chapter  5
20 Pages

Menopause: a time of private change to a mature identity


Menopause has been the subject of an intense public debate throughout the 1980s and 1990s and has had an impact on the cohort of women known as the ‘baby boomers’, who are currently in mid-life. Two polarised discourses concerning the menopause experience have dominated debates: one is located in a biomedical model and the other within a radical feminist framework. The medical response has been to construct menopause as a deficiency disease, requiring treatment in order to prevent illnesses in old age such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It is clearly defined in biomedical language with signs and symptoms, stages through the process and medical interventions, the most significant of which is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The opposing radical feminist response has been to critique the biomedical model, suggesting that it is part of a conspiracy by men and male-dominated institutions to control women’s ageing at mid-life. It rejects the need for treatment, promoting the view that women should see menopause as a natural event in the life-course which can liberate them from the oppressive nature of men (Germaine Greer, 1991; Sandra Coney, 1995).