Bloody Hell! And Other Stories

By Mona Eltahawy

Adventures in Menopause from Across the Personal and Political Spectrum

Feminism | LGBTQ+
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I found out almost by chance that perimenopause - the time leading up to menopause - could last up to 14 years. At first, I thought “Are you fucking kidding me?” And that quickly turned to “How the hell did I not know that?” How was a feminist like me so ignorant about menopause? Was I not paying attention?

When I finally did start to pay attention: lo and behold! The silence, shame and taboo that for so long had cocooned menopause seemed to be lifting and M was also for mainstream.

Some are calling it a revolution. I wish! A moment? A wave? A movement? Maybe! A moneymaker? Definitely, as one business after another launches geared to a demographic apparently flush with cash and most likely with hot flashes.

It is exactly when the once-whispered moves into the mainstream that it most matters who is speaking the once unsaid and who continues to be sidelined and silenced.

Now THAT I understood. As a feminist of colour who often must write what she she has long wanted to read, I know what it’s like to rarely see yourself during those “moments,” “waves,” and “movements.” Too often when feminism takes that brave dive into the deep end of a taboo, it takes along just a select few: white, wealthy, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied women.

Bloody Hell! And Other Stories is the antidote.

If you have ever menstruated, you can go through menopause, a point in life that marks 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Once you’ve reached the point of 12 months without a menstrual cycle, you are post-menopausal.

It is not just cis women who experience menopause. Non-binary people, trans men and other gender non-conforming groups also experience menopause and do so under even greater levels of silence and taboo.

This anthology aimes to expand the Menopause Moment/ Wave/ "Movement" beyond white and cis women.

And also, beyond merely the “symptoms.” This is not a medical textbook, nor a guide on how to “remedy” or “fix” anything.

Rather, it is a collection of menopausal people, each with their own entry point into that transition. There are as many menopause stories as people who have experienced menopause, and this anthology will showcase some of them, from people from all walks of life and all over the world.

I am learning, much to my thrill and awe, that one of the greatest gifts of the transition known as menopause is shamelessness. I am not known as one easily shamed nor is modesty one of my virtues. Still, I gasp at the heights of audacity that I like to think come monthly in lieu of my increasingly AWOL menstrual cycle. It is as if instead of shedding the lining of my uterus, I am shedding the lining of patriarchal fuckery that I was socialized into.

If you’re wondering where along my menopause journey I am, it is far enough that if I hear a voice in my head saying "Oh my god, you can't write about that!" I WILL IN FACT WRITE ABOUT THAT.

And that is an absolute advantage of being 54 years old and just weeks if not days away from post-menopause.

I had no idea that kind of shamelessness and power were gifts of the menopause.

That is what Bloody Hell! aims to do: insist on a revolution around menopause awareness belongs to more of us than any “moment” pretends to be.

  • High quality, B-format paperback edition
  • Approximately 80,000 words and 336 pages
  • Compiled and edited by FEMINIST GIANT Mona Eltahawy
  • Each essay will be beautifully illustrated by Sheyam Ghieth

Contributors will include:

· Heather Corinna is the queer, nonbinary author of three books and the founder of a couple ground-breaking websites and movements, and is really, really freaking sick of menopause.

· Prof. Sunny Singh is a novelist and academic and the founder of the Jhalak Prize for Writers of Colour.

· Ann Marie McQueen is a Canadian journalist living and working in the Middle East. Her platform Hotflash Inc aims to inform, inspire and entertain the global perimenoposse through a weekly newsletter, podcast, social media and more.

· Sonora Jha is a professor of journalism at Seattle University and the author of Foreign, How to Raise a Feminist Son, and the forthcoming novel The Laughter.

· Dr. Jenn Salib Huber RD ND is a non-diet dietitian, naturopathic doctor and intuitive eating coach. She helps women in midlife make peace with food and their changing midlife body without feeling like they've given up on themselves.

· Omisade Burney-Scott is a Black, southern, 7th-generation native North Carolinian feminist, social justice advocate and storyteller. Omisade is the creator/curator of The Black Girls’ Guide to Surviving Menopause, a multimedia project seeking to curate and share the stories and realities of Black women, women identified and gender expansive people as they navigate menopause and aging.

· Tania Glyde (they/them) is a London-based psychotherapist and author working with Gender, Sex and Relationship Diverse (GSRD) clients, as well as promoting greater awareness of LGBTQIA+ experiences of menopause.

· Simi Hoque is a Bangladeshi-American professor of Architectural Engineering at Drexel University whose research focuses on sustainability and well-being in buildings. She juggles motherhood, triathlon training, and a deep love of reading with her need to get enough sleep and have a good life.

· Austen Smith is a masculine-of-center, queer, non-binary entity. They are a lover, thinker, storyteller, and shapeshifter. They share thoughts on the vastness of blackness, the spiritual impacts of oppression, gender proliferation, queer bodies, queering queerness and liberation as a present-day relic of an ancient future.

*Image credits: Cover and assets designed by Mecob, with kind permission from Sheyam Ghieth

*Book designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and will differ from final design.

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  • Mona Eltahawy avatar

    Mona Eltahawy

    Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide.


    It is now available in Ireland and the UK. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.

  • Moisturize Your Vagina*

    *Menopause Chicks et al

    When you are shameless, you cannot be shamed.

    Few things are surrounded by more shame and silence than a cis woman who is no longer young, her vagina which is no longer wet, and her sex drive which is not supposed to exist.

    If I thought I needed to be brave to write about my two abortions, it is next level courage to admit to being that cis woman who is no longer young, whose vagina is no longer wet, and whose sex drive is not supposed to exist.

    And so here I am looking shame in the eye, daring it to test me.

    The Black lesbian poet and intellectual Audre Lorde famously told us “your silence will not protect you.” Silence protects our oppressors. Silence fuels shame. Patriarchy deploys shame like a drone: it shadows you, ready to take you out any minute, exhausting you by keeping you forever aware of its presence to the detriment of all other things that you could be investing your attention in.

    I am learning, much to my thrill and awe, that one of the greatest gifts of the transition known as menopause is shamelessness. I am not known as one easily shamed nor is modesty one of my virtues. Still, I gasp at the heights of audacity that I like to think come monthly in lieu of my increasingly AWOL menstrual cycle. It is as if instead of shedding the lining of my uterus, I am shedding the lining of patriarchal fuckery that I was socialized into.

    October 18 is Menopause Awareness Day. I am not a fan of “days,” be they for love, women, or menopause. I am “aware” of my menopause every day. If we want the world to be more aware of menopause, we will need more than a day (a month? Maybe the entire year?) to make up for the silence and taboo that ensures we know next to nothing about what happens to our bodies during this time.

    Before I continue: if you have ever menstruated, you can go through menopause, a point in life that marks 12 months without a menstrual cycle. The time leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause, and once you’ve reached the point of 12 months without a menstrual cycle, you are post-menopausal. It is not just cis women who experience menopause. Remember non-binary people, trans men, and other gender non-conforming groups who also experience menopause and do so under even greater levels of silence and taboo.

    If you’re wondering where along my menopause journey I am, it is far enough that if I hear a voice in my head saying "Oh my god, you can't write about that!" I WILL IN FACT WRITE ABOUT THAT.

    And that is an absolute advantage of being 54 years old and just weeks if not days away from post-menopause.

    Fuck "you can't." Watch me.

    And so: getting older, vaginas getting drier, and sex drives that don’t know if they’re coming or going.

    Why am I focusing on that Trifecta of Shame rather than, say, hot flashes, and insomnia, and other effects of the menopause transition? The simple answer is that for many post-menopausal people, hot flashes and insomnia subside. But vaginal dryness does not. It does not improve. Vaginal atrophy, or atrophic vaginitis, as it's clinically defined, is a set of symptoms that includes vaginal dryness, persistent burning, irritation and painful sex. It has been replaced by the broader term GSM or genitourinary syndrome of menopause. This verbiage was meant to be inclusive of all genital changes caused by diminished estrogen levels. Left untreated, it can lead to other risks.

    The complicated answer is because I feel robbed.

    Not by the menopause transition, which is “natural” (I rarely use that word because it is often employed by cis heteronormative patriarchy in the name of fuckery), but by an upbringing and socialization that instilled in me something that should be considered unnatural and which took me years to shed.

    I was socialized into a shame around sex and sexuality, and I was taught--and I obeyed--that I must wait until I get married to have sex.

    At their core, such teachings are flags planted by patriarchy on our bodies to remind us we do not own them; to control our sexuality and fertility. Soon after puberty begins, especially after menstruation starts, we become walking liabilities that must be contained and controlled, as if our uteruses were grenades ready to explode if left to our own devices.

    I am childfree by choice. And now that my fertility has finally vacated the building, who owns my body?

    I do. And it is at exactly this point in my life when I am standing in my power, as a 54-year-old woman of colour that patriarchy wants to remind me that it renders me moot. Well, fuck that shit.

    I am sad for my younger self that I obeyed for so long and thus deprived myself of the joy of sex with another person. It is a form of grieving that I am now beginning to honour as grief over the loss of joy and intimacy.

    I was enjoying sex with myself from the age of about 11. I knew my way around my genitals and was giving myself orgasms for years before another person did. I finally had sex with another person when I was 29.

    I often say that I have “made up for lost time,” and that I fucked the guilt from having extra marital sex out of my system. After the laughter clears though, you should know I am making a serious point: I worked hard to own my body, to have sex the way I want to, to figure out who I am attracted to and how I want to be intimate with them.

    I wanted to write to every person raised with any version of “purity culture” and tell them to enjoy their bodies at every stage. Don’t wait, I wanted to yell at them. Don’t let the patriarchy rob you.

    When I began to notice the impact of perimenopause on my vagina and sex drive, it bothered me more than hot flashes, no longer sleeping through the night, and changes to my digestive system.

    It bothered me because I felt I was being robbed again.

    At first, I was shell shocked. Because I am determined in my shamelessness, let me tell you: I did not have sex for a year. If you had told enthusiastically-and-determinedly-sex-positive me that I would go a year without having sex, she would have told you to fuck right off with your nonsense.

    I was bereft. How was this happening?

    And then, I was fucking enraged. Something I loved, that brought me so much pleasure, was gone, poof, just like that! How did that happen? Who was that person I did not recognize, who did not even masturbate? Who abducted Mona? And how do I bring her back?

    And furthermore, I was ashamed. And that shocked me too. I am shameless!

    So I took my rage and shame and pronounced them as loudly as I could. I was determined to talk my way out of the shame. Heather Corinna was my perfect confidant when they interviewed me for their book What Fresh Hell is This? Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You.

    “My sex drive is broken,” I told them.

    “Not broken,” they said. “On pause, evolving. Not broken.”

    This essay first appeared in Mona Eltahawy’s newsletter, Feminist Giant

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