by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

At a recent Hillary Clinton campaign stop in Iowa, when a 53-year-old teacher said publicly that she is going through menopause, the Washington Post wrote she “confessed in front of the audience,” thereby perpetuating the myth that there’s something to be ashamed of about arriving at a stage of life. According to The Politico, the moment proved that Clinton is a candidate who is “hard-edged enough to threaten violence, yet explicitly female enough to make women feel so comfortable that one mentioned menopause in front of crowd of more than 1,000 people.”

Let’s give this some perspective.

More than half the world’s population can potentially arrive at this stage of life. If we’re lucky enough to survive disease and disaster, menopause starts around 40 or so (the average age for women in the U.S. is 51). The rest of the population — men — march along through time at essentially the same rate and aren’t expected to be ashamed of it.

In fact, even though gravity pulls at all of us at the same rate, the media says gravitas works for men, but is a shame for women.

The march through time can be seen as bad, good or neutral. The Terrible Twos are tough for parents to live through. But they’re not all that hard on a Grammy who’s lived thru it and knows that the survival rate for that stage is high — even among the tormented parents — and that the virtues of seeking autonomy are many and glorious. Some years ago, a dear friend asked her third son, then 11 years old, to tell “Aunt Elizabeth” what he’d be doing the next day. Proudly, he stuffed his hands into his crisp new khakis (we were at a very grown up party), puffed out his impressive chest, toed the ground and announced, “I’m going to visit my friend in Denver. I’ll be traveling as an unaccompanied minor.” It was a milestone that, wisely, his parents had helped him face with pride.

The mission of Women’s Voices for Change is to make clear that menopause should not be perceived thru a veil of shame. Menopause marks the most powerful time, made manifest by physical indicators — some of which are not all that comfortable. But they’re endurable. And we need not be shy about acknowledging our milestones.

I look forward to the day when the press writes about menopause with gasping. Until then, perhaps the headline suggested by Feminist Law Professors would have been more fitting for the Clinton story: “Woman Mentions ‘Menopause’ Publicly and Freaks Male Journalist The Freak Out.”

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