Menopause and perimenopause awareness has never been as freely spoken about, as it is today. It’s thankfully not a taboo subject anymore – (the domain of elderly women whispering about ‘the change’) - thanks to many outspoken celebrities and movements on the topic. The cause has even got a royal backing from patron of the charity - Wellbeing of Women - in the UK, Sophie, Countess of Wessex who cites, “we are fabulous in our 40’s and even more fabulous in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. We shouldn’t be made to slope off into the shadows.” The outspoken and triumphant awareness has been very well received and most welcome to garner much needed information and education to the women who need to hear it. But on the back of all of this, there is also something of a menopause gold rush with a host of brands that have launched menopause creams, cookware and even menopause-appropriate clothing! It begs the question, how helpful all of this is and how much of it is a marketing ploy?
There is no doubt that any discussions in the media about the menopause are a good thing. Awareness is heightened, people are asking questions, information is shared and women in the workplace in particular are coming forward to fight for policies which support them going through perimenopause and menopause. But on the flip side, there is a growing trend of brands beginning to cash in on the spotlight shining down on menopausal women and developing gimmick products to alleviate menopausal symptoms. Recently, a UK high street drugs store unveiled what it billed as the UK’s first perimenopause health screen service, including a blood test which examines key hormonal levels and other areas impacted by the menopause with an extortionate cost of GBP£99. Critics have slammed the retailer for cashing in on a service usually provided for free by the NHS and capitalising on doctor’s failures to diagnose women as perimenopausal. Further arguments on these claim blood tests are not a reliable way of getting a diagnosis and even if a hormone deficiency is detected, patients will still need to go to their GP for treatment. A doctor for example, is not going to prescribe HRT based on a private blood test in a high street drugs store.
A similar argument comes into play with a high-street fast fashion retailer who has recently launched a clothing collection designed to relieve menopause symptoms. The collection featuring nightwear, base layers and underwear claims to consist of lightweight, soft-touch fabric which includes anti-flush technology, cooling yarn plus odour and temperature control to help with hot flushes and sweating. Whilst many will welcome a retailer raising awareness around the topic of menopause and developing an affordable range targeting a demographic that is finally being heard, many are also sceptical about the benefits of said clothing collection and how it will help alleviate symptoms. Unless the clothing is laced with HRT, contains ice packs for cooling purposes, relieves ailments or diminishes unwanted hair – many women will remain on the fence with this and just see it as another brand hopping onto the bandwagon.
To conclude, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to how brands will continue to use women’s health issues in order to promote their wares and develop innovative ways and technology in marketing their products. Capitalism exists and it always will do. The problem therein lies with women feeling like they are being put in a box and brands hopping onto the bandwagon with little research for their own commercial gain. Many would agree investment from brands into education and supporting the health service with support around menopause would be far more beneficial in the long term.