losing privileges such as jobs, book deals, social media followers, etc.” We love the concept of accountability culture because it supports growth through the enforcement of consequences. Consequences are necessary! Focusing on accountability does not demand perfection, it just acknowledges that when mistakes are made, people and institutions MUST admit their wrongdoings and take steps toward future mitigation of such transgressions or wrongdoings. In this way, accountability culture supports the creation of positive change – while cancel culture does not.  


Nurturely’s values are built on a foundation of accountability. Every policy in our team handbook references the culture of accountability on the first page. Every volunteer, intern, employee, or board member who is interested in getting involved at Nurturely goes through an equity and accountability screening. Every collaboration we start articulates clear shared goals and shared understanding of values before we move forward. These screenings and standards don’t demand perfection (from either side!), they just require a set of shared values and a desire to learn and be accountable when mistakes are made. When this shared understanding of values has been breached by either party, we go back to the drawing board to reassess where accountability was lost and whether values are in fact still in alignment. Although we have strict values of active antiracism and intersectional inclusion, we also support growth in these areas and deny the requirement of perfection. Accountability culture, but not cancel culture, allows for this.


But let’s take it a step further. What both cancel culture and even accountability culture are lacking is one thing: relationships, and direct honest communication. Cancel culture operates, pretty specifically, in the very anonymous (and often outraged!) spheres of the internet. Accountability may manifest publicly, or it may be confined within the structures or social networks that are most impacted. This can be both good or bad, given that public accountability can be important and relates to transparency, which is a critical component of accountability.


What relational culture adds is the nuance between public and private, the important factor of human connection, as emphasized by Nurturely Equity Lead Ayisha Elliott and outlined beautifully by Relational Uprising. Whether the process of accountability is completely private or completely public, these both can occur without an actual, face-to-face exchange. We are omitting the human connection in the process of accountability. At it’s core, this negates the humanity that is required for the work of antiracism and intersectional inclusion. Relational culture demands that the human connection is centered and prioritized.


Recently, a well-respected leader in the field of birth equity was put under the fire of cancel culture for posting an incendiary article on public social media. The article proclaimed a rejection of transgender inclusion, with the purported motivation that transgender inclusion goes against the protection of Black women and that policies such as genderless bathrooms cause harm for Black women by perpetuating the culture of rape and sexual violence against all women, but in particular Black women. While we absolutely acknowledge and take very seriously our current culture of sexual violence, and acknowledge that Black women are in fact disproportionately impacted by rape and sexual assault of all types, this article was misinformed at best and violent and exclusionary at worst. However, our approach is to lead with curiosity, and practice transparency, human connection, and direct communication. These approaches led to a 2+ hour face-to-face conversation between myself and this leader, followed a few weeks later by a 3+ hour conversation between Nurturely Equity Lead and this leader. Through a relational approach, we sought to understand the purpose behind this posting, the actual beliefs held by this person on this issue, and the specific implications for both the thousands of birthworkers (many of whom are transgender and nonbinary) who have trained under her as well as the much smaller but still important partnership that we had in place for training and supporting a multicultural cohort of birthworkers at the Nurturely Lounge in Oregon. Through our conversations, both Ayisha and myself learned that: 1) she had not actually read the article and posted it without understanding where it had come from or what it actually meant, 2) she has a deep love for all people who are committing to birthwork and especially those training with her, and 3) there was accountability to the fact that generational, religious, and cultural perspectives have shaped some misunderstandings regarding the modern conversation on gender expansion and inclusion, and most importantly 4) there was a clear desire to learn and expand her knowledge on this topic.


Through these conversations, we not only took into account a misplaced and ill-informed article, but considered the breadth of culture and experience that was represented in the work of this leader, elder, and tireless advocate for birth equity in Oregon and across the world.


Relational Uprising shares that the framework of relational culture allows us to “explore identity as both an important site of inclusion and justice, and as a complex reality rooted in a long history of social construction and division, exploring how we can reclaim and honor together the stories that make up each of our lives, lineages, legacies and organizations.” This resonates. While cancel culture would have immediately turned to boycott and rejection, a relational approach led to accountability and resource-sharing for learning. We have decided to move forward with a continued partnership for these reasons.


To be clear, sometimes “cancelling” is warranted, especially when accountability is incomplete and relationships are unprioritized. But at Nurturely, we will always make sure that before cancelling, a relational conversation, an opportunity for accountability, and a space for shared humanity and intentional growth are co-created. Only then, can we make progress toward these massive goals of an antiracist and inclusive society.


Meet Speakers from Milk | Mood | Moves: Dr. Kate Havens

As part of our countdown to Milk | Mood | Moves conference, we are highlighting a few of our speakers. Next up: Dr. Kate Havens, in her own words!

How did you get interested in perinatal health? Describe your journey to the work you are doing now.

It’s actually a funny story: I had finished my Ph.D in knee injuries in athletes and was really doing some soul searching about what area of research I wanted to study for my faculty career. I went to a professional conference, the American Society of Biomechanics, where I presented my research on quantifying balance during walking. I was wandering around a poster session and happened upon a title that caught my eye: “Babywearing Biomechanics”. I had a 1-year-old at the time and was wearing him constantly. I ran over to the poster and met someone who really changed the course of my career: Dr. Erin Mannen. She is also a Ph.D-trained biomechanics researcher, and we became fast friends. We have collaborated on projects ever since, publishing two manuscripts, presenting at conferences, and writing another manuscript together now. I always wonder how long or whether I would have arrived at perinatal health research if it weren’t for that one chance encounter!

Which of your projects are you most excited about? Describe that project.

Right now, I am analyzing the movement of moms during daily infant care tasks, like lifting them off a changing table, off the floor, and walking while carrying them. My expertise is in biomechanics, so I use a motion capture system to study movements, from how long their steps are to the forces that go through the hip joint. I also collect their muscle activity to understand how they coordinate their body to perform tasks. It’s pretty cool!

How did you get involved with Nurturely?

As an academic, I’m constantly reading scholarly literature on my areas of interest. I read one of [Nurturely’s Founder] Dr. Emily Little’s articles, and thought it was so interesting and a unique perspective from my own. I emailed her, we set up a phone call and again, became instant friends and collaborators!

How will you be participating in Nurturely’s Milk | Mood | Moves?

I’m thrilled to be giving a talk called “Mama Moves: Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Perinatal Experience.”

What do you hope participants get out of your portion of the conference? What is the one take-away?

I hope to be able to bring the anatomical and biomechanical perspective to the conference, so my takeaway is: Structure matters!

Where do you want to see your work go? 

I hope to reduce pelvic girdle pain and improve outcomes for pelvic floor dysfunction through targeted, evidence-based interventions. That’s a fancy way to say- I want moms to not suffer with back pain or pee their pants when they sneeze!

To learn more about Dr. Haven’s work, register for Milk | Mood | Moves, an interdisciplinary conference that starts tomorrow, September 23rd for health professionals, researchers, and advocates to share the latest science and clinical knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, focusing on human milk and lactation, perinatal mood disorders, and physiology and biomechanics of the perinatal period.


Meet Speakers from Milk | Mood | Moves: Dr. Sara Moukarzel

As part of our countdown to Milk | Mood | Moves conference, we are highlighting a few of our speakers. Next up: Dr. Sara Moukarzel!

After conducting research as bench scientist studying minor fat molecules in human milk, Sara Moukarzel, Ph.D became frustrated with the lack of research findings that were reaching the public and the large amount of health misinformation reaching the public, especially on social media. With her own frustration as the impetuous, she began a new strand of research looking into how scientists can create accurate and effective social media messages so that their findings can reach a larger audience outside of the scientific community. Dr. Moukarzel entered a relatively new and growing field of research that, until recently had few widely available tools and few researchers. While large organizations and commercial enterprises often analyzed user behavior for marketing purposes, few scientists were looking at the spread of scientific health (mis) information.

However, that changed recently as the term “misinformation” entered the public consciousness with the spread of COVID-vaccine misinformation and the increased scrutiny placed on social media companies and their role in propagating misinformation more broadly. With the public awareness about misinformation as well as the creation of widely available analytics tools and the ever-increasing number of users on social media platforms, Dr. Moukarzel’s research has become all the more timely and relevant.

Her primary findings on how to create engaging posts shows that posts that are short, empowering, and simple to understand as well as show diversity and include photos illicit the most engagement. In addition, her work stresses the importance of using trusted sources such as community leaders to share health information. She recommends campaigns partner with already-existing trusted organizations to garner more attention. In many ways, “we are all influencers” for our communities, she said.

However, she does not want to minimize the challenge of educating the public. Information from researchers can be misconstrued or misinterpreted by more public facing media and by individuals. Nuance can be lost.

Learn more about Dr. Moukarzel and her research here and be sure to register for Milk | Mood | Moves, an interdisciplinary conference on September 23-24, 2021 for health professionals, researchers, and advocates to share the latest science and clinical knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, focusing on human milk and lactation, perinatal mood disorders, and physiology and biomechanics of the perinatal period. Dr. Moukarzel will be speaking on how you can be an effective on social media especially in the field of chestfeeding.


Meet Speakers from Milk | Mood | Moves: Dr. Catherine Monk

As part of our preparation for our upcoming Milk | Mood | Moves conference, we are highlighting a few of our speakers. First up: Dr. Catherine Monk!

Dr. Catherine Monk fell into the psychology field by first studying journalism. She realized that what she loved in the journalism field was hearing people’s stories and it was this first love that led her to become not only a Professor of Medical Psychology in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Psychiatry at Columbia University but also the founding director of a novel initiative that embeds mental health services into the OB/GYN clinic. Patients of all ages and backgrounds are referred to the integrated and insurance-covered mental health services by their OB/GYN providers and through universal depression screenings. The providing of mental health services is part of an effort to provide “whole person” care by examining the health of the person outside of only the traditionally considered biomedical indicators. While this shift is not new, it is still relatively unique in the OB/GYN field. It is more commonly seen in pediatric clinics, according to Dr. Monk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move to long distance medicine: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health services offered in the OB/GYN clinic have been offered through telemedicine instead of in-person. While there are some cons of this acceleration to care over the internet, according to Dr. Monk, the convenience alone outweighs the cons. Another benefit in addition to convenience for patients, is accessibility of services. She expects more pregnant and postpartum people will receive mental health services after the pandemic. While this may change as state laws are tightening regarding provider licensure after being relaxed during the height of the pandemic, Dr. Monk still thinks more people will still be able to access mental health services with telemedicine. The pandemic has also made a cultural shift towards acceptance of mental health care, said Dr. Monk.

In addition to clinical work, Dr. Monk leads a research lab, Perinatal Pathways, that investigates how influences on the fetus can affect the health of the child throughout development. The lab currently has multiple ongoing projects that have continued throughout the pandemic with the use of videotaping, zoom sessions and other web-based systems with minimal bio data collection. Dr. Monk’s lab is a part of the COVID-19 Mother Baby Outcome (COMBO) initiative, a group of scientists at Columbia that “follows SARS-CoV-2 exposed laboring mothers and their newborns and compare their long- term health outcomes to case-matched dyads without prenatal exposure.” The hypothesis of this study is “that prenatal SARS-CoV-2 exposure affects (1) mother and (2) child brain and behavior, and (3) demonstrate that the socioemotional health of each member of the mother- child dyad is intrinsically related to that of the other.” Monk credits her lab colleagues for their energy and ability to pivot during the pandemic to continue the lab’s ongoing studies and participate in COVID-related investigations.

All of Dr. Monk’s work, both in the clinic and in the lab, indicates that the transition into parenthood is an important biological and psychological one, like adolescence, and that support is crucial to the success of the parents and the child.

To learn more about Dr. Monk’s work, register for Milk | Mood | Moves, an interdisciplinary conference on September 23-24, 2021 for health professionals, researchers, and advocates to share the latest science and clinical knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, focusing on human milk and lactation, perinatal mood disorders, and physiology and biomechanics of the perinatal period.

Recent Research Summary: High Temperatures and Perinatal Health

Learn about the connect between climate change and perinatal health through a summary of a recent article titled “Associations between high temperatures in pregnancy and risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirths: systematic review and meta-analysis” by Chersich et. al.

A recent study from Chersich et. al found that heat exposure can affect perinatal health and possibly children’s health especially for those birthing people who are of lower socioeconomic status. This is particularly concerning given the temperature rises due to the ever-increasing threat of global warming.

Previous research has found that changes that inhibit a birth person’s ability to regulate their temperature, known as thermoregulation, can raise the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Vulnerable groups are unable to limit their exposure to extreme heat, making them particularly vulnerable to the increasing temperatures due to global warming.

The systematic review or metanalysis study published in September 2020 titled “Associations between high temperatures in pregnancy and risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirths: systematic review and meta-analysis” by Chersich et. al added to the previous research by finding that “exposure to high temperature is associated with an increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes, especially preterm birth and stillbirth, and among women in lower socioeconomic groups”.

The study’s authors looked at 14,880 records and 175 full text articles including 70 studies in 27 countries, seven of which were low- or middle-income countries. Using this method, the researchers found that:

  • In 40 of 47 studies examined, preterm births were more common at higher temperatures.
  • For every 1°C increase, the odds of a preterm birth and stillbirths rose 1.05-fold.
  • Associations between temperature and outcomes were most evident among those in lower socioeconomic groups and those birthing people of relatively old and young age.
  • In 18 of 28 studies examined, higher temperatures were associated with smaller birth weight.

In conclusion, this study adds yet another negative affect of the global climate emergency; perinatal health and indicates that children’s health may also be affected by the heat exposure during the pregnancy of their birth parent.

To read the full paper, visit

Nurturely recently hosted a panel discussion on the intersection of perinatal health, planetary health, and racial and social justice. To learn more about this session and receive a recording, visit and register.