In the new frontier of women’s wellness, venture capitalists, former magazine editors, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop have all converged.
Whenever something is known by a euphemism, it’s probably one that makes people squirm. In the past, menopause, or “the change,” has been spoken in a whisper with an air of tragedy or in a joke about a sweaty woman with frizzy hair crying over something, probably her inevitable decline into irrelevance. Historically, menopause has been interpreted as not dying but part dead.
Despite the fact that women have been experiencing menopause (named by a French physician in 1821) and its difficulties for centuries, only recently has this fact become a lucrative consumer category.
During this menopause gold rush, there are a number of high-profile, well-funded beauty products and telemedicine start-ups flooding the market, as well as a growing roster of celebrities who are coming to terms with it. It’s possible for a significant cultural shift to occur, but also for a number of people to profit from it.
Women are living longer than ever, and they are taking unprecedented steps to maintain excellent health during those extra years. In the history of women, no previous generation has done so many squats, consumed so many “good fats,” given up bread so much, or moisturized with such intensity and care.
TRICKLE-UP IN GENERATIONS
As women approach menopause, they typically undergo three stages: perimenopause, which occurs in their mid- to late 40s, when ovaries slow their production and oestrogen levels drop. In addition to mood swings, hot flashes and vaginal dryness, perimenopause can last as long as ten years and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. The next step is menopause, which begins one year after the last menstruation.
Then there’s post menopause, which is the period free period of your life, when your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and pretty much everything else skyrockets. In order to cut their hair into tidy little bobs and accept these symptoms without a fight, Gen X women who are now reaching these milestones didn’t endure the indignities of Tae Bo.
The Gen Z daughters of today are unabashedly open when it comes to the changes they’re experiencing in their bodies. Terms such as “on the rag” and “the curse” are far from things they would use; instead, period-appropriate clothing, pretty tampon cases and special kits for those reaching the milestone of their first period are helping them talk about it with those around them. It seems like a generational shift in attitude; it would be quite unfortunate if their mothers were too embarrassed to talk about their own hormonal changes.
Menopause is now no longer taboo due to – or perhaps because of – these changes in attitude.
Last year, Tracee Ellis Ross told Harper’s Bazaar that she was going through perimenopause. In a 2020 episode of her podcast, Michelle Obama described the feeling of having a hot flash while on Marine One as being like “someone put a furnace in my core and turned it on high.” According to Drew Barrymore, menopause left her feeling like she was filled with either cortisol or cottage cheese.
There is no accident that this is happening at a time when the extremely narrow confines of beauty are beginning to stretch. Fashion is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race and size. So why not in terms of age? The celebration of menopause and the rise of what we could call “menocore” fashion, with soft fabrics and gentle shapes, have to be distinguished. (Will mom jeans ever be forgotten? End the fetish for coastal grandmothers?)
Amber Valletta, Christy Turlington, Carolyn Murphy — popular models of the 1990s — are experiencing career longevity that models never imagined possible. AYR jeans, Rachel Comey, and older women are now appearing in advertising and on runways. Aging no longer requires that a woman accepts her invisibility, or desperately tries to appear forever 28.