Here’s why women won’t stop banging on about the menopause
We’ve gone thousands of years not discussing it, but times are a-changing, says Jo Elvin
Tuesday 18 October 2022 By Jo Elvin
Even as recently as the 20th century, when women realised they were no longer doubled over with cramps anymore, when they hadn’t been caught short when their unexpected heavy period collided with that one sodding day they’d dared to wear white jeans – they accepted that ‘the change’ had struck. And thus, t’was time to retreat silently from polite society. ‘You’re kind of irrelevant now,’ whispered the world. ‘Kindly take your bloodless old womb home, pop the kettle on and just sit and wait to die, there’s a love.’
Cut to 2022 and the menopause… well, it’s flipping everywhere. So hot right now. I mean, just the other day, I was minding my own business in a department store when they invited me over a tannoy to sign up to a menopause workshop with a ‘menopause coach’.
I blame that Davina McCall and her ilk – your Lisa Snowdons, your Mariella Frostrups, your Penny Lancasters. All having the brass neck to be seen out there. Living their lives. Looking great. And – I don’t want to alarm you – still appearing on the telly.
And they talk about the menopause a lot. You can’t move these days without one of them wanging on about night sweats on the radio, or flashing their oestrogen patch on the BBC. They’re calling it a ‘movement’ and they’ve even launched campaigning groups like Menopause Mandate. Today, on World Menopause Day, they’ll be clogging up Parliament Square in London yelling about needing better education and care for it.
So I ask again: why won’t women stop banging on about the menopause?
Is it because they’re fed up with the fact that this life stage – that will affect every single woman – has only just really started being openly and meaningfully discussed in the past couple of years? And although most women you know will have been drilled from high school about periods, pregnancy and to check for boob lumps, the menopause is apparently something they just have to figure out for themselves and muddle through alone? And usually after they’ve been battling with the resulting insomnia, anxiety, depression, physical pain and exhaustion, often for years, before they figure out that it’s treatable?
I wonder if it’s because some women have even been driven to the brink of suicide by symptoms they either silently endured, or couldn’t get a GP to take seriously. Could it be that these high-profile women banging on about the menopause are heartbroken by the women who regularly slide into their DMs to talk about the years their doctor fobbed them off with anti-depressants, when actually they needed HRT?
Is it because even some of these same women who know about the menopause had scarcely heard of its precursor – the perimenopause – and so assumed they must be dying of something dreadful after that time they made a restaurant loo look like a murder scene in under a minute? (This one might be specifically me, who had never heard of peri, so I really thought it was just me, and subsequently spent many hours needlessly wondering how my small daughter might cope with my funeral.)
Maybe women won’t stop banging on about it because, since high-profile women have reached a certain age and started advocating for more education about it, for the first time in history regular, non-famous women feel like perhaps it isn’t the most shameful thing in the world to ask questions about?
Do we think that women are refusing to shut up about the menopause because they’d really like the younger generations to have a lot more prep than they did when the inevitable strikes?
I wonder if it has anything to do with society finally twigging that this isn’t just another boring, unimportant ‘women’s problem’. Holy sh*t, you’re telling me that men are starting to realise this issue affects them too? I suppose when the fastest-growing sector of the UK workforce is women over 50, then that’s a big black hole in the workforce when up to a quarter of these same people feel their employers don’t understand why they need support. And so they quit, and take all their hard-won experience with them. Could that be something we should care about?
Or are more men than ever realising that if their partners just get some support – like hormones, maybe some vaginal moisturiser or even just a listening ear – then they won’t find themselves trying to live with a libido-free shell of the woman they don’t recognise anymore? I heard Davina McCall tell the story of one man who’d heard her banging on and on and on about the menopause and realised his wife needed help. He thanked Davina, tearfully, for ‘giving me back my wife’. Maybe stories like that are why women like Davina will just not shut up about it.
Is it because women of menopausal age are typically the people in their family’s life that everyone – the kids, the parents, the employees – rely on the most, so it would be a really great thing for, oh I don’t know, almost everyone, if we could keep relying on these old girls to keep functioning?
Or is it simply that, despite what decades of misogyny might have had us all believing, your forties and fifties are frankly no age to start thinking about a life of invisibility and decline. That all of a sudden, women are daring to view this life stage as one in which, with the right help and understanding, they can feel the best they’ve ever felt?
I don’t know. What do you think?
For information and advice on the menopause, visit themenopausecharity.org/