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Fighting the Stigma Around Menopause

by Nicole Briggs

Getting to the bottom of it

We continue to be baffled about why ‘The Stigma Around Menopause’ exists, despite the fact that literally half of the world’s population has experienced or will experience it at some point in time. History tells us that this is a result of deeply ingrained misogynistic tendencies which equated menopause with women’s hysteria. A lack of information allowed this false and harmful ideology to persist for centuries. It was only in 1976 that the First Congress of the International Menopause Society convened to define menopause. In 1981, The World Health Organization worked on expanding the lexicon to include pre-menopause, menopausal transition, induced menopause, and premature menopause.

It was only in 1976 that the First Congress of the International Menopause Society convened to define menopause.

The insidiousness of gender roles

Despite the extensive vocabulary that exists, many still feel uncomfortable talking about it––especially men. This would make you think that they experience even a fraction of the physical discomfort that women undergoing menopause face. Continuing the discourse on menopause will both mainstream and [hopefully] destigmatize it, but gender roles have already regarded women’s pain as dramatic and delusional from an early point in their lives, writes Jeena Sharma of Paper Magazine. Young girls on the cusp of puberty already have to navigate through their first periods, and the alleged ‘shame’ that comes with a perfectly natural occurrence. It only gets worse. It’s almost as if girls and women can never win, simply because of their biological makeup.

Mental health matters

Fighting the stigma means more women will be comfortable with asking for help regarding their symptoms. Anxiety is among the chief symptoms of menopause, and when left untreated, it can do major damage. Declining estrogen levels may result in a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. Researchers from Maryville University found solid connections between good mental health and positive job performance––a healthy state of mind is essential to being good at what you do. Most women will still be in the workforce when they experience menopause, often hitting them at age of 52 on average in the United States. Symptoms may even manifest years earlier. This makes it even more important for them to be able to talk about it freely with their employers and colleagues.

Mainstreaming gender concerns

University of Massachusetts Boston women’s, gender, and sexuality studies associate professor Chris Bobel says that under the shadow of the patriarchy, women’s value is tied to their femininity and fertility, making menopause or the halt in women’s reproductive abilities a “non-concern.” The very fact that women have infiltrated the workforce, however, proves that they are much more than what they are written out to be capable of. Menopause is a healthcare concern, and therefore a political issue. Changing policies will likewise change the taboo within the professional realm, and hopefully foster a more empathetic environment to give women the help that they need, without putting their capabilities in question. Workplace expert Acas developed a framework on World Menopause Day 2019 for employers and managers to develop an understanding on how to help women who are struggling with menopause, and how to adjust to their concerns. It also gives employees greater confidence in knowing how to approach their superiors or colleagues about their struggles, as they will be able to see the office as a safe space to do so.

It all begins with a conversation. We’ll go from there.

Authored by Nicole Briggs
Written solely for the use of megsmenopause.com