Hot Flash: How the Law Ignores Menopause and What We Can Do About It

Stanford University Press, forthcoming 2024

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-73

12 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2023 Last revised: 15 Feb 2024

See all articles by Emily Gold Waldman

Emily Gold Waldman

Pace University - School of Law

Bridget J. Crawford

Pace University School of Law

Naomi Cahn

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: November 15, 2023

Abstract

Hot Flash: How Understanding Menopause Can Improve Life and Law for Everyone dissolves the silence and stigma surrounding menopause. The book frames menopause as part of the reproductive lifespan and suggests how to reimagine law and society to take into account the biological needs of all people. Menopause is a health condition that half the population will inevitably experience, but it remains one of the last great taboo topics—even among close friends or family members. Silence and stigmas around menopause create the conditions in which bias and discrimination can flourish in personal relationships, the workplace, doctors’ offices, scientific research, and even courts of law.

This book sets out a reform agenda that will move society in the direction of treating menopause as an expected part of life, akin to pregnancy or breastfeeding. The authors connect the need for more awareness about menopause to the importance of more openness about all reproduction-related conditions and processes, especially those often shrouded in silence, from menstruation to infertility to miscarriage to abortion. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overruled Roe v. Wade, has brought reproductive life to the fore of national politics in a new way. The authors understand menopause as one part of that reproductive life. They emphasize the importance of knowledge and bodily autonomy for all.

The authors also highlight menopause discrimination as an issue that uniquely lies at intersection of gender, aging, and disability. In the past, menopause was often treated as a problem or condition in which women lost their femininity. The “cure” came in the form of hormonal treatments that were touted as both restoring women’s sexuality and preventing disease. While later studies have dispelled some of the myths associated with hormonal treatments, there still is a great deal that scientists, doctors, and the general public do not know about hormonal treatments for menopause. There is also a noticeable absence of research about how race and other identity factors may impact the experience of menopause, its diagnosis, and management.

After describing common cultural tropes about menopause in the United States, the authors then examine how U.S. law accounts for menopause discrimination (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). The authors contrast the U.S. with the United Kingdom, where there have been recent efforts to make workplaces more sensitive to the needs of workers of menopausal age. They suggest changes in existing legislation and workplace policies that could help ensure equality for all, in part by harnessing the momentum of the current menstrual equity movement. They urge reimagining law and society to take into account the biological needs of all people and provide concrete suggestions for what is needed.

Keywords: gender, health, employment discrimination, reproduction

Suggested Citation

Waldman, Emily Gold and Crawford, Bridget J. and Cahn, Naomi R., Hot Flash: How the Law Ignores Menopause and What We Can Do About It (November 15, 2023). Stanford University Press, forthcoming 2024, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-73, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4634333

Emily Gold Waldman

Pace University - School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

Bridget J. Crawford

Pace University School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

Naomi R. Cahn (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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