The cultural meaning of menopause in Australia

Susan Bell Research was asked by an agency client to analyse the ‘meaning of menopause’ within Australian culture using semiotics, a method with which we are very familiar.

In essence our report described three Semiotic Codes that neatly summarise how conflicted and difficult this stage of life can be for women.

For this analysis, we examined advertising, packaging, new stories, and social media posts about menopause.

  1. Code 1 was a scientific code. It focussed on the progress being made by scientists in developing treatments. As is typical of scientific semiotic codes, visual imagery rarely included people, except in lab coats.
  2. Code 2 wasa naturalistic code – showing people within their natural environment, although this was a culturally-constituted and very gendered environment, because the visual imagery was often of rugged men who had actively sought to find the ‘ancient wisdom’ of plant-based medicine deep in the natural world. In contrast, women were generally depicted in static yoga postures in quiet, peaceful, rather empty, natural locations.
  3. Code 3 on the other showed women as self-reliant and empowered. It comprised messages similar to ‘you will get through this because you are strong.’

Desk-based analysis like this reveal insights that are difficult to achieve from conventional research. In particular this analysis exposes the conflicting messages facing older women as they approach and go through menopause.

Counter-intuitively, women seemed to be largely silent within these cultural representations of menopause.

Susan Bell Founder & Lead Consultant
Sue Bell, Founder & Lead Consultant

We would love to hear from you, and are always happy to talk through research methods and options with you, if you are not sure what you need. Why not get in touch for a free, obligation-free, and confidential conversation.

Find out more about Susan Bell Research.

Keep up to date with new thinking about user testing, research with ‘older’ people, different research methods, and much more.

First Name
Last Name
Email Address
Submit Form

Similar Posts