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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Mariella Frostrup, her menopause site… and a blazing row with a US author | Mariella Frostrup

A fierce battle for campaign territory has forced TV presenters Mariella Frostrup and Davina McCall into a tactical retreat.

After a tussle with a bestselling author, Frostrup has reluctantly changed the name of a website she set up with McCall, Labour MP Carolyn Harris, model Penny Lancaster, journalist Kate Muir and medical experts, to campaign for greater awareness of the impact of the menopause.

The campaigners had called their online women’s health project The Menopause Manifesto, but Jennifer Gunter, the US gynaecologist and author of a book of the same name, published last spring, strongly objected.

“Basically, as far as I’m concerned, the cause is bigger than a name, so we changed the name,” said Frostrup. “We want to improve the menopause experience for women who need things to change, we want the UK government to honour their promises to women. It’s immaterial what we’re called, what matters is what we are about.” The site will now be called the Menopause Mandate.

Gunter, who also wrote The Vagina Bible, was not placated by Frostrup’s suggestion they were waging the same war. Gunter was dismayed, she said, to find that Frostrup’s campaign site, set up as a practical response to the ideas in a book she recently co-wrote, Cracking the Menopause, had chosen the same name.

“It is unacceptable that you have used the name of my book,” tweeted Gunter this weekend. “Many people involved with your organiszation [sic] know it is the name of my book. ”

Gunter’s book debunks many of the myths about menopause, as well as offering aid and information. It has earned some good reviews, with the New Scientist judging that her guide “to counteracting medical misogyny” offers “women strength, value, agency and knowledge to help them through this transition in their life”.

Gunter has also won passionate defenders among her readers. One of them is Fiona Dolman, who tweeted in support. “You cant research menopause without @DrJenGunter excellent book coming up. Why did you decide it was OK to used the title without asking? How disappointing.”

Jennifer Gunter
Jennifer Gunter was dismayed to find Frostrup’s website had chosen the same name as her book. Photograph: The Canadian Press/Alamy

Frostrup and her team backed down, but not without some resistance: “It is a book title, not a global corporation!” said Frostrup on Twitter. “We are no[sic] competing, we are a not-for-profit advocacy group. Talk about sweating the small stuff. You know what they say about publicity by the way?”

She added: “We will change the name of our website but I am sad for you that you would be so territorial about an issue that impacts all women’s lives. No one “owns” the words menopause or manifesto. Or their combined use. We should be united, not fighting.”

Frostrup and her fellow crusaders, who are “real women, campaigners, politicians, menopause experts, celebrities and journalists”, are aiming to increase pressure on the UK government to improve access to hormone replacement therapy and promote greater understanding of the impact of menopause.

The group’s supporters includes TV presenters Gabby Logan and Lisa Snowden. The website urges readers to “join the menocause” and demand help for millions of “peri- and post-menopausal women in the UK” arguing that “for millennia menopause has been off the map”.

Due to “tireless campaigning”, the message continues, “It’s the biggest women’s issue of the moment.”

Frostrup noticed that many of those who had encouraged her not to give ground, with “less conciliatory responses”, were men. One of them, Charlie Davies, wrote: “Don’t be bullied into changing your name because it happens to be the name of a book in America. You are UK-based and menopause is a global issue. Stand firm!”

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