When we use words, even unintentionally, that are disempowering or critical, we feed a culture of exclusion, not-belonging, not good enough.
Many spiritual traditions point to the power of the word. In classical Tantric philosophy, “Vak,” the word, is the organizing intelligence of embodied consciousness. In the book of Genesis in the Bible, “in the beginning was the word and the word was God.” The words we choose create our reality.
Menopause is a problematic word – there’s no way around it. This word points only to an ending. It comes from the Greek, “menos” meaning month, and “pause” meaning to cease. Menopause means the “monthly” (period) stops. Our bleeding is ending and with it our fertility.
This word became the standard term in the early 18th century, naming this transition believed to be marked by “hysteria, murderous derangement and nymphomania.” By the 1960s, menopause was described by physician Robert Wilson in his bestselling book “Feminine Forever” as “a disease and living decay” that must be treated so that women could retain their youth and sex appeal.
The word menopause has signified a loss, a threshold beyond which there is nothing of importance, a disease to be cured, or a phenomenon that makes us dangerous and deranged. Our current cultural narrative about menopause and aging devalues older women, essentially saying – your value is in bearing children, and once that’s done, we’re done with you.
A few other words have been commonly used. “Climacteric” means a critical period or event and is often used medically to refer to the period of life starting from the decline in ovarian activity until after the end of ovarian function. I personally think this word sounds like a cheesy action film, and like menopause, only points to an ending. “The Change” is another term often used, and to me feels like a disempowering euphemism, hiding our experience in shame.
It’s impossible to talk about having an empowering menopause without honestly acknowledging the patriarchal underpinnings of our current narrative about menopause and aging. We can all see how women are devalued, underpaid, and disempowered in our modern western culture, the targets of genderized aggression and violence. There’s a whole new form of this that happens as we age, moving from being over-sexualized to invisibility.
Which inevitably leads us to get suspicious – what is being hidden or suppressed by intentionally telling this disempowering story? Behind this word hides a great truth – there is indeed something beyond menopause, and it is something powerful and potent.
Our body/mind is not separate and how we make meaning of an event changes how we experience it. How we define this time for ourselves will determine if we see it as a challenging and a horrible biological mistake, or a transformation and doorway to joyous eldership. Menopause is a time to listen deeply to ourselves and the wisdom that is moving through us.
I don’t know any woman who likes this word, but it’s been the default for hundreds of years. But this does not mean we have to keep using it. It’s time to create a new way to describe this time that actually reflects our experience and creates a powerful reality.
I consciously chose the name ‘The Moon Passage’ for this project because it creates a powerful alternative narrative for this transformative time. This is a reclaiming in the same way some women have shifted from saying “my period” which can feel like we’re hiding or ashamed of something, or “menstrual cycle” which can sound weirdly clinical, to choosing to say the direct “my moon” or “my blood.” The Moon Passage honors the continuation of our cyclic nature beyond our bleeding years, honors this time as a passage into a new developmental stage, honors the new archetype of our early eldership and the moon rise happening in our silvering hair and a new fullness of our bodies!
I invite you to notice for yourself what the word “menopause” evokes. Take a few minutes to breath, slow down, center yourself. Say the word “menopause” silently to yourself, and notice what happens in your body and your emotions. Notice if there are particular thoughts, images, or memories that arise. Ask yourself – what beliefs about myself does this word create? Notice if the meaning of this word feels positive or negative for you, and what its impact is in your body, heart, mind, and spirit.
Now, repeat this process with the phrase “Moon Passage,” saying it silently to yourself, and notice what arises in your body and your emotions. Notice if there are particular thoughts, images, or memories this evokes. Ask yourself – what beliefs about myself does this word create? Notice how the meaning of this phrase feels for you, and what its impact is in your body, heart, mind, and spirit.
We invite you to use the term “Moon Passage” in place of “menopause” if it speaks to you. Or create your own new empowering word or phrase! What words capture for you the vitality of this time, new self-awareness, spiritual growth, connection to the earth, connection to your ancestors?
Choose carefully – you get to create a new reality that you want to live into.