A Tory MP has spoken of her frustration at being asked “are you having a hot flush dear?” by a senior male colleague as she wore a badge to raise awareness of the menopause.
Rachel Maclean said the unnamed Tory made the remark in the voting lobbies on the eve of World Menopause Day, which is a worldwide campaign aimed at highlighting the health issues women face when approaching, during and beyond the menopause.
The Redditch MP said the comment made her realise that there was still “a long way to go” for people to get over “one of the last taboos”.
Ms Maclean, speaking in a Commons debate on the issue, also spoke of her own experiences with the menopause.
She said: “I was 50 when I was elected, so of course I was well within that menopausal age myself and I didn’t conform to the stereotypes of the menopause.
“There’s so much ignorance out there, it’s genuinely believed that if you don’t suffer from the key symptoms like hot flushes or night sweats then that’s basically all the menopause is, but menopause is so much more than that, menopause is not just hot flushes and night sweats and I’m living proof of that.
“My symptoms in particular revolve around having quite debilitating migraines, which I have on an almost daily basis, sometimes when I’m not able to manage the stress of this job.”
She added: “I think we saw a quite shocking demonstration of the ignorance of society from no less a the figure than the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, not long ago if we all remember he compared the economy to the menopause.
“In saying that, he demonstrated the fundamental lack of awareness, it is not right.”
“We still have got a long way to go”, she added.
She said: “Last night when I was in the lobby I was voting and I had this badge on and I was approached by a senior colleague, who shall remain nameless, the comment was ‘why are you having a hot flush, dear?’, that was said to me, to my face and doesn’t that illustrate how we need to raise awareness.”
Labour MP Martin Whitfield (East Lothian) later called on men to “have the guts” to talk openly about the menopause.
He said: “It’s time for men and it has to be said as I stand here bringing this debate as a man, it is time for men to show their solidarity and to break a taboo about talking about the menopause.
“I ask every man in this place, I ask every man who’s watching on, I ask every man in the United Kingdom and just ask men to be brave enough, to have the guts, to go, ‘can you tell me, can you explain, will you please share’.”
Shadow women and equalities minister Carolyn Harris suggested educating children within the school curriculum so that the menopause “ceases to be a taboo subject or a joking matter” for future generations.
Communities minister Nigel Adams, appearing on behalf of health minister Jackie Doyle-Price, said MPs could encourage more people to have open conversations about the menopause.
He said: “Many women report that they feel they do not have the opportunity to have open conversations with their employer about menopausal symptoms at work. This needs to change.
“I am specifically targeting these remarks at male managers in the workplace.
“This is something that has to change – if two men can get up in the House of Commons and talk about the menopause, male managers in the workplace should be doing exactly the same.”