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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 July 2024

The sunset women

85.9% of the women in my poll say it is necessary for experts to debunk the myths around menopause and shred the shroud of secrecy to let it be accepted as an ordinary experience

Manimala Roy Published 25.06.24, 07:13 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

One of the most inviolable cultural taboos centres around a significant change in a woman’s reproductive capability at a certain age. This atrophy not only triggers an emotional crisis in her life but, as recent research affirms, also has a deep bearing on the economy. In 2022, a massive survey conducted at the initiative of the American Association of Retired Persons explored every aspect of the menopausal aftermath, revealing startling facts. Many women, the survey found out, “consider leaving their jobs due to the severe and disruptive symptoms,” pointing to an inimical work environment.

Apart from the fear of job loss, menopause triggers a traumatic sense of insecurity in women. When they go for treatments, not always recommended by doctors or covered by insurance, it only leads to mounting expenses. Costly hormonal interventions are nothing but a rip-off for many women who take this desperate step.

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Even the sunset does not descend in uniform colours. Working women, particularly highly-engaged professionals, evidently are less traumatised by the wrenching experience of menopause than those who see their physical charms as their only assets.

But is this the whole truth?

The question set me on the path to unravel the entire spectrum of menopausal impact. I first chose a fairly large sample of women in the 45-65 age group. Surprisingly, the women aged 45 and above admitted that they formed their opinion about this crucial change in their lives on the basis of either inadequate or unverified information. A majority of the women — 64.1% — in the survey I conducted source relevant information from friends only. Consequently, their understanding of the issue is often layered with misconceptions. For instance, 46.2% believe menopausal women do not enjoy sex.

Responses to the survey across cities reveal that women’s awareness level about menopause is disappointingly low. In the era of technology-induced openness and a communication revolution, menopause is still culturally stigmatised. Even 30 years after the publication of Germaine Greer’s The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause, the ‘change’ is shrouded in social inhibition. As if to corroborate Greer’s argument, an astounding 71.8% of the women I quizzed admitted they had never discussed the issue with their partners.

Despite the anonymity of the poll, some respondents were uncomfortable with the questions about their children. Pointedly asked if they fear their children would defy them in the post-menopause phase of their lives, 75.5% went into denial mode. Replying to another question, a significant 33.3% said they did have a grip on their grown children’s lives. The term, ‘grip’, has implications of interference and control.

Faced with a host of symptoms like hot flush, excessive bleeding, and brain fog, many women think of quitting work since the space for accommodation and adjustment is missing. Employer insensitivity to their mental and physical trauma might lead to their dismissal as a ‘slow worker’. Assessing the economic cost of menopause, the World Health Organization takes into account women workers’ voluntary resignation, knowing the other option is to get laid off. “Unfortunately, both awareness and access to menopause-related information and services remain a significant challenge in most countries,” deplored a 2022 WHO report.

The indifference around the issue of menopause has already set the alarm ringing. Menopausal women, the National Health Service of Scotland has worked out, are presently the “fastest growing demographics” at the workplace. This demands that greater openness be brought to the table and calls for support for working women facing the midlife crisis. An overwhelming 85.9% of the women in my poll say that it is necessary for the experts to debunk the myths around menopause and shred the shroud of secrecy to let it be accepted as an ordinary experience.

If the awareness were to dilute the social stigma, there would be sunshine left for post-menopausal women.

Manimala Roy is an economist working on gender and migration

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