The Ms. Q&A: Dr. Jen Gunter on Combatting Misinformation and Democratizing Knowledge on Women’s Health

Dr. Jen Gunter’s third book, BLOOD: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation, is an accessible look at the multiple ways that the patriarchal control of medicine has allowed misinformation about reproduction, sexuality and anatomy to flourish.

Ms. sat down with Gunter to discuss the book and how she hopes to “democratize knowledge and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Women Need Better Menopause Guidance. Here’s What Doctors Should Do.

An increasing number of women are hitting menopause than ever before. Each day, an estimated 6,000 U.S. women reach menopause at an average age of 51 years. This fact, combined with women living longer, means that women generally spend the last third of their lifetime in menopause. 

But most women face this life change alone. Gynecologists in the U.S. receive little formal education about menopausal health, how to reduce symptoms, and the fear around those symptoms. As a result, women and their partners often have misconceptions about how these normal hormonal changes will affect them.

Luckily, Dr. Lisa Chasan-Taber provides her own set of handsets for menopause.

Barbie and My Midlife Crisis

This year has found me clinging to youth with more gusto than ever. One of my kids mused, “Why can’t you be like other middle-aged people?” I shrugged, but I guess it’s because I think you’re either young or old. And I know which one I’d choose. Then I saw Barbie.

Greta Gerwig’s film has been labeled a feminist triumph (or failure) and a manifesto against (or tool of) corporate capitalism, but for me, it’s all about my midlife crisis (or “transition” to be kind). In the film, Barbie finds herself having irrepressible thoughts of death—and before she knows it, her perfect body and her dream world start showing signs of Real World flaws. Outside of Barbieland, much of our collective panic about dwindling youth stems from a culture that glorifies being young while rendering older people—particularly women—invisible.

Why Menopause Representation Matters: ‘Women in Positions of Power Realize This Is Not Something to Be Secretive About’

Representation of menopause in popular culture matters. Among the ways menopause has been reflected on TV, the And Just Like That cast has tackled issues of aging, including a cameo by Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem last week.

It was also the main theme of a Judy Blume film screening and panel Ms. recently co-hosted in New York City entitled “Menopause Needs Our Margaret”—a reference to Blume’s iconic book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The event gathered the filmmakers behind the Judy Blume Forever documentary, Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok, plus menopause advocates Stacy London, Sharon Malone, Omisade Burney-Scott, Tamsen Fadal and Susan McPherson, in conversation with Jennifer Weiss-Wolf.

Read on for highlights from our New York City event.

Menopause Went Prime Time at the Super Bowl. Now the Federal Government Must Step Up

Menopause has been sorely neglected by the mainstream medical establishment, by lawmakers, by employers and by just about everyone. As a result, millions of women are left to navigate its most debilitating symptoms with little support.

Menopause is clearly having a prime-time moment—and we think that’s worth cheering. We challenge the National Institutes for Health to design and launch a modern initiative to assert the long-term benefits of hormone therapy and accurately assess its risks.

Midterms and ‘Mid-Cycle Spotting’: Getting Real About Women’s Health

We have been left all alone, our bodies overlooked by the law and undermined by the courts. We’re left, quite literally, to save our own lives. But perhaps one silver lining of the overturning of Roe v. Wade has been creating space for women to openly and deliberately trace the arc of their reproductive lives—in public—from menstruation to menopause.

As advocates, scholars and providers now work to reimagine and rebuild what meaningful reproductive care looks like in this country, we have an opportunity to be more holistic in addressing the full continuum of women’s reproductive lives. Private sector interventions and public policy solutions must reflect those intersections. Period. Full stop. 

Not Your Mother’s Menopause

We all remember the moment we heard her story: an old woman, a witch, a shapeshifter, a ghost, who was feared by all who encountered her—likely somewhere between 40 and 101 years old.

But maybe the old woman living in the woods is not a mythical threat, but a person navigating their highly individualized journey with menopause and aging that transforms everything she knows about her body and her relationship to the world around her. Perhaps we should take another look and see her in her full personhood.

Centering Menopause: Dr. Sharon Malone and Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the Menopause Research Act of 2022

Ms.‘s Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Dr. Sharon Malone’s Washington Post op-ed became the catalyst for a new bipartisan bill, The Menopause Research Act of 2022, introduced in the House by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa). If passed, the bill would require the National Institutes of Health to conduct an evaluation of menopause-related research, coordinate a plan of action to resolve apparent gaps in the research and identify further research needed.

I spoke with Weiss-Wolf and Malone about the House bill, the ways in which menopause has been pushed to the margins of federal health research and what new investments could mean for women experiencing menopause.