Reclaiming the crone

I am always reading Ursula LeGuin and today I got a new-to-me book of her essays called “Dancing at the Edge of the World.” It opens with an essay that gives me joy, given that I am a fifty year old going through the life threatening process of the menopause.

LeGuin is not the only author who surprised and delighted me by recommending the years after ‘the change of life’ as a time of power and a new opportunity for those who are no longer at the whim of a burdensome womb. I read something of the sort from bell hooks only last month, and smiled then too because I’d never heard anything of the sort before and it felt like something I’d desperately needed to hear. It felt like hope.

I was going to be lazy and just lift a few quotes from the internet rather than type them in myself, so I googled “quotes about menopause,” sure that I would find at least one of them there. Instead, I found:

“On a planet where for thousands of years, even today, a woman’s worth has been judged exclusively by the productivity of her womb, what the hell is the point of a barren woman?”
Elissa Stein and Susan Kim


“Estrogen deficient woman are nothing but the walking dead.”
Marie Hoag MBA
And I was appalled and insulted and flabberghasted, because you know what? I had two children and then I became infertile by choice. For twenty years all that ovulation nonsense was a mere background to my life and nothing whatsoever to do with my purpose. And to be frank, I looked forward to the day when it would all end.
So yes, fuck you, it’s time for me to type in the quotes I’ve just found and rejoice that all that nonsense about sex appeal and babies is largely behind me, and I can finally start being a person again. I look forward to claiming the archetype of the crone, who is frightning and powerful and mysterious and takes no shit.
“Men are afraid of crones, so afraid of them that their cure for virginity fails them; they know it won’t work. Faced with the fulfilled Crone, all but the bravest men wilt and retreat.”
Ursula LeGuin
“These were poor women born into a world without adequate birth control, a world where having an abortion could end one’s life, psychologically or physically.  They were women who saw menopause as a rite of passage in which they would move from slavery to freedom.  Until then they often felt trapped.  This feeling of being trapped was one they shared with women across class.  Even women who were solitary, celibate, and quite able to manage economically lived with the ever-present fearful possibility that all could be changed by sexual coercion.”
Communion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks
I don’t know how many years ago now, an artist whose name I can’t remember made an icon of Snape in Neville’s Grandma’s dress and hat, and plastered the words “Fan Crone” over the top of it. As a feminine archetype, the crone is the only one that’s ever appealed to me, having connotations of power and wisdom and scaryness. I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to be scary. Probably because I’ve always been scared and it seems like it would be nicer on the other side.
At any rate, there isn’t a lot of point to this post except to say I see a whole load of women trying not to get old. I see society telling women that if they lose their sex appeal they lose their very purpose. I see a lot of young women and girls looking out on a world where women are ridiculed for being teenagers, have a brief flowering of being slightly less mocked in their twenties and thirties, and then are either ridiculed or made invisible when they pass forty.
As a person who is dfab and now over fifty, I’ve got to say I’m not finding it turning out that way. I’m finding that like bell hooks says, this is a time when society’s repressive gaze is looking away from me, and suddenly I can start being myself. This is progress and freedom, and I’m all for it.
My main problem with the whole process is how physically draining and uncomfortable it is, and how long it takes. Get on with it, you, and be over.
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