Sisters are fighting like cats.....
Patriarchy is laughing all the way to the bank
The last two weeks have seen a flurry of Tweets, articles and opposing views on menopause.
The latest programme on menopause Sex, Mind and Menopause with Davina McCall aired on Channel 4 in the UK. It was focused on promoting HRT as the ‘panacea’ for all your perimenopausal symptoms. Fear was the name of the game! Just take a look at the language used in the show.
It was a fear-based message heavily focused on dialling up the risks of dementia from not taking HRT, which in most research is proving harder to claim. They cite a recent study done on US women aged 45 to 55 over 10 years to ‘prove’ the link. This is in sharp contrast to the findings of the analysis of 273K UK Biobank participants done by Jessia Gong et al who found no clear evidence of reduced risk by taking HRT. While researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that there was no clear reduction in cognitive decline among women who had taken no HRT, those on synthetic HRT or body identical over 7 years. These women were older and the researchers’ conclusions were that study was too short and that to really know they would have to conduct a longer study with women up until 80 to be able to categorically answer whether HRT had a protective effect.
At first, there was a response from the British Menopause Society, clinicians and women’s health advocates pointing to the importance of not seeing HRT as the only solution. Reigniting the call for more focus on lifestyle. I always note how little the role of the mind (not the brain as Davina confused with the mind) and mindset, and the importance of stress management not only in perimenopause but in the preceding years.
Then came articles in the Times and the Spectator accusing women of hysteria and the age-old ‘get back into your box woman’, put up, shut up and become invisible. The continued message is that women, as they age and are no longer fertile, are of limited value to our society. Of course, written by women who have had relatively easy menopause experiences and are privileged enough to have high-quality healthcare if required.
While I would be the first to acknowledge that the symptoms of #Menopause can be overwhelming at times it actually helps to know that the war that we are all engaged in is about ageing in the patriarchy. Excellent article by Dr Jane Horan, an NZ based social anthropologist, on the role of culture in this debate and highly recommend you to check it out (it is long but worth it)
Women themselves are at best left confused. I spoke at the APDO conference in Manchester two days after the show aired. The Q&A brought forth the confusion when they hear messages that HRT is ‘the solution’ but GP’s often don’t even follow the guidelines and provide help in any form. So they are left hanging and disempowered.
Although the overidentification wrt HRT has reached a fever pitch in the UK compounded by shortages (Covid, increase in demand plus Brexit). Leading women to behave in a risky way - buying and trading HRT in car parks. The message is spreading. Women in Sweden when refused HRT, because our clinicians follow strict guidelines, are hopping over to Spain and Greece to buy over the counter HRT. Then returning home, posting on Facebook ‘do I take these orally or vaginally?’ think it might make a difference but as a non-clinical person, I welcome input from my clinical trained friends.
Backlash is growing, women are getting tired of the menopause message. Open your social media feed and there is always someone selling you a ‘hormone balance’ thingy. TV shows are getting feedback from viewers who have grown tired of hearing the same topic repeatedly discussed. This is the exact opposite of what I want to see.
“As someone who’s going through it, I’m sick of being reminded of the sodding menopause.“
“Do they ever talk about anything else that isn’t about ageing? I swear every time I see it they are either talking about menopause, going grey, getting wrinkles“.
So Why is Patriarchy Laughing?
Because either way it wins!.
Big Pharma is the epitome of patriarchy, it lobbies and props up governments. And at times actively works against public health campaigns. It makes its money by keeping us dependent on drugs. 10% of NHS budget in the UK goes on diabetes medication. The picture looks the same in many other places.
HRT is highly profitable. In fact, pre-2002 study on breast cancer 1 in 4 women in many developed countries was on HRT and it was one the most profitable drugs.
So Big Pharma wants women disempowered and unable to advocate for themselves. Instead, see medication as the ONLY way to manage menopause and that it should be taken for life (even though there are no longitudinal study to support that this is a safe approach).
The message plays perfectly into the mindset of ‘quick’ fix that has been embedded into our psyche from gym workouts, to mcmindfulness, to diets, to anti-ageing beauty.
Don’t confuse my questioning with being anti-HRT. A binary approach is exactly what patriarchy wants us to adopt to keep us focused on fighting each other not changing the system.
HRT can be a wonderful support and makes a huge difference to many women’s lives but not at the expense of understanding that the menopause we have is predicated on multiple factors. Some like our genetics, past trauma, SES, mental and physical medical history and toxins in the environment we can do little about. But we have the capacity to change habits that don’t serve us and shift our mindset to see this stage in life as a ‘tunnel not a cave’. Much those things are free or low cost and can be done throughout our lives.
In the other corner, those telling us to ‘stop the hysteria’ are funded by news outlets owned by supremacists (e.g. the Murdoch press). They would like nothing better than to see women further disempowered. They are the same people who want women to have less right to determination over their bodies, restrict access to abortion and contraception, and the right to fight against harassment and domestic violence. They are often fronted by privileged women who are the mouthpiece of the men. They care nothing for sisterhood.
How to Move Forward?
My enduring message is to become your own advocate. Get informed. Be Curious. Read different takes and if things sound to be good to be true ‘follow the money’ ask who is paying this person?
You can be empowered in many ways to manage your menopause and get the help you need. I support consciousness-raising and fierce self-compassion as good starting points.
NEWS AND VIEWS
I have thoroughly enjoyed Dr Jane’s article and do check it out!
My new The Potent Power of Menopause is now available to buy from a variety of online book stores. I am currently recording the audiobook version too.
This week in the Thriving Thru Menopause podcast I will be joined by the delightful Emily Ford R.D and we talk about A GUSTY MENOPAUSE all but gut issues and how a holistic approach could help you better manage conditions like IBS, Reflux and constipation. The episode drops Tuesday - before sure to check it out
I am delighted to be joining forces with my good friend and past podcast guest Andrea Caprio in her Food Freedom Festival you can sign up to here some amazing experts in the field of food and diet and of course me talking about A Positive Menopause. Here is a quick clip
You will be getting some emails from me about this too - I promise not to inundated you!!
As ever share with me your comments, your feedback and what you would like to hear more about on the Thriving Thru Menopause podcast.