Menopause – Friend or Foe?
As menopause approaches in our lives we have a choice on how we view the change we face. While society might send a different message, it doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end, so to speak. Learn how various cultures view the process of menopause and why this view plays an important role in how menopause effects the women within that culture.
Menopause – Friend or Foe?
Menopause happens to all women eventually and brings with it numerous physical, emotional and psychological changes. This process might be met with feelings of relief, peace and acceptance – or depression, anxiety and illness. How a woman accepts this inevitable time in her life depends largely upon the cultural and societal norms that prevail in her day to day life.
For instance, it’s been shown that European women fear the decline of their mental health during Menopause, while Jewish women take very little issue with the process as a whole. Arab women report fearing the loss of love from their spouses, once their ability to bear children declines, yet in several studies, Japanese and Filipino women seem to weather Menopause rather easily. Women’s responses to Menopause vary significantly from culture to culture.
The more the culture in question views Menopause as a natural occurrence in a woman’s life – and not a disease process to be conquered, cured or overcome – the easier and more enriching the Menopause experience will be. The more Menopause is viewed as a ‘loss’ – of youth, vitality, beauty – the more likely a woman will experience pain, illness and emotional issues as she makes the transition.
Most Western cultures, where birth control is prevalent and the cultures are rather ‘youth driven’, (such as the US and Australia) find Menopause to be a ‘loss’ to be mourned, and/or battled at all costs. Studies conducted in these countries reveal more negative physical and emotional symptoms accompanying the Menopause process.
Throughout Africa, Menopause is seen mostly as a blessing. It affords equality between men and women for the first time in a woman’s life – and can be a very welcome transition, as childbearing comes to an end.
In Italy, Menopause is thought to be the ‘Third Age’ and is approached positively – as a totally natural part of a woman’s life. Physical symptoms may get to these Italian women a bit, but their peace with the process helps them prevail and thrive – all the while maintaining their sexuality.
In Japan, Menopause is viewed as a very positive occurrence, as this particular culture is rather Age-friendly. -Women moving through Menopause in Asia are viewed as having increased worth, gaining honor in society instead of being pushed aside.
Sikh, Mayan, East Indian, Filipino and Asian women also share positive Menopausal experiences.
The common denominator surrounding the Menopause process in these cultures seems to be this: Women in these countries – once menstruation and childbearing cease – gain importance, recognition, respect and parity in what are predominantly male-dominated cultures. This then frees them for the first time in their lives – and on many planes. The women in these cultures are actually transitioning TO something, rather than away from something…
This appears to be key in having a healthy Menopause experience. Society dictates a woman’s self esteem, and self perception. This is most unfortunate – but true. In societies where aging is considered a loss, handicap or journey toward death, Menopause has proven to be a rather bumpy ride for women. In cultures where it is viewed as being a natural, normal process – and a time of true freedom – Menopause proves to be a rather easy time of transition – and a time of self-growth and self-actualization.
Never has the saying ‘Change your thoughts, Change your Life’ been more true!