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Demanding to Be Heard

Raising our voices in menopause

This Sunday was the meeting for my regular Book Club. We meet once a month and discuss a book written by a female author. The book club members are both men and women. They are a range of people from those in their thirties to those in their sixties.

We read only fiction written by women. We read female fiction because it is often overlooked and disregarded when people speak of good works. We read fiction from all over the world, working our way steadily through countries of the world. So far, we visited Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

This Sunday, the assigned book was by Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist. It was a particularly interesting book because it spoke about the struggle of women in a patriarchal society. Several outcasts are the good guys in the book. The author handled them with utmost tenderness and care, something which is unusual in itself.

The female characters in the novel rose above their almost insurmountable problems and never felt sorry for themselves. They looked the world straight in the eye and fought for their right to have their voices heard. I loved reading this book and did not want to put it down.

What I want to talk about here is not the novel per se, but how it made me think about what it is to give voice to the often unheard. Women, in particular, have more trouble being heard. They have to speak louder, stand firmer, and make themselves more visible. When we become older, it often becomes more of an issue.

We can finally become the main character in the novel, that is our life.

When a woman enters menopause or perimenopause, subtle changes begin to make themselves known. As the signs of aging appear, we become a little less visible. Most societies tend to value women for their youth and fertility. For some cultures, this is more blatant than for others, but this preference for youth prevails globally.

The other thing that happens around the time of menopause is that we begin to care less about what society thinks or what others see in us. At this stage, we want to do things that we like. We shed the mold that we have been cast in for most of our lives and begin to chart new pathways for ourselves.

The novel brought back to me the idea that true redemption happens when people come together to support and care for each other. The circle of friends in the story created a support system that allowed them to survive and flourish despite a hostile environment. It emphasized that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of us, what matters is what we think of ourselves.

Older women can redefine what they are and can raise their voices and demand to be heard. The female energy that protected, nurtured, and supported others can be redirected to a new goal: our own. We can finally become the main character in the novel that is our life.

S

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