Mona Eltahawy: ‘You have to moisturise your vulva every day’

The feminist author busts some myths about menopause

Listen | 50:57

“In the same way you moisturise your face every morning, you have to moisturise your vulva and vaginal canal,” says journalist and writer Mona Eltahawy.

The Egyptian-American disruptor of the patriarchy is shouting from the rooftops about the impacts of menopause after her journey through the transition. “We don’t talk about vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy,” she says in this energising and informative interview with host, Róisín Ingle.

Eltahawy is the author of two books; Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution and The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls.

Now she’s turning her attention to the menopause, telling the Women’s Podcast it’s because “it kicked my f**king ass!” Appropriately, given her irrepressible personality, the 55 year old is not holding back.


“If you’ve ever had a uterus or ovaries, if you’ve ever menstruated, you are going to go through the menopause transition. Half of the population of this globe! And yet we act like it’s this big secret. That’s one of the reasons I began to write about it.”

Eltahawy has been tackling taboos in a series of essays on her web site, Feminist Giant, exploring the process of ‘unbecoming’ the person she was in her youth and peri-menopausal years, while challenging conventions and societal norms about how women should feel about themselves in this new phase of life.

She particularly rails against the taboo of mentioning menopause in the workplace. “We had to leave at home everything that made us cis gender women so that we could compete in a man’s world. We couldn’t talk about our period and how that impacted us at work, we couldn’t talk about anything like that. We had to be these ‘fake men’ so we could succeed in their world. And then the menopause comes at you.”

Her observations are timely. Earlier this week it was revealed the British government has rejected calls for a large-scale pilot programme of menopause leave in England. A cross-party committee report had made the recommendation last summer, along with several other proposals to protect the rights of women experiencing menopause. But an official response, published on Tuesday, claimed there could be “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions.”