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From Biology to Culture: The Roles of Gender, Race, and Sexuality for Women's Menopausal Experiences
Unformatted Document Text:  1 From Biology to Culture: The Roles of Gender, Race and Sexuality For Women’s Menopausal Experiences Introduction “Old wives’ tales” or cultural stories about menopause characterize it as time of physical and emotional upheaval. Women hear stories about debilitating hot flashes, mood swings and erratic and heavy bleeding. Similarly, much of the past research on menopause focuses on so-called “symptom” rates and only investigates negative changes in women’s bodies and lives. Such research frames menopause as a universal, biological experience and reflects the cultural story that menopause is a negative experience. I argue that researchers only have a partial understanding of women’s experiences with menopause and we need research that moves beyond documenting how many menopausal changes women experience. The absence or presence of menopausal changes or “symptoms” only tells a part of the story because we do not know what think about menopausal changes and how they view changes in their lives. Also, much of this research focuses on white, heterosexual, middle-class women; therefore, with few exceptions (Bartman and Moy, 1998; Cole and Rothblum, 1991) we know little about the experiences of women of color and of lesbians. This paper, which is based on 30 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of women, argues that how women view the meaning of menopause in their lives is linked to cultural ideas about gender, race and sexuality. In addition, because this study frames menopause as a social event, it contributes to a fuller understanding of how women view their menopausal experiences and why they feel the ways they do about it. In doing so, this research challenges the notion of a universal menopausal experience.

Authors: Winterich, Julie.
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1
From Biology to Culture: The Roles of Gender, Race and Sexuality
For Women’s Menopausal Experiences
Introduction
“Old wives’ tales” or cultural stories about menopause characterize it as time of
physical and emotional upheaval. Women hear stories about debilitating hot flashes,
mood swings and erratic and heavy bleeding. Similarly, much of the past research on
menopause focuses on so-called “symptom” rates and only investigates negative changes
in women’s bodies and lives. Such research frames menopause as a universal, biological
experience and reflects the cultural story that menopause is a negative experience.
I argue that researchers only have a partial understanding of women’s experiences
with menopause and we need research that moves beyond documenting how many
menopausal changes women experience. The absence or presence of menopausal
changes or “symptoms” only tells a part of the story because we do not know what think
about menopausal changes and how they view changes in their lives. Also, much of this
research focuses on white, heterosexual, middle-class women; therefore, with few
exceptions (Bartman and Moy, 1998; Cole and Rothblum, 1991) we know little about the
experiences of women of color and of lesbians.
This paper, which is based on 30 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of
women, argues that how women view the meaning of menopause in their lives is linked
to cultural ideas about gender, race and sexuality. In addition, because this study frames
menopause as a social event, it contributes to a fuller understanding of how women view
their menopausal experiences and why they feel the ways they do about it. In doing so,
this research challenges the notion of a universal menopausal experience.


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