Why is menopause so taboo?
World Menopause Day is held every year on the 18th October.
Menopause is one of the facts of life. It happens to everyone with a uterus, and is a transitional phase that women will spend approximately a third of their life in. So why is it still considered so taboo?
While some progress has been made to break down period stigma (by organisations like TABOO!), menopause often slips under the radar. There are a number of reasons for this, with many of which being rooted in the intersection of sexism and ageism.
Reproductive health in general is stigmatised, and menopause is no exception. For years, women have coped with the symptoms of menopause with little to no support. These symptoms can be severe, and include hot flashes, brain fog, mood changes, disrupted sleep, night sweats, weight gain, and muscle and joint aches. Negative depictions of menopausal women in the media contribute to this stigma, portraying them as hysterical and irrational. They feel embarrassed and ashamed going to their doctor, experiencing these symptoms in the workplace, or discussing menopause with friends and family.
Women ageing in general can be seen as taboo. For women, so much value is placed on youth – this is because the social worth of women is so closely linked with their physical appearance. As women age, their social value is seen to decline. In fact, this phenomenon is so common it has earned itself a title: the ‘Invisible Woman Syndrome’. A survey by Gransnet found that 70% of women believed they would become ‘invisible’ in their early fifties, and reported feeling ‘unseen, overlooked, and patronised’. Menopause can be seen as a definitive manifestation of age and if, as a society, we overlook the existence of ageing women, why wouldn’t we treat menopause similarly?
For many, menopause can be seen as the end of something, described by some as a ‘barren land signalling the end of fertility, youthfulness and sexuality’. But it’s time to reclaim menopause as a positive and exciting milestone. It’s a time of new beginnings and marks the entrance into the next stage of life. Let's celebrate periods, menopause and everything in between and fight the stigma that exists around reproductive health.