Well, blow me down with my desk fan. Turns out that, as a middle-aged woman going through what all middle-aged women must at some point go through, I’m not just menopausal, I’m also disabled.
Such is the claim in a landmark employment tribunal brought against Leicester City Council by a former social worker, Maria Rooney, 52, who claims she was poorly treated because she was suffering symptoms of the menopause.
It’s a hugely significant case, and one backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, chaired by Baroness Faulkner, who said every employer in the country should take note of Ms Rooney’s claim, which began hearing evidence yesterday and is expected to last 16 days.
‘Menopause symptoms can significantly affect someone’s ability to work,’ she said, adding: ‘As Britain’s equality regulator, we will continue to intervene in cases such as this and hold employers to account by using our unique powers.’
Right. In that case, pass me my blue badge, hand me my special parking space — oh, and if it’s all the same to you, I’ll take the rest of the week off. Got a bit of bloating, you see, and I’m a little bit tired and hot — and last week, if you remember, I forgot where I left my car.
SARAH VINE: Turns out that, as a middle-aged woman going through what all middle-aged women must at some point go through, I’m not just menopausal, I’m also disabled (file image)
Sorry for the inconvenience, but I can’t help it: I’m disabled, see.
What unutterable nonsense. Look, I’m the first person to acknowledge what a nightmare the menopause can be for some women: not all, I should stress. It’s like menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth — some of us sail through it, others (me) find ourselves on a hormonal roller-coaster ride from hell.
The menopause is the meanest of them all. It has none of the excitement and promise of pregnancy and childbirth; there is no reward for your suffering in the shape of a cute little bundle. No baby showers, no gifts, no flowers. Just an inescapable sense that you are withering on the vine, and that nature wants you dead.
The weight gain, the exhaustion, the lack of sleep: they are all cruelly reminiscent of those early days of motherhood, and yet all you have to show for it is a sweaty top lip, a few extra hairs on your chin and an unshakable sense that your purpose in life is effectively over.
The depression is real — so real, in fact, that a lot of perimenopausal and menopausal women end up being prescribed antidepressants by their doctors instead of HRT, which is what they really need.
If you ask me, every GP in this country should be told that if a woman over 40 walks into their surgery complaining of feeling low, the first thing they should do is check her hormone levels.
It goes without saying that employers and colleagues need to be respectful, sympathetic and tolerant towards the extra challenges the menopause presents. That’s just common courtesy. And if they aren’t, then women who feel they have been discriminated against — demoted, passed over, mocked or in any way poorly treated — have a right to take their bosses to task.
Maria Rooney, 52, claims she was poorly treated because she was suffering symptoms of the menopause
It’s a hugely significant case, and one backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, chaired by Baroness Faulkner (pictured)
But disabled? No. Being menopausal does not make you disabled, any more than having your period or being pregnant does. This legal claim feeds into the narrative of female victimhood that I vehemently despise. And it effectively hands ammunition to every sexist pub bore, every wannabe Andrew Tate out there, reiterating and reinforcing the toxic notion that women are the weaker sex.
Suffering — menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause — is what shapes us. And yes, it can be tough. But none of this makes us weak: on the contrary, it makes us strong. It is, in many ways, our superpower.
Classifying the menopause as a disability diminishes all that. Women already face opposition in their daily lives from men who resent the fact we are occupying jobs they see as rightfully theirs; this is only going to make that latent resentment worse.
And far from reinforcing women’s position in the workplace, it will only make us a potential liability in the eyes of employers. Women my age have enough trouble finding jobs. Who’s going to take us on if they’re worried we might, at any point, just down tools and claim ‘disability’?
The worst thing about the menopause is the awful feeling that your life no longer has any useful purpose. This short-sighted legal action will only help make that fear a depressing reality for more women.
I can’t wait to see Liz Truss’s diary!
There is much speculation about who might play Liz Truss after the rights were reportedly sold for a dramatisation of her short tenure as Prime Minister.
Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson and even Meg Ryan have been touted. My choice? Renee Zellweger.
Who better to play politics’ answer to disaster-prone Bridget Jones? In fairness to Bridget, though, even she never managed to crash the economy.
Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson and even Meg Ryan have been touted to play Liz Truss. My choice? Renee Zellweger (pictured)
A sinister sight on our streets
The far-Left ‘Young Communist League of Britain’ marched in sinister military formation outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week, wearing hooded black coats and red bandanas and waving flags featuring the hammer and sickle.
We rightly condemn any such behaviour from the far-Right — so why are this lot free to intimidate and threaten with no penalty?
The far-Left ‘Young Communist League of Britain’ marched in sinister military formation outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week
After the birth of my first child, which involved a long, painful labour that ended in an emergency Caesarean section, I was told I’d need an elective for my second.
Back then, I had the best care possible from kind and attentive medics. Yet with so many young doctors now apparently more interested in their own welfare than their patients’ wellbeing — evidenced by the fact non-emergency C-sections are among the thousands of operations being postponed by industrial action this week — I fear my experience would not be the same today.
Hard labour from Tory peer
Lord Frost’s suggestion at the Tory party conference to raise the state pension age to 75 sounds good in theory — unless your job involves physical labour. How could we ever expect anyone who left school at 16 to work as a builder or a farmer into their mid-70s?
Ministers, even former ones, sometimes forget: not everyone has someone else to carry their bags for them.
I’m in no position to say whether Britain is or is not the best country in which to be black — but Kemi Badenoch thinks so, and she seems like an intelligent woman to me. One thing I will say: when I lived in France and Italy, I witnessed far more casual racism than I’ve ever seen here.
That does not mean Britain is perfect. But it’s a damn sight better than most places. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
What on earth is the East Midlands Ambulance Service doing telling staff they can take up to a year’s paid leave if they experience symptoms relating to the ‘andropause’ (aka the ‘male menopause’)?
I’m certainly not one to make light of the problems faced by men — and Laurence Fox is not my type anyway — but seriously?