We women can be prisoners of our wayward, contrary bodies the whole of our lives. From the age of about 12 we will have more than 450 periods, often painful, sometimes embarrassing, or so debilitating we cannot go to school or work.
he only let up will be for every nine months we are pregnant; a state which unleashes a horrendous assault on body and mind. We are never the same afterwards and the insta-perfect tightened bellies of post-partum celebrities can add further stress.
We’re only just over all of that and we get plunged into menopause which, for some, can have an effect equivalent to serious disease. Bones become brittle, hair thins, our internal central heating goes haywire. We put on weight that no diet or exercise will ever effectively remove and we may end up for a decade or more attempting to stave off the worst of the symptoms by taking artificial hormones.
And through it all we are watchful of those dreaded women-centric cancers – breast and cervical. And that’s if we’re not worrying also about fertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries and post-natal depression.
It wasn’t that long ago that many ‘hysterical’ (from the Latin hystericus – “of the womb”) women were put in lunatic asylums during menopause, their insanity reckoned to be peculiar to their sex and caused by their uterus, now decommissioned of its only function.
We do all this – indeed we are designed to do all this – to keep the planet populated, so yes, we are amazing and wonderful and life-giving and world-saving. And mostly silent about it all, because what’s the point?
It is only when scandal erupts, or women gather in number to shout and stomp and cry for help or go on radio, that we seem to be taken seriously, and only then, occasionally.
So, I’m not going to knock any supports put in place, however latent or minuscule, and I wish the recently set up Women’s Health Taskforce well in its job.
I am concerned that of its 48 members (an unwieldy number surely?) just nine are external and three of those work for the Government. The other 39 are Department of Health officials.
Are they experts? We have to assume so. Have they all got other full-time day jobs? Yes. Are most of them women of varying stages of life? Yes, thankfully.
There are now going to be dedicated menopause clinics, according to Stephen Donnelly, whatever they are. Presumably a lot of electric fans are on order.
But the fact remains that many girls are still going to school unable to afford period products. They can avail of free abortion, but not contraception. Women who cannot afford HRT are told to go for a nice walk and take up yoga. Unless they have a medical card they must pay €60 every time to their GP.
It is not just an “issue”. Women want a holistic, individualised approach to their health. All women, all of their lives.