Labour’s ‘menopause action plan’ is an insult to women
Only once have I been asked if I would like to be photographed with my head sticking out of a giant bleeding vagina, but the memory has stuck with me. It was at a book festival in Gothenburg and I was there to promote a Swedish translation of my book, Women Versus Feminism. Despite the language barrier, I was pretty certain the six-foot stand-in vulva was intended to promote period awareness. As a middle-aged woman, I felt I was already quite period-aware and so I politely declined the selfie.
Unfortunately, the vagina’s handlers were reluctant to accept this excuse. Not the middle-aged bit – that was self-evident. It was the ‘woman’ part of my lived experience they found troubling. The ‘awareness’ being raised by the model genitalia was that all genders menstruate – a message reinforced by an abundant supply of free tampons in the men’s toilets.
One bizarre feature of our heated debate about sex and gender identity is that at the very same time as it has become verboten to talk about women and girls as a sex, it is seemingly obligatory to discuss the bodily functions of people once known as females in graphic detail. From London’s vagina museum to period positivity campaigns, taboos are old fashioned and letting it all hang out is in.
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The menopause is the latest aspect of female biology to get its moment in the spotlight. Whereas ‘the change’ was once whispered about behind closed doors, it is now trendy thanks to celebs like Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup and Gabby Logan. Hot flushes, brain fog, night sweats and vaginal dryness are all now content for soap operas, chat shows and newspaper columns.