I'm not fond of the word menopause. And neither is Dr. Lisa Masterson, gynecologist and obstetrician on "." "I think it has a negative connotation to it," she said on last Friday's show. And she'd like to rename it. Perhaps something like "the go time," or something upbeat to reflect this as a positive time in a woman's life, a time when a woman knows who she is.
The word comes from Greek roots: menos (month) and pausis (cessation or pause). And it was a French doctor, Gardanne, who receives credit for coining the word m©nopause in 1821, writes anthropologist Margaret Lock, in her fascinating , Encounters With Again: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America. As the nineteenth century progressed, menopause gained ground as a term in the medical literature, while what we would call the menopause transition was commonly referred to as "the dodging time." I like that better than perimenopause.
Other ways to describe this transition? The climacteric, which interestingly was not originally associated with women at midlife, but which referred to the dangers inherent in any transition, particularly those occurring every 7 years in the lifecycle, explains Lock. In fact, climacteric was most commonly applied to men in the early 19th century, as they were thought to suffer most from a loss of vitality at midlife. One British physician in 1813 wrote, "though this climacteric disease is sometimes equally remarkable in women as in men, yet most certainly I have not noticed it so frequently, nor so well characterized in females" (qtd. in Lock). Only at the end of the century, did climacteric become associated with women's "change of life" — another phrase I'm not fond of in part because it sounds like a mandate.
Simone de Beauvior wrote that menopause was "the dangerous age." An American doctor, Aldrich, labeled it the "age of invigoration," in 1897, and saw this time as "a process of development not decay" in a woman's life (qtd in Lock).
But really, it's not the word or phrase used to describe menopause: it's the cultural beliefs about women and aging that we bring to whatever term we use that marks this time as more than just a biological event. Changing the word to something like "the go time" may change the culture. But then again, twenty years ago, who would have imagined that you'd here the words menopause and musical juxtaposed?
What do you think, reader? Do we need a name change? If so, what should it be?