Finally, a book about menopause that I wholeheartedly agree with. Like the author, Darcy Steinke, I’ve attempted to understand the affects of menopause rather than medicate it all away. The author talks about the mainstream menopause authors and how each falls prey to the traditionally male conclusion that aging women must take hormone replacement therapy to be normal.
Why do men recoil from a woman’s normal biological functions?
Menstration, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause; each natural phase of a woman’s life is marginalized, thrust away and hidden.
But what if it isn’t? The author seeks out aging female animals in an effort to see what happens “in the wild.” She finds examples of aging female leadership and how that is venerated among specific animal populations. Why not in the human population?
The discussion about how the author modeled femininity and her relationship to her body to her daughter was fascinating. The author’s intentional decision not to mimic the same behavior that made her feel less or that she didn’t measure up to her daughter is both admirable and honorable. Her daughter’s horror at beginning to understand how the patriarchy view women and their bodies is classic.
In her chapter on Demonology, the author explores how women are demonized because of our emotions and how menopause, while not fun, is utilized to further sideline women. The symptoms of menopause and how women’s bodies ages different from men becomes synonymous with witches, evil, sinister, and death.
While being open and frank about how bodies change, the author does a great job of exploring how sexuality changes over time, how desire changes over time, and how sexual intimacy isn’t the only form of intimacy for partners. On the other hand, with the childbearing years or opportunities in the past, menopause can offer a different freedom, once the physical pain is resolved.
Yet, why are women and our bodies constantly defined by and in relationship to a man’s?
From viewing how animals deal with the aging female, the author gratefully concludes that female whales teach us that it is not menopause itself that is the problem, but menopause as it is experienced under patriarchy. In the wild, the aging female is not sidelined, but revered.
Menopause is not just physical or biological, but also metaphysical. It is thus harder to define and also defies one’s ability to provide a road map to others coming after.
The author concludes …
Sometimes I think how silly, how human, it was to feel I needed an antidote for menopause: it’s like trying to cure a rainstorm, a tulip tendril or nightfall. As a younger woman, I was led by my biology; now I’ll let the spirit tug me along. When I wake in the dark, incandescent with heat, I pray not to a deity up in the sky, but to the beauty of this world. I pray the body, I pray the lake, I pray the whale.