The new wave of women’s-health experts keeps telling me that menopause is liberating. And given the current horrors that face fertile women in half the United States, I’m inclined to believe them.

The thinking goes that once my period stops coming, in addition to no longer being seen as a potential incubator-hostage in the Gilead states, I’m going to tap into my wise-woman creativity and stop caring what anyone else thinks. I’m seeing words like “vulvalution” (cringe) and “menotech” (yes, please) bandied about.

Perhaps I’d be feeling a bit more celebratory were it not for the hot flashes, night sweats, panic attacks, thinning hair, diminished libido, and more. (So much more.) And a primary-care physician who looked at me like I was speaking Sanskrit when I asked him for a hormone panel and treatment options. “What for?” he asked. “Menopause is coming. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Tell that to the explosion of apps and telehealth platforms, books and supplements and next-generation beauty products, and retreats and boot camps and cooling clothes made out of volcanic rock to regulate my now awry internal temperature. Vas te faire foutre, Dr. Viard, who remains in my life only because I live in the medical desert known as “the French countryside.”

“Vag of Honor”

At least I have the Internet, and so I can celebrate the great rebranding of menopause. It is here, and I’m not mad at it at all. We needed this. And when I say “we,” I am referring to the roughly half of the world’s population who will go through it if they’re lucky enough to live that long. Remember us? Hi!

What used to be shrouded in secrecy and shame is now a hot topic on Gwyneth’s Instagram feed. Michelle Obama dedicated a 2020 podcast to her own trip down the rocky road of post-fertility. Later this month, Naomi Watts soft-launches her menopause platform, Stripes, as in “You’ve earned your stripes.” Watts went through early menopause herself, with precious little support despite—or maybe because of—her thriving Hollywood career, so she wants to spare others the drama. Her line includes beauty products and supplements targeting hot flashes and the accelerated dehydration that comes with plummeting levels of estrogen and progesterone, and an all-important community-support feature.

These modern muses are making the whole thing relatable, even—dare we say it?—aspirational? Wile, a line of Chinese-medicine-informed supplements fronted by actress Judy Greer, has punchy graphics and a cheeky Web site that blares: “Is It Normal… For sudden cankles? Yes, absolutely normal. But why live with it?” Stripes products come in snappy packaging with primary colors and names like the Power Move, a facial serum, and Vag of Honor, a hydrating gel. Unlike the soft-pink flowers and curvy silhouettes of yore, these have nightstand appeal.

“We don’t want this to be hidden,” Watts says by phone from her mother’s house, in the South of France, as roosters crow in the background. (Men!) “We can be proud and hold our heads high and not veil the experience, or see ourselves as deficient and diseased. Now that my hormones are steadying,” she says of having cleared the shaky perimenopause phase that Gwyneth and I are currently enjoying, “I feel in charge of my decision-making. I feel my authentic self. Maybe my libido has slowed down, maybe I need a bit more organization and effort for the actual event of sex, but when it’s good it’s great, and I feel like it’s all for me. My body’s not telling me to do it because I need to make babies. I know what I want when I want it, where that hand needs to go, and I’m not afraid to say it. That not only makes me understand my desire, but I feel more desirable because of it. There’s nothing more of a turn-on than a woman who knows what she wants.” Her man friend Billy Crudup certainly seems to agree.

“We’re finally now in the 21st century,” says Mariella Frostrup, the author of Cracking the Menopause, a U.K. best-seller that’s about to launch its own community platform. Well, maybe not all of us. Some of us are still jamming on Nathan Hale, but I digress.

The 21st century is also the coming of age of Generation X. Perhaps we are known to be less insufferably narcissistic and extroverted than subsequent cohorts—and for that you should really thank us—but we were also the first mass wave of kids to be raised by working women, some of them even feminists.

And so, the Free to Be… You and Me demographic is not going gentle into that good night. Frostrup just spent a lovely June day with a gang of activists to lobby in Parliament for “The Menopause Workplace Pledge,” an initiative co-signed by 600-plus organizations to make day jobs friendlier for women experiencing hot flashes, brain fog, mood swings, and all the rest.

“Saying the words ‘vulva’ and ‘menopause’ over and over again in Parliament as if I were a stuck record was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my life,” says Frostrup. “I’ve had drinks with George Clooney at the Hôtel du Cap, and I’m afraid Parliament wins.”

Parliament really did win; they too have adopted the regulations: fans, breaks, flexible hours, and, when needed, breathable uniforms.

Back to Work, Ladies!

The effect of menopause on productivity is not a small issue. A study commissioned by Elektra Health, a telehealth-and-community platform with seed funding led by Alexis Ohanian, who has also backed Coinbase, Instacart, and Opendoor, and Flare Capital Partners, found that two-thirds of women have said menopause symptoms affect their workplace performance; 24 percent of BIPOC women (in comparison to 16 percent of white women) have not pursued a promotion because of menopause symptoms. This is not a good thing for any company facing global competition. “If women over 50 stopped working, the economy would collapse,” Frostrup says.

We may have been raised by feminists, but until the medical system evolves, we’re still subjected to so many Dr. Viards, so peer-to-peer conversation, guided by those rare doctors who have made menopause a specialty, is key. Elektra is looking for insurance-company buy-in for their medical-expert-supported platform, and, frankly, it feels like a good deal. For now women in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida can receive consultation and prescriptions from their experts.

I don’t have that luxury, but I did greatly benefit from the clarity of a half-hour consultation with one of Elektra’s nurse practitioners to design a list of demands for the hapless Viard. Among them: a non-copper IUD to manage progesterone levels and a low-dose topical estrogen patch. NBD. I just needed someone to tell me.

“I’ve had drinks with George Clooney at the Hôtel du Cap, and I’m afraid Parliament wins.”

“It’s very empowering to just be in yourself, embodied in your thing,” says Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, author of Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age, of what a post–child care, post-fertility life can entail. “If brands, frankly, and companies can tap into that, wow, that’s some powerful stuff.”

It would be nice if the world—or even the U.S. Supreme Court—had women’s well-being genuinely at heart. (It’d be nice if we could safely keep our period-tracker apps, for starters.) But even if all they want to do is make a buck from the group of us with peak purchasing power, all I can say is, How many colors does it come in?

Alexandra Marshall is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL. She is a contributor to W, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Travel + Leisure. Marshall recently relocated from Paris to Le Perche