Lifestyle, Mamazine Moment, Uncategorized, Wellness

Unpacking the Mystery of Menopause featuring Sasha Davies

Bintou Diarra, A.B | Medical Anthropology, Brown University | June 13, 2023

In many cultures, the end of a person’s reproductive cycle is just as significant as the beginning. Menopause marks 12 months after a person’s last menstrual period. It is experienced by all with uteruses with age, and yet, there exists an air of mystery surrounding the topic. 

Sasha Davies’ The Menopause Companion: A Beginner’s Guide to Owning Your Transition from Peri to Post aims to unpack this mystery to assist birthing people through the changes of menopause. Joined by nationally-recognized menopause expert Dr. Tori Hudson, Davies walks readers through medically-backed information about what to expect and how to manage the changes accompanying the transition. The two do not stop there—the book goes beyond the physiological aspects of the experience to add a cultural and personal dimension to their analysis.

We spoke with Sasha Davies about the book, which is due for release on June 27, 2023. When asked about what she hopes readers walk away with, she names the importance of first unpacking the belief that menopause and the feelings accompanying the embodied changes is something that birthing people can “get wrong”. 

“Modern menopause, like many other aspects of women’s health, is a terrible setup where women are led to believe it’s inevitable, unfortunate, and possible to get it wrong. The first one is real, menopause is something nearly all people with female anatomy will eventually go through. The second is nowhere near a universal truth. Some people do experience menopause as a significant loss in their life, though that loss can take many shapes–fertility, youth, energy, status, femininity–including amorphous ones–I don’t know where I belong.” 

Unfortunately, marketing, as shaped by society’s unfair expectations, leads menopausal people to internalize the notion that some of the ensuing feelings are shameful. “That last bit about getting it wrong is patently untrue, even though the arguments about hormone therapy on the internet and the ads for everything from labiaplasty to wrinkle-defying serums are trying hard to convince you otherwise.”

Dispelling the notions that create these feelings of shame ironically requires our validation before anything else. Davies encourages us to evaluate the unique impact these transitions have on birthing people’s adult lives. “Because we don’t discuss this in adequate detail, people can feel blindsided or embarrassed by challenges they experience during their transition. There’s a certain logic in believing that menopause should be a more manageable transition because most people experience it as an adult, when they have more life skills and experience under their belts.” The conditions created by capitalism leaves many adults ill-equipped to handle such a transition. “But the reality is that many adults have scant, potentially less support plus a more demanding schedule and set of responsibilities than adolescents do when they go through puberty.”

Additionally, we must work to acknowledge the medical and cultural histories shaping the experiences of menopausal women. Davies names the roots of Western medicine, which came with the establishment of a hierarchy of bodies, as the most significant force. “Male bodies were set as the standard, the master template; female bodies were considered a derivative of that template.” It is important to note that with the development of these constructs came the foundation underpinning many forms of oppression today. “Sex was the first sorting mechanism, but race, ability, and gender were not far behind.” For this reason, Davies asserts that it is important that we consider the menopause experience within the context of adult life in Western culture—a culture that she says is largely “allergic” to accommodating the needs of anyone who deviates from the norm in general, let alone needs associated with female reproductive anatomy or age-related changes.

Sasha Davies’ head goal is to bring menopausal people to embrace their transitions, and she understands that this is not an easy feat. In the meantime, through the teachings of her book, she hopes to bring people to understand that their knowledge of their bodies far surpasses that of any authority figure or system. 

“When we face something unfamiliar, like menopause, we tend to look outward to gather information about what we’re about to experience. Information is powerful and these days, information about menopause is abundant. You might hear, in subtle and overt ways, what menopause will be like and how to best manage it. Some of this kind of information and guidance can be helpful, but it can also be intimidating and make you feel like you don’t know enough to talk about your experience of menopause. Owning your transition is about learning to hear your experience as the signal in the noise.”

Sasha Davies new book is available everywhere books are sold, and releases June 27th, 2023

The Menopause Companion will unpack the mystery of menopause in ways that are unconventional, yet necessary. Sasha Davies looks to fill a gap by touching on the entanglement of the menopause transition with other spheres of individual’s lives. “The Menopause Companion gives readers an overview of what happens in the body throughout the menopause transition, but it goes one step further to examine what menopause means to us, what it is in the broader sense, and where it is situated in our lives. Context matters, and the context for menopause is the infinitely variable–identity(ies), geography, economy, culture, politics–life of an individual.”

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