12 July, 2022

Pronatalism and Menopause

The other day, I was thinking about pronatalism (prompted by a blogging friend), and got rereading some posts about pronatalism* in action. Just as I believe that feminism helps men as well as women, I believe pronatalism hurts all women in some ways, especially overly active and hostile pronatalism. It both denigrates those of us who don’t procreate or raise children as being of less value in society, and creates a division between parents and non-parents (and in particular, mothers and non-mothers) that hurts, rather than benefits, all our communities.

But pronatalism hurts all women in other ways. Society’s attitudes towards menopause and women post-menopause is a classic example of pronatalism in action. When biologically there is no chance of having women, "society" decides that women have no worth. Sure, there are some esteemed outliers who have led countries during and after menopause (in recent years, Helen Clark, Julia Gillard, and most notably, Angela Merkel), and other high-achieving women who are the exceptions to this rule (despite the pronatalism they have to battle to be accepted and recognised equally in their roles). But in general, women post-menopause often say that they feel invisible. (I had originally written that they are “described as being invisible” but that would be untrue, as they/we are frequently ignored from the conversation entirely.) They are rarely considered to be desirable. (I’ve written before about my discomfort of the word crone which is often used to describe post-menopausal women.) Whereas older men might be valued for their wisdom and experience, or described as “distinguished,” women tend to be ignored in this way, treated more as if their knowledge and experience is no longer relevant (in any field - parenting/politics/business/science/sport/arts etc), and considered to be in aged decrepitude rather than the ”crowning wisdom” of their age. It’s such an incredible waste of millions of lifetimes of experience and hard-won understanding, compassion, and wisdom. And I blame pronatalism for that.

We need to consider that the world is diverse, and that women (and men) do not fit into one pattern of life, behaviour, or role. It hurts** all of us when we do that.


* pronatalism = the promotion of childbearing and parenthood as desirable for society, meaning parents are deemed to have more value than non-parents

**This reminds me that there’s a recent podcast discussing Why Does Dismantling Pronatalism Even Matter?, featuring Jody Day, and although I have yet to listen to it, I suspect it might support my views. I think I need to go listen to it now!

Note: My series of posts on a No Kidding menopause can be found here.


  1. How do you know when “society” considers you invisible? I admit this is something I don’t really understand. Maybe because I’ve always had that invisible quality, maybe because I have known creative, intelligent, passionate women of all ages my whole life.

    I basically started menopause the year after my second child was born, at 39. Not sure I can call it “official” yet but it’s completely different from my (semi) fertile years. Apart from some worry about health issues down the road, I feel so lucky. I think it’s a key part of our humanity that women don’t bear children their whole life (and I say that while being super grateful for my kids). I feel like menopause is an gift and a mystery, an invitation to see what else I am called to do with my life.


    1. I realised I was becoming invisible when I was applying for positions in my 50s. A man in his 50s, with my resume, would have been snapped up. I was told I "didn't fit" for the team. No other negatives. Even when it might have been expected, it was a shock.

      I wish that everyone had your views towards menopause. I have come to see it as a gift and mystery - there's a lot of living to be done post-menopause. If only the world would see it that way!

  2. Ugh, I hate the whole "maiden, mother, crone" thing. So pronatalist and focused on patriarchal BS (virginity and youthful beauty! Madonna and baby-raiser! Wizened dried-apple doll bent-over old lady!). Who came up with that crap?

    I am glad to see more people talking honestly about menopause. I feel like the idea that you hit menopause and then become some kind of frail husk of a thing is going away. In some ways I welcome menopause, because my reproductive years were...not. Everyone loses that function at some point, and it's sort of an equalizer... unless I'm rosy-colored-glasses-ing it. Getting a hysterectomy at 42 was interesting because it gave me the freedom of no longer having menstruation, but now I am in perimenopause and I have no marker for how it's going -- I still have ovaries so the hormonal stuff rages on. I get hot flashes and then am like, OH YES, that's right. Menopause stuff.

    Interesting thoughts, and I will have to listen to that podcast! I agree, pronatalism hurts everyone.

  3. THANK YOU. I remember realizing I had become literally invisible in store aisles ... now I am used to it. There is an odd freedom like having an invisibility cloak when it is not inconvenient....

  4. RE the visibility issue, I noticed this happening to me, both personally and professionally, as you state. On the personal level, I wonder if becoming invisible is part of what lends itself to giving fewer f**ks. I mean, things matter so muc less when you're not seen anyway.

    RE another way pronatalism hurts us all, a thought prompted by your post. It also hurts those who DO parent by setting up unrealistic expectations for something that's supposed to be so natural and so rewarding. When in reality, it is oven neither.

    This is a very thought provoking post. Off to remember what you said about crones. Thanks for the Dismantling Pronatalism link -- super interesting.