A Welsh MP has said comments that men shouldn’t be included in conversations about the menopause are “absolutely nonsense”. Writer Michelle Kirsch has said that telling men the reality of the menopause will give “reasons not to hire us”.
High profile campaigns including a documentary by Davinia McCall called Sex, Mind and the Menopause have increased awareness about the menopause and Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris is campaigning for a law for Hormone Replacement Therapy free in England. Writer Michelle Kirsch wrote a piece for The Spectator and said she thought we had reached “peak menopause” and today told BBC2’s Politics Live she “wasn’t convinced men should be part of this conversation”. The Labour MP said she was “disappointed” to hear the comments, threw her arms in the air, shook her head and said the comments were “nonsense”.
In her column, the writer said: “It’s not that menopause isn’t real or worth discussing. It can absolutely make you a moody cow, a bit fuzzy or foggy round the old noggin, or, in extreme cases, psychotic. It sucks – but then, much of life sucks. If we treat every female biological event with this level of serious, anxious attention, we’ll never talk about anything other than our own bodies”.
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Ms Kirsch told BBC2’s Politics Live: “I think there’s a really fine line between being understanding and being condescending, and having a general conversation involving men who don’t go through the menopause as far as I know. And you know, trying to help women who are going through this process and maybe suffering or maybe not, there’s there’s another narrative a lot of women suffer greatly. Some women don’t suffer very much at all and we don’t need to have just the one narrative.”
Ms Harris, a menopause campaigner, shook her head repeatedly and told her “It’s absolute nonsense”. “If only we had reached peak menopause. If we reached that stage, we’d have every woman in this country who was able to access the support and resources to actually help her through it and for every woman who says she has sailed through this, a conversation with somebody who has gone through it and explained some of the symptoms she believes were not the menopause, she may well realise that she was menopausal. What we are trying to do is to make sure that everybody in this country and across the world understands just how debilitating the menopause is, and if that means shouting about it from the rooftops, so we will.
“We can have women not being able to have normal lives because they aren’t aware of what’s wrong with them. Women who think they’ve got early onset dementia, women or relationships are breaking up to given up work, they’re reducing hours, women are taking their own life because they don’t know what the menopause is. There will never be enough menopause talk until every woman has got some justice.”
Ms Kirsch replied: “I’m still not convinced that men should be part of this conversation. It’s a natural biological thing that happens to women. And in my late mom’s day, it was conversation that was had kind of sneakily and kind of with a bit of a sense of humour between woman to woman and we had a bit of a laugh about it. I realise it can be a very serious issue, but in a way by bringing it out so much into the forefront of the political game we’re kind of hoisting ourselves by our own petard and that we are by saying we’re hormonal, we’ve got these issues, that’s giving men another reason not to hire us.”
Ms Harris told her that was “absolute nonsense”. “Men asked me the best questions because men want to help the women in their lives, they want to help the women in the workforce. And any woman who’s listening to this would be absolutely insulted that you don’t believe that men should be part of this conversation, to say it’s archaic, it’s unbelievable. My mother didn’t talk to me about the menopause and that meant I ended up 12 years on antidepressants, thinking I had a nervous breakdown. If people don’t talk about it, we never change that.”
Ms Kirsch said: “I’m not against women discussing this openly. I do hope that women who are suffering terribly from the menopause do get the medication that they need. I hope that they can have honest discussions with our partners, but I think to have a general discussion and to have every Sally, Jane and whatever have a general discussion a woman’s discussion and write a book about this is perhaps not a good thing because it is giving men reason to say like, ‘Oh, crikey, she’s in her 50s, she’s probably going to be going through the change, she’s not going to be that reliable, that’s going to work against us.”