Countess Sophie: Menopause ‘should be a liberation, but it feels like a shackle’

Duke of Edinburgh death

Y’all will yell at me, but when I’m covering the Duchess of Cornwall or the Countess of Wessex, I’m often drawn into whatever issue they’re highlighting, or the reason for such-and-such event. Like, I’m genuinely interesting in Camilla’s work with rape crisis centers. I’m also genuinely interested in her extensive knowledge of the wine and spirits industries. Sometimes, I really would like to hear more about Sophie’s stuff too, because she’s not some dimwit Stepford Wife. In fact, the more you pay attention to what Sophie and Camilla are doing, the more obvious it is that Kate phones it in and basically doesn’t give a f–k. Sophie has taken on a new patronage – Wellbeing of Women – and she did a Zoom call to highlight reproductive, menstrual and menopausal education.

In a royal first, Countess of Wessex, 56, spoke candidly about menstruation, menopause and pregnancy in a video call with the organization’s chair Professor Dame Lesley Regan and other experts.

“I’ve always found out when we talk about women’s’ health, actually, it’s actually preceded by talking about women’s problems or issues, which immediately puts it into a negative light,” Sophie began. In accepting the role, the countess said she hopes to help normalize these taboo topics by raising them “out into the open, and not making it some kind of behind closed doors conversation.”

“The menstrual cycle, periods, the menopause, having babies… you know, we all talk about having babies, but nobody talks about periods, nobody talks about the menopause, why not? It’s something that happens to us 12 times a year. It’s something that’s incredibly normal, but it’s something that is hidden. And I think it’s time to say ‘Enough, we need to bring this out onto the table and say, let’s talk about this.’ ”

An active promoter of gender equality and women’s voices, the Queen’s daughter-in-law said she was thrilled to start working with Wellbeing of Women.

“I’m delighted to take on this role. I have a vested interest in it,” Sophie said.

On menopause, the royal spoke from personal experience about the stage of change.

“Really we should be celebrating the fact that we don’t have to have periods anymore – it should be a liberation, but it feels like a shackle,” the countess said. “It’s described as something incredibly negative. One, yes, it’s an admittance of the fact that yes, we’re getting a bit older, we’re not as young as we were before… and it’s quite a moment to admit it.”

Sophie also called for more inclusive media representation to reflect a more positive view of women aging.

“Whilst all of our media and the messaging about women’s bodies, about our looks, everything is very superficial. And we’re trying to cling on to all of that for as long as we possibly can. We’ve got to be fit, we’ve got to be clever, we’ve got to be looking skinny, we’ve got to looking beautiful. We’ve got to look 25 years old for the rest of our lives,” she said of the impossible expectations. “But unfortunately our bodies are going, ‘That’s fine, you can do all of that on the outside as much as you possible can or afford to, but on the inside, things are a little different.’ ”

[From People]

Well, if Meghan had taken this on, the amount of pursed lips, tea-spitting and eye-rolling would have been documented in the British media ad nauseam for weeks. Meghan actually worked with a menstruation education group pre-royal life and they made her quit it! So here we are. It’s fine when the white countess speaks about it. In all honesty, though, it does feel like an interesting moment for a royal woman to talk in (somewhat) real terms about menopause. And Sophie kind of went off about the dumb expectations of ageing for women, right? It was like her very own Cool Girl rant.

The Countess of Wessex discusses taboos around women's health during conversation to mark new patronage of Wellbeing of Women

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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65 Responses to “Countess Sophie: Menopause ‘should be a liberation, but it feels like a shackle’”

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  1. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    Actually, good for her. The patriarchal structure that maintains the demonisation or silencing of women’s bodies must be demolished – particularly in medicine, where so little weight is given to the architecture of female pleasure and pain. Though this message is coming from the ultimate patriarchal institution, it’s an important discussion to be had.

  2. Amy Bee says:

    Thank God, Meghan came on the scene as it finally allowed Sophie to become the (white) feminist she always wanted to be.

    • Elizabeth Regina says:

      AMEN! It’s a great cause and I’m all for discussing the subject. However, Sofiesta’s behavior at the Commonwealth service is one I can’t forget

      • GRUEY says:

        @elizabeth Regina, thanks for the reminder cuz I was kinda falling for it. At 39, I don’t think I’ve heard discussions about menopause in the media ever? Maybe on real housewives of NYC? I can’t remember ever hearing a man speak that word out loud ever. Maybe something passing and with disgust, but even that I can’t remember. It’s crazy!

  3. ThatgirlThere says:

    She’s right about periods. Along with sick days women who are still getting periods should have days off from work. Being a woman is exhausting.

    • Andrew’s Nemesis says:

      But we need to be able to treat the causes of dysmenorrhea effectively so that we DON’T have to lose days of our lives off work and in pain. I’ve lost so many weeks of my existence – and the prevailing advice was to ‘have a baby’. This first came when I was only 14.
      Not. Good. Enough.

      • Agirlandherdog says:

        Agreed. After six years of complaining to various doctors about pain and excessive bleeding, I finally found one who *listened* to me instead of just blaming hormones, and two years ago, I had a hysterectomy. I had fibroid tumors so large, my uterus was four times the normal size. Having a hysterectomy was one of the best things to ever happen to me. And whenever I think that, I think about how sad the state of women’s health care is that having a hysterectomy and ending my periods is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Sophie is right. Half the world’s population has 12 periods a year, so why is women’s reproductive health in such a sorry state that menopause is “liberation”???

      • Becks1 says:

        I remember getting my period at 13, and they were super heavy and painful by the time I was 14, and yes, I was told “dont worry, it will improve after you have a baby.”

        I’m 39 and have had two babies and I’m back on birth control because the pregnancies did NOT help, and even on BCPs it’s about 50/50 whether my periods are okay or whether I go through an ultra tampon in a half hour.

      • Amy Too says:

        Becks, I have period issues and my doctor has me taking the active pills in my BCP packet consistently, like skipping the white period pills, so that I just don’t get periods. I take the first three weeks of pills and then go on to the next packet. I get some breakthrough bleeding occasionally but I think that might be more about finding the right pill and hormone level that I need. Maybe that would work for you? Or if you want/need to have a period, maybe you take the white pills every other time or every third time so you get fewer periods each year?

        I wish there were more solutions for actually treating period pain, extra heavy flow, and really bad hormone fluctuations. The pill is okay, but you have to find the right one and then there are side effects, risks, and possible complications when mixed with other medications (wasn’t there some questions about blood clotting after the J&J vaccine being made worse by BCP?) and lifestyle choices (smoking). We’ve known about periods and menopause and pregnancy since the dawn of humanity (it’s not like some disease we only recently discovered in the past 200 years and yet are still better able to treat effectively) but we’re still so far behind when it comes to knowledge, research, treatment and/or prevention, and quality of life issues relating to women’s reproductive health.

  4. Chic says:

    White is always right ain’t it? Sad that something so meaningful and important can only be done or notable through the white gaze. Hope she talks about taxation on feminine products and their lack of availability in some Commonwealth countries and prisons etc.

  5. Esma says:

    It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak and she sounds so natural. I feel like I am talking to a friend. Unlike a certain keen duchess who speaks in a stilted and put on way.

    • Elizabeth Regina says:

      It’s just clicked that a certain Duchess is trying and failing to speak like Diana.

      • Feebee says:

        Of course! Why didn’t we catch this before. Something we couldn’t quite put a finger on but I think you’re right!

    • Amy Too says:

      That’s funny that you say that because I was just going to comment about how I really like that she’s talking about this and I like what she says, but she’s not really great at getting her point across clearly. I didn’t listen, I just read the quotes, but a lot of her sentences were poorly constructed and some things got confusing.

      “…but nobody talks about periods, nobody talks about the menopause, why not? It’s something that happens to us 12 times a year.” For a second I thought she was saying menopause is something we go through 12 times a year because menopause is the last thing she mentioned.

      It just seems like she has a difficult time articulating exactly what she wants to say. Great message, important content, kind of poor delivery.

      I was especially interested in everything she said about having to look 25 for the rest of our lives and how all this effort is put into it. I thought of Kate.

      It really seems like the women in the BRF are progressively more conservative as we go through the generations. I could NEVER imagine Kate saying any of these things or talking about periods and beauty standards and menopause. How do you go from Camilla and Sophie in that generation to Kate in the next? Are they TRYING to be more conservative and Victorian going into the future? And if so, why? Do they really think that’s a winning strategy? If this exact message was coming out of Kate’s mouth it would get way more coverage because it’s Kate, but it would also go a long ways towards modernizing the monarchy and making it seem much less conservative and stuffy, which would likely draw in the younger crowd that they claim they’re trying to reach with YouTube. Can we at least get Kate to stand next to Sophie while Sophie says these things?

      • swaz says:

        That’s exactly why Meghan is a threat to the Royals, when she speaks everybody understands….No one can deny that Meghan has become their inspiration. Have you notice that nothing new is coming out of the royal households lately, its because Meghan is incognito….As soon as Meghan is back on the scene the Royals will be out and about with new ideas

      • Brielle says:

        @Amy too,I agree with you:she seems prepared and it’s an important subject but for someone who was working in PR,I thought she wasn’t getting her points across well in my humble opinion like her skills communication are a little lacking…and maybe I’m biased because I don’t like her since Commonwealth gate

      • Nic919 says:

        It’s not a generational thing. It simply that Kate is dim and can’t speak to complex issues. Anne also can speak to certain subjects with intelligence and so can Camilla.
        I certainly understand why people have issues with how Sophie acted at the commonwealth service, but Sophie was covering similar issues for a while now and before Harry met Meghan. The only problem is that the rota preferred to focus on the one who wears coatdresses and says so little.

        Kate is incredibly stupid and incurious as a person and that’s why the coverage remains about what she wears instead of what she actually says. Kate is the exception here.

  6. Becks1 says:

    Yeah, sophie actually puts in the effort (and so does Camilla). When you listen to the questions they ask at events, or watch some of the clips from their events on social media – they’re a lot more engaged and prepared than Kate. It really does show that Kate is the outlier when it comes to royal work.

    • Alexandria says:

      It’s really unfortunate that I’ve been so disgusted with this entire family, that I can’t take anything they front or advocate seriously. E.g. the so called mental health work.

      • Elizabeth Regina says:

        Same here. Plus her behaviour at the CW service in public view left a very sour taste.

      • Becks1 says:

        I know, it paints everything they do in a different light, especially their mental health work, which I think is basically now viewed as a joke. But just when you compare Sophie to Kate, the difference is remarkable – no, being lazy and unprepared and uninterested isn’t part of the royal gig. You’re at least supposed to fake it.

      • Brielle says:

        Same Alexandria and Elisabeth Regina,I was indifferent to Sophie and many here was praising her and Camilla for their hard work..but since Commonwealth gate,I don’t like her…and she was allegedly the one calling Meghan the degree wife and also remember when. Meg was criticized for wearing expensive clothes,Sophie wear really expensive designer clothes but nobody is offended…

      • MJM says:

        Yep Sophie was an asshole to Meghan and isn’t doing anything groundbreaking here. She does have a work ethic so I guess that is something.

        I had my last period July 17, 2010 on my 42 birthday. No longer enduring that mess and pain is indeed liberating. The downside has been trouble sleeping and minding heat.

    • Wiglet Watcher says:

      When comparing to Kate everyone puts in more effort. I think the reality is different. Sophie and Camilla are less stiff and do understand their roles. They have a more competent team than Kate allows and they follow directions.

      Strip away the BRF contributions and what do you have? They married wealth and did not live that life of service until they got paid extraordinarily well for it.

      Also, this is the bare minimum. Not what Kate does.

      • Amy Too says:

        This really shows how much trouble the monarchy is in. The generation of women that everyone is paying attention to just has Kate. If she sucks, and she does, there is no one else to look to. The previous generation had Diana, and Camilla, and Sophie, and Fergie, and Anne—all hardworking women who actually worked competently at their role on modern and interesting issues that matter. This generation has Kate. And the next generation has people raised by Kate. What is the plan!? They have one silent, stupid, lazy, boring woman who can’t speak, doesn’t try to speak, doesn’t care, doesn’t connect, doesn’t work, and chooses to present herself as a super conservative Victorian housewife focusing on the vaguest and shallowest aspects of her causes in the most conservative way possible. And she’s it. There is no one else. They can’t just write this one off as a failure and try to focus on the other, more competent and interesting women of the generation because there are no other women that are still working members of the family in this generation. And their hope for a better future generation is pinned on children that are being shaped and molded by Kate and the woman who shaped and molded Kate.

      • VIV says:

        This quote stood out to me from one of the RR commentary videos linked yesterday, funnily enough pulled from a Wills & Kate retrospective app:

        “Sadly the public know little about her and never will, except that she doesn’t speak out of turn and she looks great. But that’s exactly what a princess in a fairy tale is suppose to be like.”

        That’s what was expected of her prior to their wedding and that’s what they get to write aboutfor years to come…

      • Christine says:

        Amy Too, I could not agree with you more!

    • Sofia says:

      And Camilla apparently isn’t fond of the royal life and her engagement numbers aren’t the highest compared to others (not as low as Kate’s but still) but she definitely puts in the effort when it comes to her engagements.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Sophie does understand her role, and she revels in not working for a living anymore. Leaving her company 1.2 million in debt and never paying it off due to her royal connections.

      Never forget how she meangirled Meghan at the service, and how she’s been sucking up to W&K for years. Charles wanted her and Eddie off the royal dole, so she’s been trying to get W&K to want them around as working royals.

      • Becks1 says:

        Oh it doesn’t make her a good or nice person, it just shows you how low the bar is for royal work.

      • Hannah says:

        None of the royals … apart from Harry, who definitely worked hard in combat zones … has a clue as to the meaning of “hardworking,” especially Fergie and Sophie. That is actually kind of funny because Fergie and Sophie had their cringe grifter moments, widely coveted by the media. And it’s actually kind of terrible and borderline criminal because Fergie literally accepted money from Epstein.

  7. Noki says:

    With Meghan it was always the Messenger and hardly the message. And it was very obvious they did not expect this biracial American actress to be so well spoken and intelligent. Remember the Fab Four panel event,it was never repeated after Meghan outshone ALL of them. Just look at Baldys expressions when Meghan spoke,it was like ‘its totally unacceptble that she sounds smarter than Kate and even worse smarter than Me’

  8. Sherry Greengrass says:

    Actually, I find menopause to be quite liberating, and I tell anyone who asks. I am more in control of my emotions, I have greater acceptance and love for myself (and that comes from a kind of peace after years of beating myself up over my perceived physical and mental flaws), and I have more of a purpose by challenging myself to stay in shape! Don’t be scared, women!

    • Eurydice says:

      Yeah, that part seemed a little garbled. I think what she meant was the shackles are societal expectations. That if women are only viewed through their reproductive systems, then menopause means they don’t “work” anymore.

    • Betsy says:

      Oh I kind of took what she said in part to mean that the process of going through menopause was kind of a difficult path, what with the hot flashes, unpredictable periods, etc.

      • Lizzythe2 says:

        I agree, menopause can be very difficult for some women. Bleeding so heave that they end up in the ER. Some experience horrible pain that literally has them in bed for days. Some women have it easy and some don’t. From her comment it seems she had some bad side affects.

    • Mich says:

      I found peri-menopause pretty rough but once I reached actual menopause (no period for 12 months) things leveled out. Post-menopause has been great.

      • Ann says:

        Same here, though my temperature regulation is still off.

      • Babz says:

        @Ann, I hear you about the temperature regulation! I went through peri menopause in my late 40s and finished actual menopause in my early 50s. I’ll be 68 on Saturday, and I still have hot flashes and night sweats. They aren’t as commonplace as before, but I still have them. Otherwise, I love being post menopausal!

    • Lizzie says:

      I had an easy time of it and loved the end of periods.

    • Marigold says:

      I agree! I love menopause! If I could just escape the “tyranny of beauty” that all women have to deal with, it would be great. I’m just too ensconced. I hope our youth can escape it somehow.

    • Juniper says:

      I took it as menopause viewed with a male gaze. Like once we reach it, we’re not worthy of existing and should be happy to fade into the background.

      I rather enjoy not having periods or cramps anymore. Now if I could just figure out what to do with this roll in my midsection that appeared out of nowhere, I’d be great.

  9. Cecilia says:

    This all feels very much “meghan-esque” but she does sound like she knows what she’s talking about.

    Im not disagreeing with her that menopause should be celebrated, but doing so “because you’re finally of your period” put a negative spotlight on periods. Neither of those should be stigmatized. They’re a natural part of women getting older.

    • Betsy says:

      I thought of that too but then I thought, you know what? I DON’T enjoy having a period. I do not enjoy dealing with blood, I do not enjoy the backaches, the boobaches, the headaches, any of it. Remove the stigma but call a spade a spade: they suck.

    • Hannah says:

      Not everyone wants to have periods. It should be a choice, and there should be NO shame associated with personal medical decisions.

      I personally take birth control without a placebo week in order to avoid periods, and it has worked great for nearly a decade now. My periods were uncomfortable and debilitating. I’d rather not live in pain which I’m just supposed to bear because it’s natural or part of a woman’s curse. What archaic attitudes. (My mom felt that way.)

      I don’t want periods, I definitely don’t want children, and this is a choice I and everyone should be free to make on a personal level without shaming or a lecture on what’s “natural.”

    • Jaded says:

      Periods were a drag frankly and the last 5 or 6 years I had them before having a hysterectomy due to massive fibroids they were GHASTLY. I’d have to take a couple of days off work or work from home they were so heavy. I’d bleed through a couple of extra-size tampons and super absorbent pad in a half hour. I was also on prescription strength ibuprofen for the pain, so I was very happy to not have them anymore. Now menopause was pretty bad for me because I was on HRT and had to suddenly go off due to breast cancer. Within a couple of weeks I was having 20 – 30 thermonuclear hot flashes per day, terrible insomnia, it was awful. I eventually found some herbal stuff that mitigates the flashes and night sweats, and have managed to reduce the insomnia, mostly with meditation and self-hypnosis. But then osteoporosis reared its ugly head so the fun never ends…

  10. Ann says:

    I’m her age and sometimes wonder how to wear my hair now that I’m firmly in middle age. Sophie rocks the long hair look at 56, doesn’t she? No wiglets either – it looks like her hair is naturally phasing into gray. Good for her.

  11. Sofia says:

    Her personality aside, I’ve always liked the engagements Sophie does as a royal. She also goes on a lot of solo tours and is genuinely passionate about her work, and this is an example of that. She’s ambitious too.

    • Amy Too says:

      It really seems to me like Sophie approaches her royal work as her job. She had experience with working before she married in, so she just continues with that ethos: this is my full time job, I have to do it, I will structure it in such a way that I am kept busy and am effective, I will travel for work when I have to, I’ll do my research and homework and networking, I will do it all consistently, and it’s something separate from my home/family life. She doesn’t consider attending a family wedding to be “work” like Kate does, for example. Meghan treated her royal work like that, too. Anne does as well. Diana did. Camilla is maybe not as full time as the others, but she still seems to treat her royal work like a professional job that she is meant to put effort into in order to deliver a result. Kate….. doesn’t. I think they (the RF) were thinking that since commoner Sophie worked out so well, they should definitely be open to more commoners, assuming they would have the work ethic and the work/life experience that an aristo may not, but then they got Kate.

      Kate seems to view her royal work in an entirely different way from all the other women. She sees it as a performance. As PR for herself, as a way to be photographed in new clothes while laughing. Going to family weddings and Christmas celebrations is considered work. She is not at all focused on delivering any kind of result. She isn’t informed and no one ever chooses Kate as a patron because of her extensive interest and knowledge in a certain subject. She isn’t given a specific type of work (like meetings with foreign dignitaries, speeches, long term projects, or fundraising) based on her strengths, she just sort of does a little bit of everything and nothing all at once, infrequently, and not very well. The press keeps trying to make “diplomatic dressing” her main “work talent,” her professional niche, but that’s ridiculous. The other women are all able to dress themselves appropriately, “nod” to things with their brooches and color choices, and still manage do actual work.

      Going out to be looked at seems to be how Kate views her job. And she thinks it’s something that she only needs to do a couple of times a month, almost like she’s a retired teacher who comes out to substitute teach a few times a year when someone else needs to be filled in for. She doesn’t have to bring her own lesson plan or keep up to date with the latest in education theory; she just needs to show up and execute whatever plan for today someone else came up with. In this way she’s able to “teach” high school AP calculus as well as she “teaches” fifth grade reading: it’s all just showing up and watching the children do whatever assignment their real teacher left for them that day. Like I think Kate sees herself as mainly a stay at home mom who happens to be famous so she occasionally gets invited to events outside the home that other people have organized for *their* jobs because they know including her will get them some press coverage. “Want to accompany your husband on his work trip to Scotland?/Would you care to come visit this charity that I founded on community outreach day?/Can we use your name on this project we’re doing? You would just need to show up to the launch party.”

      • Cas says:

        I think this is accurate. William has this attitude, which is where Kate gets it from. It is literally for show, for both of them.

  12. Betsy says:

    I too really enjoy Sophie and Camilla’s work. They do it and do it well; it really is only William and Kate who won’t.

  13. Amy Bee says:

    It’s an important issue that should be discussed more.

  14. Freddy says:

    Sophie dropping truth bombs! I’m here for it!

  15. embrat says:

    I’m a nurse in a middle school and I swear to God these girls have periods that would kill a man and their doctors blow it off, their parents are against birth control, their moms don’t know what to do. There is an office that takes it seriously in the county and I’ve been referring moms to try and get an appt there. It’s not normal to bleed through a pad in an hour, virgins can use super tampons, cramps that leave you doubled over in tears/puking are not normal. I’m in perimenopause and I’m so looking forward to being done with it. If it were talked about more maybe parents would realize birth control does more than prevent pregnancy, that virginity is a social construct and inserting a tampon or menstrual cup doesn’t have anything to do with virginity or sex, it infuriates me! I never had cramps or heavy bleeding until after my second child, my heart breaks for these girls bleeding through and cramping at 13 years old. I want it to be a normal to talk about as what’s for dinner

    • Jenny says:

      I’m over 40 and only recently found out that bleeding through a pad in an hour is not normal. I wish I had known 25 years earlier.

  16. Brielle says:

    Sophie is serious about her work but for someone who was working in pr ,she doesn’t relay her message very well…

  17. Lizzie says:

    The ability to have a discussion about a serious topic and speak thoughtfully is a matter of intelligence along with preparedness. Sophie and Camilla are smart and prepared. Keen is simply coached. She can pose at a photo op like she is having the time of her life or speak in a video so it can be edited.

  18. Marie says:

    I read that as “Countess Sophie Menopause.”

  19. Grace says:

    The things I learned in peri-menopause and in menopause! The things my body did to surprise me (and not in a good way. Now I’m on the other side of it and it is smooth sailing NOW.

    I am all for us having open discussions about all aspects of women’s health. It is shocking how poorly prepared or informed most women are about menopause. I wasn’t prepared at all and I was working in healthcare at the time!

  20. Nina says:

    Suddenly they are all in their feelings and addressing real people issues. BARF. So insincere but anything to keep the plebs happy. Their desperation is so obvious.

  21. Immieof3 says:

    If anyone wants to hear more from #Wellbeingofwomen they’re running a panel with #CWN on Thursday –
    On Thursday 10th June women’s health charity @wellbeingofwomen and a panel of guests including @mrs_izzyjudd, Marissa Thomas, @jessicaennishill and Professor Dame Lesley Regan will discuss #TacklingTaboos in women’s health.

    Sign up here: