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The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health With Facts and Feminism

Book Review:

The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health With Facts and Feminism

Gunter cover

Jen Gunter, MD, NCMP
Citadel; 2021
400 pages

The Menopause Manifesto is the latest salvo from Dr. Jen Gunter, New York Times columnist and best-selling author of The Vagina Bible. It is an exhilarating read and a comprehensive review of all things menopause.


Gunter’s book is a feminist manifesto, not a tame scientific review of medical problems and their treatments. She is angry and not afraid to show it. She is angry about the invisibility of menopause and aging women in culture and in medicine. She is fed up with the insidious effects of the patriarchy on women’s minds and bodies. She is outraged that women have to fight to even know how their bodies work. She wants something better for women, especially as they age and transition into menopause. She believes that every woman should know as much about what to expect at menopause as any well-informed gynecologist. As she says, this will require “facts and feminism”; both evidence-based information about the menopause transition to combat stereotypes, inaccuracies and outright lies . . . and the moxie to stand up against the patriarchal status quo.

Gunter knows that language matters, and some of the most interesting passages in the book are when she reflects on how the words we choose affect our experience of menopause. In one example, she boldly takes issue with the very word menopause itself. Menopause is derived from two Greek words roughly meaning “the end of menstruation.” She asks why we choose to define this time in a women’s life by the final period when, in fact, the last period is really just one symptom among many more relevant symptoms that actually start long before the final menstrual cycle. She also wonders why we define this part of a woman’s life by the deteriorating function of her uterus and ovaries. To illustrate this point, she asks whether men would feel happy about naming the last half of their lives the erectopause. Likely not.

Gunter has a strong point of view, but she also provides an encyclopedic review of the history of menopause medicine, the evolutionary rewards and biology of menopause, and the many potential effects of menopause and aging on women’s lives. She includes in-depth discussions of bone health, brain functioning, vasomotor symptoms, genitourinary changes, weight gain, sleep, and sexuality. She also provides an evidenced-based review of various treatment options, including hormone therapy.

Though the tone of this book may not be to every woman’s liking, grappling with Gunter’s point of view challenges us to reflect on our own beliefs and to deepen our appreciation for the experience of aging as a woman in America in the 21st century.

Reviewed by
Lori Davis, DNP, NCMP
Private practice
Ithaca, NY

 

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