Date of Award

Fall 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Anita Fellman

Committee Member

Elaine Hall

Committee Member

Janet M. Bing

Committee Member

Katarina Wegar

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 A633


Menopause is currently portrayed in the medical literature as a pathological 11 process resulting from "hormone deficiency." However, feminist writers contend that the climacteric is part of the normal female aging process and oppose the medicalization of menopause and the consequent inevitable hormone replacement therapy (HR T) promoted by the hegemonic medical and pharmaceutical industries. This paper explores the historical development of these two paradigms of menopause and their manifestations in samples of three classes of contemporary literature on the subject: gynecological textbooks, popular advice books written by physicians, and women's accounts. Five major themes are investigated using quantitative and qualitative content analysis to assess the extent of agreement of the three samples of literature with the contradictory biomedical and feminist models. Gynecological texts, as expected, fit most closely the negative biomedical paradigm. Popular advice books by physicians also agree strongly that menopause requires medical "management" and treatment with hormones. They are a powerful tool for persuading women to comply with increasing medical and social pressure to take HRT. Women's accounts of the climacteric reveal a much wider range of experiences and reactions to the mid-life passage. Many women also question the safety of HRT and recommend a variety of alternative treatments. Since the pathological biomedical ideology dominates the popular media. it is vitally important for women seeking information on the menopause to read widely on the subject and especially to examine works by other women. It is also essential that women continue to give voice to their own experiences and definitions of the climacteric in order to challenge the stigmatization of menopause by the hegemonic biomedical model.


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