Selling menopause

HotFlash! The Menopause Game

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: It wasn't that long ago that menopause wasn't discussed much in public or private either actually. But times are changing. Around 37 million American women are between 44 and 64 years old. There's a growing number of products on the market to help them get through this period of their lives smiling, although not everyone is. We get more from Ashley Milne-Tyte.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Classical musician Kari Epstein was an unlikely inventor for a board game about menopause. That is, until she experienced her first hot flash at the age of 43.

With that visitation came inspiration.

KARI EPSTEIN: A huge light bulb, that this was a good idea, a good way to hopefully teach women a little bit, but in a fun way.

So "HotFlash: The Menopause Game" was born. Players need to make it to Hormone Free Haven. But Weepy Way, Insomnia Aisle and Lustless Lane loom along the way.

Since Epstein introduced the game two years ago, she's sold 8,000 copies. She hears regularly from fans, but still hasn't made a profit.

That's not true of all areas of the menopause market. There's "Menopause the Musical" . . .

MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL: Whether you're a sister or whether you're a mother, you're stayin' awake, stayin' awake. See the summer's breakin' and you're up cookin' bacon and you're stayin' awake, stayin' awake. . .

The critics have panned it, but the show's expected to bring in $42 million this year from San Francisco to Cape Town.

Musicals not your thing?

Female entrepreneurs are selling sleepwear that combats the effects of night sweats and other clothing celebrating this formerly underplayed stage of life. How about a nightshirt with "Hot Mama" across the chest?

Mary Lou Quinlan runs marketing company Just Ask a Woman.

MARY LOU QUINLAN: And I think that women have a sense of humor when they talk about this.

Not everyone finds it funny.

The American Menopause Foundation says it's ridiculous and offensive to market such frivolous products, and that the money would be much better spent on menopause research.

Others worry about all the products lining health-food store shelves that claim to soothe menopausal symptoms.

Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert say there's no evidence they work. The pair wrote the menopause book "Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Me?" Still, Kantrowitz says, while snake oil is one thing, peddling entertainment or clothing is fine by her.

BARBARA KANTROWITZ: It's not a surprise at all to me that women would look at their lives now and say 'wait a minute, there's a need here', and they'll try and fill it.

Still, marketer Mary Lou Quinlan says not every woman will buy the t-shirt.

QUINLAN: Even being interviewed by you about this topic makes me squirm a little bit because you don't wanna personally identify with it, you really don't.

If you are laughing, don't expect the guys to laugh with you. Kantrowitz's co-author Pat Wingert says all she had to do was bring up the topic of their book to a man . . .

PAT WINGERT: And they would think of an excuse to get away from me as quickly as they could. They would flee from the room.

Any men left at the breakfast table?

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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