Don’t blame Oprah.
And please don’t unsubscribe from the magazine or fire your doctor.
Instead, speak up when someone gets it wrong. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to reframe menopause from the negative into something worthy of celebrating.
Shirley Weir, founder of MenopauseChicks.com is kickstarting a campaign to get us to rethink a phase of life that affects 100% of women: menopause, or more specifically perimenopause.
She is calling on advertisers, media, and all of us, to discard some of the traditional language commonly associated with menopause as she says the way we think about menopause is ruining our ability to enjoy it.
“We have a tendency to adopt the negative connotations passed onto us either culturally or generationally,” says Weir. “And somewhere along the line, we learned that menopause is something that either must be feared or fixed.”
Weir is the founder of a website called MenopauseChicks.com where she helps women navigate perimenopause and menopause with confidence and ease.
The first thing she likes to do in almost every conversation, is ensure people are clear on definitions. Menopause is one day—
it is the 12 month anniversary of your last period, and the average age of menopause is 51.2. Weir was 49 when she reached menopause. Perimenopause is the 5-15 year phase of hormone fluctuations leading up to menopause. This means perimenopause can begin as early as 35. Most people are unaware that women can have experiences caused by hormone fluctuations while they still have a period. This also means that whenever you hear the phase “going through menopause,” it most likely means going through perimenopause. The other reason many people are unaware of this information is that there is very little research on perimenopause, as the term itself was only coined in the 1990s.
In her own research, whenever Weir says menopause, the first word to come up for many people typically belongs to a list that includes old, tired, dry, bitchy, fat or struggle.
“Rarely does someone say smart, confident or beautiful,” says Weir. “I believe that’s because we have been over conditioned
with myths, misconceptions and messages from the media. We are so used to seeing the stereotypical image of the grey-haired, stressed-out lady holding a fan, that most of us just assume that’s an accurate representation of menopause. And it’s one that we literally want to run away from, rather than embrace.”
“If I call myself a Menopause Chick,” says Weir, “it strips away the (negative) power and then we can choose to reframe it from something that is solely negative into something that is worthy of celebrating!”
Shirley points to three recent media examples:
An Oprah Magazine (September 2016) article teased a story with the headline “Hooray for Hormones!” only to tell women they can expect to get fat, hot, lose their memories and lose control of their bladders in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
“I looked at the magazine photos and thought: are these the new profile pictures for menopause?” says Weir. “That’s when I realized it’s not menopause that fascinates me as much as it is what women are willing to put up with. I’m not telling people to unsubscribe—I’m saying speak up! I’m inviting everyone to speak up whenever an outlet gets the menopause connotation wrong. Chances are, they are unaware. And this is important if we want to create a future where women no longer feel alone in their experiences; where they feel more comfortable talking about perimenopause and menopause and seeking support for their journey!”
A local radio show promised to help women navigate menopause experiences at work. The tips included: i) dress in layers and ii) get a small fan for your desk.
“This is incredibly insulting and unhelpful,” states Weir. “And clearly written by someone who has never experienced a hot flash. There are 6.3 million women in Canada between the ages of 35 & 55. I’m confident we are ALL smart and savvy enough to figure out that we should dress in layers! We need to be cracking open the conversation so both women and men can learn and respect this life phase. We need to clarify definitions, create compassionate and flexible work spaces; we don’t need to tell women to buy a fan!”
Up until recently, the Sigma Canadian Menopause Society (a physician & health care professional group) had one picture in its
“consumer” section to illustrate menopause and it was a photo of an 80-something year old woman in a wheelchair being consoled by a nurse. Weir called SIGMA to explain how the picture misrepresented women and the age group experiencing perimenopause and menopause, and the society replaced the photo the next day. The organization still refused to include the word perimenopause in its literature, to which Weir says is indicative of how complex and confusing the menopause topic is, and how far we still have to go in redefining perimenopause and menopause, especially if medical professionals can’t yet agree on what to call one of life’s most natural phases.
About Menopause Chicks:
MenopauseChicks.com helps women navigate perimenopause and menopause with confidence and ease. Founder, Shirley Weir is on a mission to connect women to unbiased information, to midlife health professionals—and to each other, through her private online community. As a women’s health advocate, Shirley is reframing the menopause conversation from something that has been traditionally viewed as negative, into a milestone worthy of celebration. A well-regarded speaker and writer, Shirley hosted the first-ever “menopause graduation party” in 2016, is a 2017 recipient of a YWCA Women of Distinction award, and a featured speaker at TedXGastown Women.