A group of women discussing menopause.

Battling the Taboo: Menopause Cafés Bring Women Together

Women across the UK gathered this month for Menopause Café events to open up about their worries and concerns regarding the change in a private and trustworthy environment.

14 events took place across the nation, located between Perth and Petersfield, have already taken part this year, with several other events lined up already! Women who visit the event can feel safe in the knowledge that guidelines are in place to protect them, with confidentiality invoked and the encouragement to talk to all attendees. Here they can talk about ways they deal with the change, from hot flush cooling sprays to lifestyle habits.

In the past, it has been monumentally difficult for women to discuss anything to do with menopause. Menopause as a topic, which many women will agree, was something that was simply not talked about. Menopause Café aims to change this engraved attitude to the menopause, and allow women the freedom and security to openly discuss this inevitable and challenging time in their lives.

The organiser of the event in Catrine, Shiona Johnston, told the Guardian: “Most women know about hot flushes but don’t know about other symptoms which they might not even realise are related…This gives them a chance to share information and what has worked for them.”

The Menopause Cafes were first launched in June 2017 by Rachel Weiss. The idea was inspired by Death Café, a similar non-profit event where people could openly talk about another taboo topic- death. After watching Kirsty Wark’s documentary on menopause, entitled Menopause and Me, Weiss felt empowered to provide a place where menopausal women wouldn’t feel alone dealing with the process. Weiss is also the owner of a counselling consultancy.

Commenting on the very first event in Perth, Weiss said: “My friends and I sat there waiting, thinking ‘will it just be us three?’, but 30 women turned up. After a few hours, people were buzzing: now I know I’m not alone, I’m not going mad. It’s a very human question: am I normal?”

She goes on to say: “Women all go through it, but we don’t get together and talk about it, so we come to it unprepared.”

It’s not just a support group for menopausal women. It’s opening up conversations about the third stage in women’s lives, who am I if I’m not fertile or don’t look like a stereotypical sexy woman?”

The events have drawn attention, not only from women going through the menopause, but those who are experiencing life before and after the change; the events, on occasion, have even attracted the occasional male attendee who wanted to learn more about the menopause to support their partners through the transitional stage.

Weiss adds: “I’m also very keen that this doesn’t make it all sound dreadful. It’s just enabling people to have conversations. If you are able to say the M-word, then it’s also easier for you to go back to your 28-year-old male manager and say ‘I need to wear a cotton shirt with this uniform’ or ‘yes, I really do need a fan at my desk’.”

As the popularity of the Menopause Café continues to grow, women are actively taking up the chance to host their events. However, as we touch on dealing with the menopause at work, the drive is gearing towards encouraging more workplace events to improve the empathy of working women dealing with the change. Scottish and Southern Energy HQ in Perth trailed an event last month.

A series of menopause festivals (#flushfest) in Perth have also been planned, with the hopes that the success of these will see similar events up and down the country. The Menopause Festivals will host speakers on health, wellbeing and body image, with chats and singalongs intertwined in the activities.

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