Monday, September 12, 2016

A Few Words on Women and Stoicism

Disclaimer: this post is not about politics or whether Hillary Clinton is a hero or a liar. It's about women, sickness, and stoicism.

The world was abuzz this weekend about Hillary fainting during a 9/11 memorial and her general health. Here's my perspective on that, and the whole "dying Hillary" meme.

When my mother was 10, her mother was a widow with three children. She was (truly) dying of breast cancer and went to work every day as an office secretary. She died a year later, and my mom subsequently went to medical school to save the lives of folks like my grandma, whom I never met.

When I was two, my mom suffered a bad episode of clinical depression that lasted nine months. She was physically and mentally ill, but she never missed a day of work. In fact, I cannot remember a single day in my life that my mom has called in sick even once to work. She wouldn't let me stay home from school unless I had a fever of 100 or more, and/or was actively vomiting. That was the rule. She's 71 and working harder than ever.

So my own reaction to Hillary working through pneumonia was "of course." That's what women do; they're accustomed to working while sick. Why? Because they can't afford to be sick. Not financially, not domestically, 
not professionally. They work through severe pain and bleeding with their periods every month until menopause. They work until literally the minute they give birth. They go back to work--as I did--with eight week old infants, because they don't get paid maternity leave in the U.S. I call in sick to work maybe once a year.

Full-time stay at home moms, it should be noted, get zero paid sick days. And women who work outside the home in this country--even in 2016--operate in a man's world, under a male presumption of their perpetual health and stoicism, often with no help available to tend to their illnesses or help them recover. 
Of course, many men are stoical too; the "man cold" is a base stereotype. But men are simply not held to the same standards, expectations, and forced necessity of stoicism. 

Almost no thought is ever given to what that means. It should be.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you from this woman who is retiring soon -- so HR issued record that shows that, in thirty years with this employer, as a teacher, I took one sick day. That puzzled me . . . and then, I remembered it: That was the day of my father's funeral. (And I was a working mother, most of the time a single mother -- and, yes, I had recurrent walking pneumonia, too. But I wasn't contagious, so I went to work, because: children to feed, bills to pay. . . .)


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