A Sheffield women is fundraising to help curate a photography exhibition exploring the menopause.
The curator, Donna Mackenzie-Smyth, has dubbed the exhibition Scrapheap in a bid to change the narrative around what it means to be seen as ‘washed up’ and ‘no longer of use’ in a post-menopause body.
Mackenzie-Smyth, of Chaucer Close, Sheffield, said: “Women have always been discouraged to talk about periods and the menopause. You’re told to just get on with it. I want my daughters to be part of a generation who can talk about women’s health.”
Mackenzie hopes that the exhibition will help to start the conversation in Sheffield, by showcasing women’s bodies at their most vulnerable.
A report by the British Menopause Society in 2016 found that the majority of women felt too embarrassed to discuss menopausal symptoms with their doctor, whilst other women believed that the menopause was ‘just something they had to put up with’.
The exhibition will include 51 individual images of menopause journeys. 51 is the average age in the UK for menopause to take place.
The number also has a personal meaning to Mackenzie-Smyth, as three days before her 51st birthday, in May 2016, she suffered from a stroke.
She said: “I remember being in hospital and lifting my head from my pillow and so much of my hair had fallen out. My boobs, like overused carrier bags. I had always been slim, but this extra weight gain was changing the way I looked. I realised I’d not had a period for years.”
Due to her poor health, Mackenzie-Smyth was told that she would be unable to take HRT, treatment that helps to relieve symptoms of the menopause.
The curator’s personal photograph in the collection depicts her torso wrapped in clingfilm, distorting her body.
The 57-year-old said: “My photo really helped me to be comfortable with my body. I want younger girls to know that getting older is okay, it’s a wonderful space on the other side of 50. Getting to this age is great, you are far more comfortable in your skin once you allow yourself to be.”
Each participant of the exhibition will be asked to examine their own feelings about their changes for 12 seconds for 12 consecutive days to represent the 12 missing menstrual cycles that represent the menopause.
Donna said: “I didn’t know that if you missed 12 periods that was it, you’ve been through the menopause. Even though the symptoms are still there, you’re done.”
The fundraiser aims to raise £1000, which will help fund the first showcasing of Scrapheap in January 2022, in a pop up gallery in Fargate.