Changing bodies, changing lives: urban middle class Malay women's experiences of menopause

Nurazzura Mohamad Diah

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] Menopause is a time of life where women make the transition from a reproductive stage to a non-reproductive stage. Although it is biologically universal, menopausal experiences are not homogeneous in nature and there have been significant differences reported by women within and across cultures. The study of menopause is pertinent in anthropology because as Lock (1998) contended, how menopause is seen, experienced and managed, rests upon social and cultural factors. The purpose of this thesis is to gain an in-depth understanding of the menopausal experiences of urban middle class Malay women who, for the most part, are formally educated and work in professional paid jobs. The research addresses how these women manage their changing bodies and attribute meaning to the experience of menopause. By considering how families respond to the women during this time, as well as how menopause is cast within an increasingly medicalised and media oriented discourse, the thesis proposes that menopause in Malay society today creates specific challenges for ageing women. Using an ethnographic approach, the thesis investigates the various factors that contribute to Malay women's understanding of menopause. In-depth interviews and participant observation helped to unravel the complexity of this topic, which in Malay society is considered private and dealt with in silence. I argue that the increasingly pervasive influence of Western perceptions of youth, femininity and sexuality among urban Malay women, together with the increasing adoption of biomedical treatments have altered cultural understandings of menopause. It is apparent that medicalisation and the ageing female body have been discussed extensively in the Western academic community but to a lesser extent in non-Western settings so the thesis adds substantially to this discussion. My research shows that menopause is a problematic and chaotic life stage for most of the urban middle class Malay w
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010


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