The Change

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE CHANGE: WOMEN, AGING AND THE MENOPAUSE is Germaine Greer’s explanation of why our culture is still in the Dark Ages with regard to the changes taking place in a woman’s body once her reproductive cycle ends. As if on a crusade, Greer attempts to enlighten women and men on what has thus far been a natural and unavoidable stage of female growth traditionally met with fear and confusion. Greer draws on medical, historical, anthropological, literary, and cultural sources coupled with personal insights to build her case. She explores current treatments which have earned public attention such as hormone replacement therapy, as well as alternative and nonmedical approaches to relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hypnosis, aromatherapy, and herbal preparations.

Much of Greer’s source material seems ironic in our modern times, as women were traditionally treated like objects whose usefulness ceased when their reproductive years closed. She proposes that today’s youth-driven society may not be prepared fully to transcend this archaic attitude, despite the youthfulness and accomplishments of such mature women as writers Karen Blixen, Colette, George Eliot, Willa Cather and Stevie Smith. Greer also cites the vitality of courtesans such as Louis XIV’s lover Madame de Maintenon, Henri II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers, and the seventeenth century Ninon de Lenclos, who influenced Parisian society for more than thirty years after her menopause.

Greer postulates that historic and literary images of crones, traditionally mythical or tribal wise women, should inspire today’s women as they near menopause. Women have been considered caretakers of occult knowledge throughout the centuries, growing more powerful as years pass, whereas modern women’s spirituality is most often subordinated to their need for male approval. She suggests women can change this for themselves by seeking the company of female peers while educating men that growing older brings freedom rather than loss.

Sources for Further Study

American Health. XI, October, 1992, p. 98.

Booklist. LXXXIX, September 1, 1992, p. 21.

Library Journal. CXVII, September 15, 1992, p. 86.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 18, 1992, p. 1.

New Statesman and Society. IV, October 11, 1991, p. 23.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, October 11, 1992, p. 1.

The New Yorker. LXVIII, November 2, 1992, p. 106.

Newsweek. CXX, November 16, 1992, p. 79.

Time. CXL, October 26, 1992, p. 80.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 25, 1991, p. 6.

The Washington Post. October 20, 1992, p. E2.