Live like an orca whale

Yes you read that right! Women in their 50s can feel left out of society because of their age, their looks and unconscious bias. Why is this happening and how can they change this unconscious bias?

Did you know there are only three species which go through menopause? The short finned pilot whale, the orca whale and us female humans. Orcas live for around the same time as we humans do too, so it’s interesting to compare our menopause to theirs.

The similarities actually stop right there, but for reasons you might not expect. When an orca reaches menopause, like us she can no longer bear offspring. Unlike us, and this is the amazing bit, she becomes the leader of the pod. The group appreciating her life experience and learned skills. She knows where all the good feeding grounds are, she helps support the first time mothers, babysits the calves and keeps the young bucks in check. She becomes revered!

So answer me this. Why aren’t we?! I’m not going to whinge because I do believe that respect is earned, but is there something more to it? I wonder if there are two elements which collide which have prevented this from happening:

  1. The media. Admittedly media is something fairly new and this behaviour has been happening since the world began. So I guess I mean wider society and those who can influence. An insecurity has built up and been allowed to swirl around women, and now from a young age, to believe that looks are important and looking old and less than perfect is not acceptable. If you are of menopause age, you might well have a wrinkle or two and the odd grey hair. In this society that makes you ‘imperfect’. We are pushed aside for younger, ‘more perfect’ women (with airbrushes and filters).
  2. Ourselves. This is probably the most important but also the hardest to address. Confidence stems from self belief. It is without doubt one of the most attractive qualities in an individual. But with the back drop of a society that feels we are less than perfect, and our hormones raging and making us feel uncomfortable with over 40 potential different symptoms, it is hardly surprising we might struggle with our confidence. I for one, feel this first hand. I couldn’t tell you when it started and I really have no reason to lack self esteem, but I do. And I know I am not alone.

So, how are we going to start living like orca whales? That is the million dollar question. I believe we need to drive the change ourselves. We need to start the conversation through our peers, our families, society and the media. But that conversation needs substance. We need to demonstrate that we deserve such reverence. But how? The way I see it is to ‘walk the talk’.

  • Believe in ourselves, surround ourselves with only people who respect our achievements and life experiences
  • Support other women. Women represent 50% of the population so if we all come together to look out for us all we have already created a groundswell
  • Don’t take shit from anyone who tells you you are past it, over the hill, don’t know what you’re talking about. Those are unconscious biases. Why ever would a life of lived experience be anything worthless?
  • Leverage the power of the media to demonstrate our extraordinary experiences and skills and start the conversation. Use social media, join supportive campaigns such as #yesshecan, use your voice to comment via letters to the editor in magazines and call in on radio shows
  • And always believe in the power of the orca whales!

This is not just for us, we have a duty to empower younger women coming up through all of this. As it is they are encountering the challenges of social media which can make them doubt themselves, just because of the way they look. To what extent do men experience this? I do wonder. We need to unite our #sisterhood and look out for one another – otherwise who else will?

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