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THE MENOPAUSE INDUSTRY by Sandra Coney

THE MENOPAUSE INDUSTRY

How the Medical Establishment Exploits Women

By Sandra Coney

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-89793-161-0

 Coney (The Unfortunate Experiment, not reviewed) argues that although the medical profession presents menopause as a disease, it is a natural life passage that many women experience painlessly and some even welcome. Women's value has historically been tied to their ability to reproduce. Menopause, marking the end of a woman's childbearing years, is therefore more stigmatized than male midlife. Coney believes that doctors and drug manufacturers have exploited this social prejudice, and middle-aged women's attendant insecurities, by exaggerating both the menopausal ``symptoms'' (hot flashes, depression, etc.) and the curative powers of estrogen and by underselling the dangers of hormone treatments. In particular, she argues that general practitioners and pharmaceutical companies have blown the osteoporosis risk out of proportion while minimizing proven links between estrogen treatments and endometrial cancer. Coney's depictions of the sexism surrounding the hormone craze are well supported; she provides examples of ads with misogynist slogans, such as ``Menrium treats the menopausal symptoms that bother him the most,'' and doctors' descriptions of the physical unattractiveness of the postmenopausal female body. Unfortunately, though, Coney's prose is repetitive, often confusing, and polemical. She is so intent on exposing sexist medical ideologies that she often fails to supply statistics or hard facts where they are needed, sometimes assuming that if researchers are working from politically questionable premises, they couldn't possibly come to scientifically sound conclusions. She also has an irritating tendency to assume that women are uncritical dupes of the medical industry, declaring them ``naive'' and ``oblivious to the deeply sexist ideology underlying the options that are placed before [them].'' The book has a preface by Paula Doress-Worters, coauthor of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, and a foreword by Barbara Seaman, cofounder of the National Women's Health Network. Seriously flawed, but adds a valuable perspective to a highly charged debate. (42 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)