Breaking The Silence On Menopause
March 3, 2022
Michelle Kennedy is the founder and CEO of Peanut, one of the fastest-growing apps for mothers. She began her career as an M&A lawyer and later joined dating app Badoo, where she rose to Deputy CEO.

During her tenure at Badoo, she also became an inaugural board member of Bumble. Working in social discovery for ten years gave her unprecedented experience and understanding of the safety and growth components of building a social network for women. She continues to execute her mission to make Peanut the leading network to connect women when they need each other most. Stacy London is one of America's foremost style experts. She is best known as the co-host of TLC's iconic show, "What Not to Wear." Following that success, she hosted and executive produced "Love, Lust, or Run," wrote two books, Dress Your Best, and The Truth About Style, and hosted a podcast discussing mental health, Could Be Better, tbh. In 2021, Stacy became the founder and CEO of State of Menopause, a holistic product line for women which addresses the symptoms associated with menopause and perimenopause.

Together they discuss why education around menopause should be common practice in order to support women in our communities and properly advocate for ourselves.

Michelle, you founded Peanut to connect mothers who are at a similar stage in life and you recently added a new vertical specifically focused on menopause. What inspired it?

Part of the reason we know so little about menopause is we don't talk about it. There is this stigma attached to the idea that when women cease to be able to have biological children. Their worth decreases, which is just nonsense.

Topics that used to be considered taboo are now being talked about publicly - periods, difficult pregnancies, postpartum depression and infertility. Menopause is the final frontier of the life of a woman's health and it should be discussed as well. Part of the reason we don't is the stigma of shame. We've internalized that shame. Now that we are seeing forward movement in this discussion we can begin to shed the stigma and accept menopause as just another part of our experience as women.

Stacy, how can women reframe the narrative around menopause?

Menopause is the moment where I tell people to pause. This time is a pause. It is a pause to redirect, reiterate, re-evolve - or continue to evolve. Thinking about it this way makes a huge difference when we think about approaching the age of menopause. Historically, like in the 1700s, nobody talked about menopause because people were dying between the ages of 40 and 60. Our lifespans were short. Now that we are living to be in our 90s, even hundreds, there is a ton of time and a huge opportunity for us to reframe the way we think about our health at this age.

The shame of not speaking about menopause is cloaked in the idea that there is something wrong with us. The idea that anything about a woman's health is icky and not to be talked about is a result of patriarchal thinking. We didn't have it in the beginning. It's been put upon us. We need to reframe the narrative. Menopause is not an ending. It's an opportunity.

Michelle, a study shows that 45% of women do not know the difference between menopause and perimenopause. What data led you to launch this new endeavor?

We saw women talking about menopause in two distinct areas on Peanut. The first was women whose fertility was impacted by early menopause due to health issues that resulted in chemically or surgically related menopause. The second were women who went to their doctor because they felt they had perimenopausal symptoms, and their doctor dismissed their concerns and attributed their symptoms to something else.

These were the conversations that were happening. Women want to talk about what's happening to them, they have questions they want to ask, and we want to facilitate those conversations and provide learning opportunities.

Stacy, searches about menopause went up 300% during the pandemic. Why do you think that is?

During the pandemic, we had a lot more time to sit with ourselves and our symptoms. Before, we didn't have time to examine ourselves, so we explained our symptoms by lumping them with something else. Anxiety, depression, and mood swings are some of the first things that you may start to notice in pre and perimenopause because of the loss of progesterone. That's one of the first hormones that begin to decrease.

The idea that you could be incredibly anxious during the pandemic is not a big surprise. We are more likely to attribute anxiety to the state of the world instead of tracking our mood changes and seeing if there's something consistently different about them. Having a framework to understand what is happening to us makes progress a lot less alienated. We tend to be at war with our bodies for a zillion reasons. Menopause shouldn't be one of them because education is available.

Michelle, what sort of information or advice are you giving to women who are postmenopausal or in menopause? How do you support them during that period?

Peanut is very much a user-generated content community. Real women ask questions and real women answer them. It's not expert-led. It's user-led.

Together, women navigate explaining going through menopause to their bosses, forgetting about fights they've had with their partners, and learning about new, unexpected symptoms. Our community of women embraces each other with grace and humor. They normalize each other's experiences.

And how do you prevent misinformation from being spread?

We are so obsessed with safety, trust, and confidence on Peanut that we do things no other networks do. We constantly check to ensure that there is no misinformation on Peanut. That starts when we onboard and continues as our members go through the app.

Using machine learning, we constantly evaluate the likelihood of users creating bad content. We're always running those predictions. We also have many other things that I won't share, but there's lots of stuff running on the back end to capture instances of misinformation.

The community helps with that too. The women are amazing. They don't allow it. If they see someone and think they're pushing incorrect information, they'll report it, and we rely on the community to do that.

In Western culture, we prize the youth we had rather than the age we are. It's very problematic because aging and menopause are literally unstoppable.

Stacy, the Western construct shames women for aging. Other cultures don't necessarily buy into this.

True. Some Asian cultures call it the second spring in a woman's life. In Western culture, we prize the youth we had rather than the age we are. It's very problematic because aging and menopause are literally unstoppable. Yet both of these things are criticized, and we internalize shame around an unrealistic cultural construct. The phrase anti-aging is also problematic because how can you be against something inevitable?

Michelle, given the culture of shame around this topic, from a marketing standpoint how did you approach driving awareness of the new vertical that was different from your original approach to promoting Peanut?

Honestly, 20% of the women who use Peanut have come from the existing community. That's the first thing. The second thing was referrals from within the Peanut community. Those were huge for us. Word of mouth is strong with women. We love to share stuff that works.

Honestly, the rest is just letting it grow and do its own thing.

The phrase anti-aging is also problematic because how can you be against something inevitable?

Stacy, what are some of your go-to tried and tested remedies?

In terms of insomnia, I recommend two things based on your comfort level. We're seeing that many cannabinoids, not just CBD, are beneficial during menopause. CBN is another cannabinoid in a great product called Sleepy Bear Gummies. It is the first thing that has helped with my insomnia since 2007. I say that with no joke whatsoever. They are incredible. They're inexpensive, and they work like a charm.

The other thing is that a company called Coco Pillow. They make pillows that are soft on one side good for your skin and hair, and the other side is patented quilted cooling technology. I am telling you, I've never had a pillow that stays cold all night. This one does. So between night sweats and insomnia. Those are two of my hacks.



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