Thursday, 14 November 2013

Menopausal? Or just Mad

Judith Butler. (Hannah Arendt 
Professor at the  
European Graduate School.)
(I'm illustrating this blogpost with pix of older women.) 

Well, dahlinks, I am a postmodern feminist. 

What does that mean? It means I think that social life is all discourse.

What the F. does that mean? 

Discourse, dahlink, means words, talk, sentences, writing. To a postmodern thinker, social life is not ‘real’, it is all a discursive positioning. Yes, there are biological differences but believe me these are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It is how the differences are ‘said’ that makes men and women so totally different that people even write books saying Men Come from Venus and Women Come from Mars
Dame Judi Dench

LOL, I did that to show you how discourse works. We have got it in our heads through centuries of telling myths and stories, making paintings and metaphorical remarks, that Mars is a martial planet – the God of War. Venus is the Goddess of Love. So men must be from Mars, women from Venus; the book title sounds stupid if it is put the other way around. The book title itself contributes to our continuing perception that men are more physical and violent, while women are cuddly wuddly lovey dovey – oooh, just give her a Mills and Boon and a box of choccies and wait for the PMT to go away. 

Sometimes, tho’, it is quite hard to be a postmodern feminist and an actual woman. 

Once I went to read my paper on how gender is performative in the heterosexual matrix. I was wearing this chic white skirt. I started my period without any feminine hygiene items (as they are tactfully called in the shops) in my handbag. Not only was I in fear of spoiling my chic white skirt with bright red patches – in public; I also felt highly emotional cuz that is how you feel when the hormones are at a high and some part of your brain realises that yet again the powerfully academic feminist part has stupidly failed to get pregnant. (“Hey, girlfriend! the biological clock is rapidly approaching apoplectic alarm status here, y’know! Get on with it, you know you are only designed to have babies.” “Shut up, I am a powerful academic brain, y’know. I am not so designed only to have babies, I have a mind! somewhere in this sea of hormones.”)

It is most annoying to be a postmodern thinker and still have hormones, but there it is. And what I think is, the hormones have an effect but the way I feel about them is so influenced by the discourse that is social life, that any small physical effects which hormones might have is as a flyspeck in the universe by comparison.

The poet Avril Rogers-Wright puts this much more beautifully than I can in her poem about periods. She talks about menstruating as this red river of anger and how it supposedly makes you mad. She describes how she came to terms with the emotions which come over her during menstruation and instead starting feeling beautiful at that special time.

I think about menstruating that it’s like an emotional magnifying glass. If I’m running around stressing myself out, when I’m having my period I get hyper-stressed. If I’m in a relaxed zone, it can be a lovely time of feeling at my most delicately feminine.
Dame Maggie Smith

And now, bunnykins, let us take the menopause as another example.

I am a li’l bit poorly right now, having several periods rather closer together than they are supposed to happen. As I am the great five oh, when I consult people about this, they suggest I might be menopausal.

‘Cept they do not say ‘menopausal’. (Remember that we are talking about medical professionals here, not Dr.s like me who will only give your leg a good grope and say: “Lovely, dahlink.”)These doctors say, in a dropped voice and sort of hushed whisper: “It could be *dropped voice* Your Age.” Or they say: “It could be *dropped voice* The Change.” 

I swear, it’s like a bunch of the living dead ghoulishly rubbing their hands at the prospect of a virgin bride with all her sweet young flesh on display on an altar. (No fantasies now! I am no virgin bride; ex-rugby player with mommy fat remember (wink).)
Aung San Suu Kyi

I mean, what will happen if it is *dropped voice* The Change? For half a day, owing to this discursive positioning of menopause on the part of the medical profession, I was quite panicked. I thought I would be Old. I thought I would be Ugly. I thought I would be the Living Dead. 

Then I remembered that I am Old. Old is not Ugly nor the Living Dead. I remembered that when I turned the great five oh, I thought: ‘Hooray! Callooh Callay! I am 50 so I am surely no longer sexy and can flirt as much as I like. Maybe people will even be more interested in my brain than my boobs at last!’ 

Whoops! that was a big mistake, LOL. The melons are still attracting more attention than the charming and beautiful brain cells. And I suppose if I am experiencing *dropped voice* The Change they will not shrink overnight into something as flat as people used to believe the Earth to be? although maybe one day I will wake up and look in the mirror and go, ‘Phew, no longer fairest in the land, people might listen to what I’m saying without drooling which will mean I no longer need to carry that little packet of decorative tissues to hand to them.’

(Gosh! that will mean having to buy a whole new set of lingerie! Er ... I mean, that will mean I no longer have to flirt and wear silly lingerie.)

Gah, it was the same thing with glasses. I thought Men don’t make passes/ At girls who wear glasses! Finally I will be free to discourse on gender as performative in the heterosexual matrix without my listeners being distracted by how well I ‘do’ gender speech acts. But that damn opticians cheated me! They sold me glasses that are discursively positioned as cute as a button, and now I am just peering over my glasses in a manner which causes people to say: “Can you include the glasses in your filthy depraved stories, Dr. Smith? Pretty please?”

What was I saying? Oh yes, the menopause.

Well, there are enough beautiful older women around for me to feel convinced that Old is not Ugly. (Although the discourse on their sex lives is a bit unfortunate, Ladies in Lavender, no thank you – not for this li’l MILF. Or Granny ILF, as I suppose I will become.)

Can't believe The Telegraph  had the cheek
to ask Vanessa Redgrave if she was too old
to play Shakespeare's Beatrice as a lover.
As for the rest of it, it all seems to be suggesting that you may experience mood swings as you enter this hormonal phase. Gosh, that sounds familiar! So let me get this right. If I feel a bit cross right now, nobody around me need think it is because they did not put the bins out, hang the washing, cook lunch, get Piglet out to the swimming pool, realise Piglet was not wearing her expensive (bright pink) coat when she left the swimming pool and tell her to go back to the changing rooms for it, (meaning Someone-else had to phone the swimming pool to check it was there and pick it up when they went back for synchronised swimming). It will be all down to my hormones. They can just go: “Yes, dear, take little blue tablets and we will be fine. You will be able to carry on putting bins out, cooking, hanging laundry, ordering the kind of milk I said I wanted even though I acksherly drink Piglet’s milk which is tastier and all on twopence halfpenny while I go down the pub.”

Well, honey, if you want my opinion, I am not *dropped voice* Changing. Except into someone who does not have Welcome, and Wipe Your Feet On Me Too Why Don’t You tattooed on my chest. 

NB, you may be saying: She is being a mite hypocritical here! Writing one day about how having two miscarriages made it hard for her to write articles and the next about how it is all discourse. It is not 'all discourse' in that dismissive tone of voice, sweet pea. What was a problem was how the miscarriages are discursively positioned. On the one hand the medical professionals going *bright breezy tone* It will be just like a bad period. On the other hand total silence; no opportunity from the day I ought to have been resting to get over the miscarriages, to take account of this minor physical episode in my life.That is the thing about occupying the subject position that is womanhood in discourse. You can't 'speak' as an academic writer when you're trying to say: "I'm losing a lot of blood (and a baby) here, guys, can I have a rest from the mopping of floors so as to get back into the academic writing in a minute?" You will just sound like a silly woman and not at all at all the sort of person who ought to be employed to give lectures and write papers on gender politics. 

Hmmmmm? LOL.

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