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Orr-Andrawes, A. (1992). The Meanings of Menopause. Historical, Medical and Clinical Perspectives: Edited by Ruth Formanek. Hillsdale, NJ/Hove/London: The Analytic Press, 1990. 322 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:661-664.
(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:661-664
The Meanings of Menopause. Historical, Medical and Clinical Perspectives: Edited by Ruth Formanek. Hillsdale, NJ/Hove/London: The Analytic Press, 1990. 322 pp.
Review by: Alison Orr-Andrawes
This book is a collection of contributions by eleven authors from a variety of disciplines. Its aim, as the author states in the preface, is to "contribute to the dialogue on menopause across disciplines and thus advance knowledge" (p. xiv). As with any such collection, it is a challenge for the editor to integrate chapters that diverge greatly in quality, content, style, and viewpoint. In this respect, Formanek has been faced with a particularly difficult task, and she has succeeded only partially. There is considerable overlap from one chapter to another, as different contributors cite the same studies and reiterate the necessity of looking at menopause from a number of perspectives: biological, psychological, cultural, etc. That menopause has a variety of meanings will come as no surprise to a psychoanalytic audience; therefore, much of this book's "message" may seem like preaching to the converted. However, there is also much that the reader may find new and interesting. One undoubtedly will come away with a heightened awareness of ongoing lines of inquiry in other disciplines.
The book has a number of strengths. It provides a wealth of information and summarizes a vast literature, with over 1100 authors cited. The survey chapters, by John Greene and Linda Gannon, are particularly fine examples. The text is clear and readable, although the incomplete and somewhat idiosyncratic index leaves something to be desired. Taken as a whole, this volume reflects the complexity of its subject. As a collection, however, it is not cohesive, which may in fact be fortunate since it dilutes the editor's tendency to polarize the issues. Writing from a feminist perspective, Ruth Formanek introduces an adversarial note in the preface: "The current debate on menopause pits physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers against nonmedical researchers, feminists, and consumers" (p. xiii). The former, she feels, view menopause as pathology, while the latter recognize that menopause has a variety of positive meanings. Much of the book elaborates on this theme. The editor's goal of correcting negative myths about menopause is a laudable one, but the polemical tone that creeps into a number of the chapters is regrettable.
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