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JAN MOIR: These new rules on menopause patronise women as unhinged wimps in need of a fan and a lie-down


Are the menopause protesters happy now? In recent years, high-profile media stars such as Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup and the Loose Women have done their best to make the menopause more visible in public life.

We shouldn’t be embarrassed by it, they say. End the menopause stigma now, they cry. (What stigma, say I?) You must understand how we suffer, they wail, while insisting that Someone Must Do Something about the meno-problem.

Well, now something has been done — but does it leave women at the climacteric better or worse off? The Equality And Human Rights Commission says menopausal and peri-menopausal women can sue their employers on the grounds of disability discrimination if, for example, they have struggled to sleep but are told they cannot start work later.

High-profile stars such as Davina McCall (pictured) have raised awareness of menopause

High-profile stars such as Davina McCall (pictured) have raised awareness of menopause

Celebrity campaigners (from left) Lisa Snowden, Carol Vorderman, Penny Lancaster and Mariella Frostrup led a rally at Westminster for a Menopause Mandate

Celebrity campaigners (from left) Lisa Snowden, Carol Vorderman, Penny Lancaster and Mariella Frostrup led a rally at Westminster for a Menopause Mandate

This is an admirable and compassionate development in theory, but how is it going to work in practice? Yes, Mrs Mad, please do take this morning off at short notice, we don’t mind a bit, said absolutely no employer ever.

The EHRC also states that ­menopausal women must be allowed to work from home on bad days. That ‘reasonable adjustments’ must be made for women who suffer from interrupted sleep and brain fog. That the workplace heating should be turned down to accommodate any hot flushes — one supposes everyone else can shiver or put on another jumper or just go to hell.

Employers must also provide ‘breathable’ uniforms where appropriate, along with personalised support and flexi-working time if demanded. There is also a moral duty to supply noise cancellation headphones when it all gets too much, wellbeing rooms ditto, neck fans where appropriate and time off for staff to go and pick up their HRT prescriptions.

Well. That’s quite a meno-menu of orders. And I’d argue all this makes working conditions worse for women, not least by drawing attention to putative weakness, thereby diminishing their power and status. And it is certainly not much help for older women trying to re-enter the workplace, only to find themselves officially stigmatised as crone fodder ablaze with ailments and suffering from chronic infirmity.

Never mind that menopause is part of the natural ageing process and not a medical disability, older women must now be seen as crippled members of the herd with a target on their rumps; a liability chugging and puffing into the employment pool with all the recruitment allure of a tugboat on fire. I don’t call that progress.

Employment prospects for ­menopausal women are already much reduced by institutionalised sexism and ageism.

This new guidance from EHRC takes it one step further, wiping out one of the great advantages women in their 50s had over younger women in the jobs market — it was not just their life and work experience that made them valuable employees, they also didn’t need maternity leave.

In addition to this technicality — and what is perhaps far more insidious and damaging — it makes women appear unable to cope with what is a normal part of life. It alerts potential employees to what sounds like unavoidable hormonal meltdowns which will have a negative impact on their business.

It suggests women crashing about the place in a mood, bellowing like stampeding moose and eating all the chocolate biscuits in the teatime tin while crying because their neck fan batteries have just run out.

While there is no argument that some women have a difficult time going through the menopause — and deserve sympathy and support from bosses and colleagues — doesn’t all this take it too far? It puts employers, businesses and workmates under intolerable pressure — and it also puts menopausal women in danger of being resented and treated as a joke.

Look at the Avanti West Coast train company, which has faced criticism after its employee support group offered staff a gift package intended to ‘support conversations’ about the menopause. The goodie bag contained a fan; a pencil ‘to write down things you might forget’; a paperclip ‘to help you keep it all together’; a tissue ‘if you’re feeling a bit emotional’; and some Jelly Babies ‘in case you feel like biting someone’s head off’.

Is this really stigma-busting progress? God knows what effect these new guidelines will have on younger women, who are being encouraged to believe that the menopause is something to be feared; a failing of the female body and mind that can have a catastrophic effect on a career.

Being a woman is not a disability or illness. Yet human rights watchdogs such as the EHRC want to legislate away all suffering and pain, even if some anguishes are just an everyday part of the human condition. 

It's time to respect and value menopausal women in the workplace, rather than treating them like unhinged wimps in need of a neck fan and a lie down, says Jan Moir

It’s time to respect and value menopausal women in the workplace, rather than treating them like unhinged wimps in need of a neck fan and a lie down, says Jan Moir

Women are not weaklings, despite what these new guidelines suggest. They can and do just grit their teeth and get on with it — after all, that was the only option for the generations of women who came before.

And they can, for tiny example, arrange to have their HRT medicines delivered (it’s free) rather than demand more paid leave from beleaguered bosses. They can choose to be the heroines of their lives and bodies, not the victims.

All this is taking place at a time when the number of people on out-of-work benefits in the UK has risen to 5.6 million, higher than at any period in our history. Seeded among all the genuine cases of hardship and illness are many idlers and fools who have been encouraged to believe that they are long-term incapacitated, enabling them to hide from honest work and fulfilling lives under the flimsiest of mental health excuses.

This seems like exactly the wrong moment to encourage menopausal women to maximise their symptoms, too — what possible long-term gain can there be for all involved? Getting older is no picnic, but menopausal women in the workplace should be respected and valued, not patronised as unhinged wimps in need of a neck fan and a lie down.

Let’s not be embarrassed by the menopause, say Davinia and Mariella. I’m embarrassed by all this.

Barey Keoghan gives me the willies

After running around in the nip in Saltburn (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video), Barry Keoghan has posed in a bathtub full of blood for a trendy magazine and taken off his clothes again for a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

For this bottom-baring sauce, the Irish actor has been called ‘brave’ and ‘daring’ — but isn’t he just another exhibitionist desperate for attention? No, says Barry.

­Jaysus, he is an artist, people.

‘I think it’s true art. It really is,’ he said of his fondness for full frontal nudity. ‘It’s beautiful to look at. I’m not ­saying it’s because of my body, but it’s freeing to see that body move around in the way it does.’ Freeing is one way of putting it. Putting it away would be another.

Yet after only two major roles — in The Banshees Of Inisherin (woollies) and Saltburn (willies) Barry has got himself noticed in Hollywood.

We can wish him well while still noting that posing naked every five minutes is not something Cary Grant would have ever considered.

And that had lairy Barry been a woman, everyone would be utterly appalled and called the nudity desperate, not daring.

 I’ve got your black, Jennifer

Jennifer Aniston has been criticised for ‘leaning in’ to ‘her signature look’. Can I translate for non-fashionistas? It means she always wears black, the same style over and over, she looks boring, she’s a bit vanilla, yawn. And darlings, being dull is the biggest crime of all in the world of style. However, the real world and real women view things differently.

Jennifer Aniston 'leaning in to her signature look'... black

Jennifer Aniston ‘leaning in to her signature look’… black

For 55-year-old Jennifer found her look a long time ago. She knows better than anyone what works for her and makes her feel comfortable. And that is classics and neutrals all the way, while ignoring trends and investing in quality instead. The Friends star will always turn up at awards shows in something black and strapless — and she will always looks fabulous. She understands that monochrome is not monotonous and there is no going back after black.

Just ignore the moaners, Jen. And take advice from Coco Chanel. ‘My friends, there are no friends,’ she once said.

Monstrous Ruby Franke has been sentenced to up to 60 years in prison for child abuse. The YouTube mommy vlogger had two million followers, who tuned in avidly for her parenting tips from her Utah home.

The 42-year-old mother of six was a big hit — until some viewers became concerned about her too-strict style. In some scenes she was shown withholding food and Christmas presents from her children as punishments. Yet the American courts learned that behind the scenes the reality was far, far worse.

The children were tortured mentally and physically, thrown into cactus plants, tied up, beaten and starved.

Franke admitted to forcing them to work outside in the sweltering heat without adequate water ‘until they blistered’ and tried to convince them they were evil and had to be punished. ‘To my babies, I’m sorry,’ she blubbed as she was sentenced this week.

A sad reminder, as if any were needed, that you should never believe all you see in the smoke and mirrors of what looks like a perfect online world.

Pay cut? You are jokering? 

Hollywood’s A-list were quick to act all super noble when they supported last year’s strikes in the film and TV industry, including walk-outs from the Writers Guild Of America and the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA. The disputes were over residual payments from streaming companies, minimum pay, pension and healthcare issues; you name it.

In short, everyone in Hollywood seems to get a bad deal, except the hugely overpaid stars themselves. There was even talk of top actors and actresses taking a pay cut to even up the discrepancy.

No sign of that happening any time soon.

Joaquin Phoenix is being paid £16 million to reprise his role in the Joker sequel, while his co-star Lady Gaga will pocket £9.5 million. All those little people and civilians toiling on the set for a pittance must be thrilled for them.



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