Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/569/7010
Make all women's issues trade union issues
I have just returned to work after taking three months off to recover from a hysterectomy. I was therefore very interested to read the "What about menopausal women?" comment in issue 566 of The Socialist.
Fortunately, I work with a very supportive team, including my line-managers. They have been very caring and realistic about easing me back into work, discussing my hours and workload.
Not so my human resources department. It sent me a very formal intimidating notification of their desire to refer me to the Occupational Health Service for a 'prognosis'.
Anna Reid's contribution made me think about what we do in the workplace to address the problems women face during their menopausal years. It also got me thinking about the expectations that, unlike men, women talk to each other about everything. I would say this is probably least true with regard to the menopause.
Bombarded by the media with Botox, boob-jobs, makeovers and products to make us look ten years younger, discussing the menopause is too close to confessing we are getting old and past it. Women also tend to have children later these days and the onset of the menopause will of course pose a threat to that option.
The hot flushes, or 'power-surges' as they are affectionately termed, are well-known. They cause embarrassment for some and are the source of a cheap joke for others. Night sweats can be extreme and far from a joke, but at least they are a recognisable symptom.
But what about the blocks of memory loss, not being able to finish a sentence, feelings of anxiety and loss of confidence, excessive, unpredictable bleeding?
Some of these symptoms can be extremely debilitating, making it difficult to function, particularly at work, and can make you think you are losing your mind. Not being able to drink red wine is the only symptom I can think of that (although a pain if you prefer red to white!) doesn't actually cause a problem.
I am convinced that there are many women who experience these symptoms who have no idea they are due to the hormonal changes of the pre-menopausal state. These symptoms can be treated. Talking to experts in this field is important so that the best treatment can be availed of.
There is certainly a need to raise awareness in the workplace to protect women from adverse treatment from uncaring bosses or intimidating HR practices. As Anna said, the lack of information in support of menopausal women "may be because not enough of us are speaking out".
As a PCS activist I will certainly be taking steps to raise this issue in my union branch. We need to start to lift the taboos to ensure we have access to the information and support women need, and to tackle 'Managing Absence Policies' that, quite simply, make us sick!
International women's day meeting - 8 March
London Socialist Party will host an afternoon event on Sunday 8 March about Rosa Luxemburg's life and politics, including discussion, a film and food.
The event runs from 12noon to 5pm in the Fenner Brockway room at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1. Call 020 8988 8785 for details.
All welcome. £2 waged & £1 unwaged / low-waged.
In The Socialist 4 March 2009:
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party feature
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis