Analysis of Menopause and its Effects

Topics: Sociology, Reproduction, Heteronormativity Pages: 7 (1629 words) Published: September 21, 2014
Menopause is a genuine biological process experienced universally by women although the exact purposes of its occurrence and function are still up for debate. Being unique as only occurring to females of just two species among the countless thousands that exist on the planet, the biological process is fascinating as it is dangerous. Numerous theories have been proposed to account for the occurrence of menopause within women however a majority of societies and cultures view the occurrence of menopause through a framework of disdain, resentment, anger and even fear. Despite having biological origins, menopause including the public expressions of the women going through it as well as the majority of the research conducted on it seem to be almost entirely socially constructed. Furthermore, menopause is typically cast, both societally and culturally in a negative light because of its implications of the ending reproductive processes in women which implies that society/culture seems to place a higher value on fertility and reproduction. If this is true, it would serve to illustrate why so many societies are tipped in favor of male dominance as males do not undergo menopause as they can continually reproduce throughout most, if not all, of their entire life span thus males are valued higher than women assuming society is assigning value using a reproductive standard. The biological purpose of menopause has long been up for debate among scholars. From a purely intuitive biological standpoint, the act of terminating a female’s ability to reproduce seems to hobble that species’ very survival as now reproduction can only occur during a specified window in which a female has the willingness and the ability to reproduce. Essentially, menopause can be viewed as a “ticking’ clock” on reproductive success of a particular individual which in turn can affect the reproductive success of that individual’s species as a whole. From a more academic standpoint, according to “current evolutionary theories of senescence, there should be no selection for post reproductive individuals” which renders menopause as a biological function counterproductive. (Peccei 2001 p. 43). Several theories attempt to explain why menopause occurs but the most widely accepted of which is known as The Grandmother Hypothesis which states that menopause is an “adaption that facilitates grandmothering” as well as sustaining longevity essentially allowing a postmenopausal women to focus on her now fertile daughter(s) and to provide assistance to their offspring instead of directing time and energy in efforts to produce entirely new offspring however new revisions of the theory are now suggesting that menopause is only a “byproduct” of the women’s increased longevity. (Peccei 2001 p. 44). Despite the existence of numerous theories, the exact purpose of menopause has yet to be specified and this may play into why it is cast in such a negative light on the societal level. The very notion of a ticking clock bearing down upon reproductive success seems counterintuitive to the laymen. Coupled with humankind’s instinctual fear of the unknown and the fact the very reasons behind menopausal occurrence are not yet known, this allows societies and culture to harbor a psychological portrait that paints menopause as some nefarious, almost evil occurrence that rids women of their ability to reproduce. This reproductive ability, on a historical level, has been one of the foundational aspects of classifying “womanhood” in any culture. Thus any element that would serve to destroy this essence, logically should be and must be deemed evil so it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of cultures located in a wide array of socio-economic climates, all seek to vilify the occurrence of menopause. Archeological evidence seems to support the fact the one of the foundational beliefs of almost every prehistorical society is the value placed on fertility and reproductive...
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