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Germaine Greer on “Menopause the Musical”: New Heights in Bad Taste, and the Way Male Heterosupremacy Lies About Menopause

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Menopause the Musical (a registered trademark) puts a hand on our chests and shoves us firmly back into the biology-equals-destiny dead-end. One of the false claims made by the promoters of the show is that menopause is universal and unites all women, which is simply not true. Menopause is not only complicated by the ageing process, which is entirely individual; it can coincide with life crises that are stressful and even devastating. There is nothing in the musical about dealing with the terminal illnesses of parents, for example. Not too many laughs there. A significant proportion of women will go through menopause with no symptoms whatsoever, but the show presents menopausal uproar as unavoidable, just as it presents a lust for chocolate as universal. Another piece of misinformation peddled by the show is that women do not discuss the symptoms of menopause and think they are alone, which would be a possibility only for women who never read the women’s press.

I’m all for wearing a lapel badge that says “Beware mood swings”, but that’s about it. Menopause the Musical is a version of Springtime for Hitler, the show that shouldn’t have been a hit. I’m thinking of a moneyspinner called Prostate Pandemonium, starring Michael Parkinson and Peter Stringfellow. Wouldn’t it be empowering to see ageing men living their urinary chaos out loud, being upfront and honest about their humiliations, dressing in purple, high-kicking and wetting themselves?

Read the entire Germaine Greer article here.   While I’m thinking about it, Germaine Greer’s book on menopause which you can order by clicking here, entitled The Change:  Women, Ageing and the Menopause is GREAT.  It is by far the best book I’ve ever read on this time of a woman’s life.  I had essentially zero symptoms of the so-called “change,” which is now nicely and tidily behind me.  I have never felt better physically than I feel right now.  I have more energy than I have ever had, and I’ve always been very much a high-energy person.  I had no recognizable “hot flashes.”  I had no “sleep disturbances” which weren’t attributable to something besides this theoretical “change.”  I did not have “mood swings” or become “depressed.”  I had no problems with incontinence, of course.  Incontinence is not something any woman should ever suffer, or expect to suffer;  it is almost always caused by doctors who cut women in medicalized childbirth, who remove women’s (often healthy) uteruses just because, who “induce” labor prematurely, or who mismanage women’s labors and births.  I have had 11 children, one at a time, and have absolutely zero problems of this kind, despite all the ageist, misogynist spin about “menopausal” women.  My cycles were different from time to time as I neared menopause, but a cycle is a cycle is a cycle; this did not cause any grievous disruptions to my life.  Basically, if I didn’t know there was such thing as a “change” (mostly because it has been lied about and hyped to the seventh level of heaven by male propaganda), I wouldn’t have noticed anything except that my cycles stopped.  Then I would have said, “Oh, my cycles stopped.”  And moved on with my life!

The biggest and most important — and best kept secret, it seems to me — is that post-menopausal life is GREAT!  It’s the BEST!  In so, so, so many ways, it’s a revelation, a time of new beginnings, deepening strength, greater vision,  a new and greater capacity to connect and make sense of things, much greater self-awareness, and, for women, importantly, a greater determination to act out of one’s own beliefs and views, as well as out of one’s own self-interest, without feelings of wanting to please people or put them at ease, make them comfortable at one’s own expense.   There is also a deepening of compassion and empathy, or there has been for me, without any accompanying difficult-to-handle emotional anguish or upsets of the kind which drained my energy and confused me when I  was younger.  Why don’t we hear about these very positive aspects of this dreaded “change”?   They are not unusual.  I have never taken a single dose of “hormones” or “hormone replacement therapy” and I never will.   Neither did or will my mother, and she’s doing great.  Same with my grandmothers. 

Male heterosupremacy LIES about menopause like it lies about few other phenomenon– and that’s saying something, given how much male heterosupremacy lies about almost everything!  I love it that feminist women are rising up and naming the lies for what they are.   No woman should grow up as we did, fearing this dreaded “change” that amounts to nothing at all — so long as a woman stays the hell away from doctors as much as she can.

Heart

Discussion

14 thoughts on “Germaine Greer on “Menopause the Musical”: New Heights in Bad Taste, and the Way Male Heterosupremacy Lies About Menopause

  1. Thank you so much for writing this.

    Posted by Maia | April 23, 2007, 7:38 pm
  2. Your writing gives me hope, but frankly I’m terrified of menopause. In my breast cancer battle, I was on a drug that blocks estrogen – the effect of which gave me many of the “symptoms” of menopause without actually stopping my cycle. The hot flashes, night sweats, and horrible back pain was too much to bear and I stopped taking it last week. If this is my body’s natural reaction to reduced estrogen, I’m not looking forward to menopause at all.

    Posted by zz | April 23, 2007, 9:43 pm
  3. I just hate the whole ‘Menopause-as-disease’ mindset more than I can say. I had three– count ’em: THREE– hot flashes, and that was it. Never had another, and those three were in the year that my menses were hit-and-miss, before they finally stopped completely.

    I also hate the whole ‘Menopause-as-Female-psychosis’ mindset that lurks beneath the ‘all in fun, just joking’ guise of Menopause: The Musical. It’s more of the same old you-are-nothing-but-your-hormones disempowering nonsense, aimed squarely at older Women.

    The fact of the matter is that the patriarchy *hates* Crones. The old white men who comprise it like to burn us at the stake, and if that is not possible, they want to make really, really sure that we hate our aging bodies because they are not aesthetically pleasing to the warped tastes of those same old white men. They also try to keep us ‘stuck in body-issues’ because they are desperately afraid of Cronian life experience, intellect and self-sovereignty. Another thing that they don’t like is the very distinct possibility that we might influence the outlook of younger women, encouraging a strong sense of self in them and making them less vulnerable to the predations of said old white men.

    Truth is, not only are Women *not* at the mercy of their own hormones, they are also *not* handmaidens in subservience to men’s, and the ‘truisms’ of M:TM are anything but– in short, I can’t relate. Plus I find the ‘but-gals-LOVE-to-shop’ merchandizing connected with the play the acme of sexual-stereotyping bad taste…

    Posted by akkarri | April 23, 2007, 10:54 pm
  4. A great article, and a great blog entry.
    Just wanted to let blog readers know about another book on menopause that would be of interest:

    “Zest For Life: Lesbian’s Experiences of Menopause” by Jennifer Kelly.
    http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/non-fict/zest.htm

    Posted by Sazz | April 23, 2007, 11:20 pm
  5. Hi y’all!

    I’ve been lurking for a while and can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading the articles and blog entries on womensspace. I’ve learned a lot and have really been challenged to think about some things in a different way.

    As for menopause, I’m in my mid-forties and have had a few hot flashes–no biggie. (Family history of early menopause.) It is what it is, I’ll take it as it comes.

    akkarri, I couldn’t agree with you more about the patriarchy hating crones. It fits perfectly within their “master plan” to dump their aging but wise wives (who are on to their B.S. in a big way) and trade for a younger, firmer (but most likely dimmer) model. Of course, one of the many fabulous benefits of being a crone–we don’t give a fat rat’s ass what they think anymore!

    Posted by richgirlred | April 24, 2007, 1:57 am
  6. Thanks to all of you, and especially Heart, for all of this wisdom! I’m getting close to the change, and this perspective is so helpful.

    I’ve always felt lucky for having very easy periods compared to some of my friends who suffered quite a bit every month. What does the musical say about freedom from that monthly headache? Probably not much since menstruation is our precious proof of fertility and therefore our usefulness to the patriarchy for which we are supposed to exist. What lies we are fed!

    I’ve heard that post-menopause is a great time of life, and it means a lot to me to hear that from my older sisters. In a world trying mightily to deny us self-determination and silence our truths, it is so important to share our stories.

    Like the Dixie Chicks say, “Time makes you bolder!”

    To Heart:

    This blog gives me strength and courage to face this misogynist world. It gives me the hope and confidence I need to nurture promising young lives. I appreciate all the thoughtful people who post here, and I want to reiterate how important and meaningful your work is. We are with you.

    Posted by roamaround | April 24, 2007, 3:27 am
  7. I’ve had difficult periods, difficult pregnancies, and now I’m going through a difficult perimenopause. My body does not seem to like hormonal changes. Not in the least. So my head tends to spin around, I speak in strange tongues, I projectile vomit green pea soup, and I become in dire need of an exorcism.

    My mother, on the other hand, didn’t experience anything. She sailed merrily through her periods, pregnancies and menopause without a hitch. She didn’t even get a hot flash. So I just assumed I’d be the same way. But that was not the case. But being I come from a family of males, I had no one to compare myself to and had no one to talk to about it. But I’m very comfortable in my skin so once I knew what it was and that I wasn’t crazy, I just allowed the demons to run wild and kicked back and enjoyed the ride. I’m still enjoying it. It’s kind of like an adventure. As my partner puts it, there’s no telling what I’m going to say or do next. LOL. I don’t even know what I’m going to say or do next so how could she? But I’m not so sure that has anything to do with hormonal changes. I’ve always tended to let my wild horses romp free. The hormonal changes may magnify it, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s never been anyone in the driver’s seat holding back on the reins and steering the horses to begin with.

    Posted by Luckynkl | April 24, 2007, 8:02 am
  8. I’m in my forties, and given family history, have a while to go before I reach the menopause. But this is, I think, the first time I have read about it and thought of it as something actively to look forward to rather than something which will need to be endured. I already feel myself working my way towards the *couldn’t give a rat’s arse* mindset. In our forties, we are already too old to fit patriarchal beauty standards. We are supposed to mourn our lost youth, but I am finding it quite liberating.

    Thanks, Heart, for this. I’ll go back to lurking now😉

    Posted by Kev | April 24, 2007, 8:23 am
  9. I’m intrigued by this post and its comments–I used to work as a stage hand for Menopause the Musical, and I certainly agree that it is a facile script that heavily relies on female stereotyping in general (women love shopping, chocolate, etc.) and menopausal stereotypes in particular. Throughout my stint, I was a little bothered by the infantilization of the female characters–the musical begins with a panty fight, for example–and really, it’s a little insulting to our intelligence that the woman who wrote the musical freely admits to improvising most of it over a bottle of wine. It’s not brain food, this play.

    But I see no real disconnect between agreeing with you there, and suggesting that there are alternate positive ways to read the musical. For one thing, the play does (to a limited degree) acknowledge difference of menopausal experience among women–the actresses are all (for plot purposes or otherwise) at different stages of body acceptance and do not have uniform symptoms. It’s wonderful that some of you ladies here lucked out with few symptoms but many women do experience discomfort and inconvenience (my mother certainly did), so it doesn’t seem like a bad thing to acknowledge that. Also, there is a definite celebration of the post-menopausal female body (if not of wisdom, but hey, it’s a “comedy”): body image issues are acknowledged and overruled by female power, and as many times as I’ve heard this play I’ve never caught it reifying the constitution of the female body or power in relationship to men. And in a community theater like mine, there is a wide range of body types and ages on stage, so the ecstatic self-approbation at the finale can be very affecting for the audience.

    Which leads me to another point… audience reception. Some women come back again and again with their friends and laugh and dance on stage at the end every time. I’ve seen so many women enjoying this play that I have a hard time completely condemning it–apparently for some ladies, this is precisely what they want or need to see. It reminds me of the Vagina Monologues, which is sometimes criticized for similar reasons: facile script, inadvertent objectification of femininity, etc. I’ve read for the VMs several times and I recognize its weaknesses, but I also remember the first time I saw it in my early twenties. I was deeply affected by it, precisely because I was the target–a woman who really wanted to talk about vaginas and sort out fact from fiction, but didn’t think I could. Silly as it may be, hearing a variety of vagina stories actually did help me begin to understand and appreciate how completely different women’s bodies are. So, perhaps M:tM is the VM for a certain demographic, and can affirm in spite of itself.

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that it IS facile and relies on stereotypes–the audience certainly groans at the truly awful jokes, and I don’t think I’ve ever overheard a woman exuberantly identifying with the shopaholic aspect of the characters. Perhaps there simply needs to be a stage version of Germaine Greer’s book, so women can go see it in a literal women’s space (men are permitted, but few in number) and talk about it. ; )

    Posted by tanglethis | April 24, 2007, 12:06 pm
  10. Some thoughts in response to TangleThis:

    I think what a lot of Women want is a Women-only place to be physically joyful, crazy, what-have-you. Just because Women get older does not mean they lose their ability to be boisterous, playful, and sensually enchanted by music. We are still playful and need an outlet for this: just as children need to express their innate spontaneousness, so too do adults.

    Dancing is also a traditional shaman’s activity, and creates a lot of energy. In my days of running a coven, I utilized communal dance as quick, sure-fire method of energy raising for spellcasts. Not only did we ‘cook up’ a lot of energy for whatever Work we were doing, everyone began to experience incoming Spirit– inspiration– and we all started getting wonderful ideas as we danced that helped us with many things we were doing outside of the coven.

    I am currently involved with building a large, Turtle-shaped stone mosaic dance-space in my back yard, because my Turtles have asked me to create a Sacred Space and to faithfully dance there each Full Moon as a way of repairing the damaged energy of this planet. They have indicated to me that dance has a lot of power to synchronize energy– personal energy harmonizes and enters into harmony with the Sentient Energy of Gaia, and healing is fostered.

    Coming from this kind of perspective, when I look at Women joining in dancing at the end of a play that reduces their lives to jokes, panty-fights, non-stop chocolate consumption and shopping, I feel sad. I feel sad because they have no other place to feel Female Solidarity, and I also feel sad that they have no one showing their happy, exuberant dancing the respect it deserves. Instead, their drive to playfully, fully express themselves is being harnessed in the service of yet-more-crap-nobody-needs merchandizing aimed at them and stupid remarks about their anatomy.

    From my own consciousness-raising days in the late 60’s and early 70’s I remember a good way to gauge the insult-level of what is being directed at Women: substitute the words ‘black’, ‘jew’ or ‘latino’ for the reference to Women and see how far you get. So, we have ‘Menopause (-al Women): The Musical’. How about ‘Blacks: The Musical’, or ‘Jews: The Musical’? Would plays so named be laughed off as ‘harmless joking’ by those subsets of humanity? Probably not. While it is not ‘safe’ to joke about Blacks and Jews so blatantly, why is still okay to put down Older Women in this way? In short, I’m not laughing, because I know it isn’t ‘just a joke’.

    May all Women someday experience the joy of dancing with their Sisters for the sheer elation and power of it, with no one making fun of their bodies or trying to get them to buy (or to buy into) something.

    Posted by akkarri | April 24, 2007, 7:37 pm
  11. Thank you Heart for this article. One thing I’ve noticed is true in Patriarchy is the medicalization of women. Basically every normal female bodily process has been medicalized, jargoned, made into a disease category, and must be monitored at all times.

    The derision associated with “menopause” is disturbing, when if anything it is a female right of passage like childbirth.
    I read once that women in the East did not suffer “hot flashes” or did not experience “menopause” like the western woman.

    They really want you to hate being women. To feel weak, breakable, diseased or atleast to be understood as such by inferior feeling men. And rightly so. Men are not women..will never be women, can never be women and realize this to their very core.

    All of our emotions are psychiatrized. A woman cannot be happy without other people wondering if she is “hystrionic” or bipolar. A woman cannot be religious without fearing other people thinking she is schizophrenic or wondering herself. Women get diagnosed with schizophrenia at a rate far far exceeding men. When women go in to see a doctor they are much more likely to get psychotropic medication for normal diseases compared to men.

    Meanwhile we have a whole sleugh of “women’s diseases” and medicalized women’s issues such as “menopause”.

    Why should the standard for natural health and sanity be based on men who do nothing but hump in natural life? Health and sanity are based on natural things and men are naturally..well they are men. Why should they be removing our uterus at every available opportunity and then medicalizing the affects and sweeping them over the general female population?

    Posted by Kiuku | April 29, 2007, 3:39 pm
  12. haven’t seen the show and won’t but want to offer that
    I bled to anemia and want to encourage bioidentical spray
    progesterone and herbs with tannins for menorrhagia.
    got me thru in 1 piece. the bleeding is fairly common.
    i think an expression of internal bleeding from lonliness and
    the sense of fear. empowering tho to successfully self treat. get books. eat organic chicken hearts or liver if you have to…better than anemia.

    Posted by calendula | May 10, 2007, 9:21 pm
  13. Heart — Thank you. Your words about post-menopausal life are so incredibly empowering. Many many people are uncomfortable with powerful women, so we get to be leaders in being comfortable with ourselves and each other.
    I am in the process of finding my voice and expressing myself authentically. I’ve never been happier and it has nothing to do with the circumstances in my life. It’s an exciting journey into cronedom.

    Posted by Deb | June 4, 2007, 7:40 pm

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