Menopause, from Antiquity to the 20th century
The story of menopause began a very long time ago. This cessation of menstruation and fertility has been talked about since antiquity but always in a negative way. In the 1st century, menopause was considered impure and toxic . Just that. A few centuries later, in 1515 under the reign of Philip of Spain, there was no hesitation in publicly accusing “ old women ” of witchcraft . In this politico-religious turmoil, 80% of the 30,000 to 50,000 victims of the Spanish Inquisition will be women burned on the mere suspicion of witchcraft.
It was only from the 18th century that the status of women doomed to menopause took on a better face and became a little less uncomfortable. The menopause, although dangerous for the woman who suffered it, was no longer perceived in this way for her environment; in question, alleged viruses that are sources of disease. Diderot, in his book L'âge critique , referred to menopause and its other discomforts as " long and dangerous illnesses which infected women at that age". It was not until 1821 that a French doctor, Charles de Gardanne, made his diagnosis, speaking for the first time of menopause to evoke this cessation of menses.
The 1970s, the time of women's demands
In the 1960s, Robert Wilson, an American gynecologist, drew up a negative, not to say dramatic portrait of menopausal women in his bookFeminine Forever . A way like any other to promote the hormonal treatments he advocated at the time to allow women to remain women despite the definitive cessation of their periods.
At home in France, still in the 1960s, Gérard Zwang, a urological surgeon, dared to write in his book Le Sexe et la Femme : "The woman is only truly female, penetrable, desiring and desirable from puberty to the sixth decade of his life. » If this slogan has fallen into disuse today, it is nonetheless totally detrimental to the women of those times who were dared to remove all femininity and all social status without qualms.
In the 1970s, in the United States, the distressing observation of having to associate the resurgence of cancers of the uterus with the increasingly frequent use of progestins ended up highlighting the dangers inherent in hormonal treatment of menopause alone. . The promotions orchestrated by lobbies and laboratories, supported by an accomplice medical body multiplied until the 2000s and one of their opinion leaders, Henry Rosenbaum, did not hesitate to write on the first cover of his book Happy Fifties : “Current treatments allow postmenopausal women to remain beautiful, desirable and active. » A commercial way, very little medical and above all cavalier to affirm that without hormonal treatment, more feminine beauty, more desires, more energy.
This excessive medicalization in the United States finally provoked a most violent reaction across the Atlantic and thus gave birth to a great movement propelled by the book How I serve growing older. More than a book, it was the poignant testimony of postmenopausal women who claimed the right to live without hormonal treatment without being overwhelmed women without the slightest utility. Germaine Greer , famous feminist of the 60s and 70s, also had her moment of glory by harshly but precisely demolishing the entire medical profession in her works La Femme eunuch and The Chang .
In France, this medicalization was less. The feminist journal Remue-Ménage summed up the situation of postmenopausal women fairly well: “In this cloud of symptoms, we remember above all that there is no organic fatality . Rather the ravages of a social status of women still and always linked to procreation. »